Oak Creek Sikhs Still Struggle With Understanding Temple Massacre


By PJ Randhawa

LEXINGTON – One year ago this Monday, six people were gunned down and killed at the Oak Creek Sikh Temple in Wisconsin during what has been called one of the worst incidents of racial violence in years.

Not many people know this, but Sikhism is actually the world’s fifth largest religion. Here in South Carolina, just a few hundred families identify themselves as Sikh, and many are still struggling to come to terms with last year’s violence.

“Being such a small religion, being able to come here every Sunday, coming together makes us feel we have a place in the community and society,” said Rumita Saini, one of the many practicing Sikhs in South Carolina.

For Rumita and her sister, Ruby, the community and its rituals have become even more precious since the temple massacre.

“We live in a country that promises freedom and equality; freedom to practice your religion and the way you want it, and when I heard about that it really hurt me,” said Ruby.

Dr. Carl Evans of the Interfaith Partners of South Carolina says many people have trouble embracing other religions.

“They’re different from the prevailing religious culture of Christianity and anytime you’re different, it’s often difficult for people to embrace that difference,” said Evans.

But it’s those differences that many say need to be explained to eliminate ignorance that is far too often associated with acts of hate.

“People have this misconception that if they see someone wearing a turban they think they’re Muslim, but that’s not necessarily the case,” said Rumita.

A year after tragedy, Ruby and Rumita have found renewed hope in humanity after witnessing first-hand the strength that can rise from the ashes of destruction.

“I feel no matter how far apart we are, when things like this happen, we come together as one and it shows how strong of a faith we are,” said Ruby.

Sikhism was founded during a time of conflict between Hindu’s and Muslims in 15th century India. Sikhs believe in one God, service in the name of humanity, and equality for all faiths.