SURREY - More than 300 Hindus and Sikhs united at the Lakshmi Narayan Mandir on Tuesday night for a Shanti Path and candlelight vigil, saying prayers of peace for the six victims of Sunday's shooting at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin.
Worshippers gave donations of money and food, and stood together in silence for a minute with candles in hand. They also expressed a willingness to forgive the gunman, as forgiveness is believed in both belief systems to be a remedy for anger.
"We want to convey our heartfelt thoughts and prayers as well as solidarity for the whole community," said Parshotam Goel, president of the Vedic Hindu Cultural Society. "As a community, we need to have a lot of patience and maturity."
Goel emphasized that Sikhs and Hindus have a strong bond in Surrey and throughout the world.
"It's a natural process for Hindus and Sikhs to get together because of our history, cultural values, countries, roots," Goel said. "If it's a time of joy, we will celebrate together, if it's a time of grief, we stand by each other together.
"We feel a mature closeness, we feel a natural closeness toward each other."
The shooting took place in Oak Creek, a city of 34,000 about 19 kilometres south of Milwaukee. It has since sparked a worldwide conversation on racism and religious intolerance.
"This incident has brought the attention of the whole world," said Goel.
Wade Michael Page, 40, walked into the American gurdwara on Aug. 5 with a semi-automatic pistol and opened fire, killing six worshippers - including the temple's president and an assistant priest - before committing suicide.
Page was an army veteran and the former leader of a white supremacist heavy metal band, though a motive had not officially been determined at press time.
In Surrey, politicians released statements denouncing the shooting as a hate crime and expressed their condolences for the victims and their families.
"This was the act of a madman, but it is indicative of the unacceptable level of violence, hatred and racism that regrettably still exists today," said Surrey-Tynehead Liberal MLA Dave Hayer in a statement.
"This tragedy touches so many of us," said Surrey North NDP MP Jasbir Sandhu in a statement. "My relatives were heading to the Oak Creek gurdwara that fateful Sunday morning but thankfully, they were late and missed the shooting."
Attacks on Sikhs have happened in Surrey, perhaps most notably the beating death of 65-year-old Sikh caretaker Nirmal Singh Gill.
In 1998, Gill was beaten to death by self-proclaimed white supremacist Nathan LeBlanc and four other skinheads in the parking lot of the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara on Scott Road. The five accused were sentenced to between 12 and 15 years in prison.