By Riley Manning/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – In the sparkling garb of their tradition, Sikhs of north Mississippi assembled Friday night on the steps of City Hall. Under the American flag, held at half-mast, they prayed for the victims of last Friday’s temple shooting in Wisconsin.
Keeping their bright-eyed children close, they held signs proclaiming “Proud to be Sikh” and “We love America.”
“This was not an attack on religion,” said Khushdeep Kaur, “but an attack on humanity.”
The Sikh religion recognizes God in all people, much in the way Christianity believes man was created in God’s image. The north Mississippi Sikh community expressed gratefulness for the outpouring of support from the local community, and mourned the loss of Brian Murphy, an officer slain in the shooting while trying to help, just as much as the fallen members of their own faith.
“We are part of the same American fabric and family, and we hope to heal as one,” said Gurjot Singh, a student at Mississippi State University.
Johnathan McAllister, associate pastor at the First Pentecostal Church in Verona, was there to show his admiration for the Sikh community.
“They are a very principle-driven people,” he said.
McAllister was joined by Okolona Mayor Louise Cole, who was there to offer support. “When one of us hurts, each of us hurts,” she said.
Singh said it is important to mourn those who were lost, but just as important to learn and move forward from the event. Anger and revenge have no presence here, he said.
“We hate the mentality, not the person,” said Singh. “What has happened has happened, but in times of ups and downs we must move forward.”
In the aftermath of the event, Sikhism gained the spotlight of national curiosity. Singh said he hopes this attention will abolish ignorance about his religion, and bring about tolerance and understanding among all faiths.
Tupelo’s Sikh temple, called a Gurunanak, is one of only two in the state and serves about 25 families. Services are at the Gurunanak every Sunday at 9 a.m. followed by a meal where anyone of any faith is welcome.