Posted at: 08/09/2012 12:16 AM
By: Dan Levy
NISKAYUNA - The massacre in Oak Creek, Wisconsin last Sunday wasn't just a Sikh tragedy, it was an American Tragedy. That message of people standing together in the face of religious intolerance came across loud and clear Wednesday night in Niskayuna.
The memorial service may have been held in a Sikh temple, but the people who came were from Catholic churches, Jewish synagogues, and other area houses of worship. It was a community wide call from condemnation, condolences, and calm.
The diversity of the gathering inside Niskayuna's Sikh temple, illustrates that the pain of the Oak Creek, Wisconsin massacre extends far beyond the Sikh community.
"We as a community need to rally around together and say that we care about each other," said Rabbi Matthew Cutler of Schenectady's Congregation Gates of Heaven. "Tolerance is important and our differences will bring us together rather than drive us apart."
"How can we show unity and how can we show peace if (those of us outside the Sikh community) don't stand up when any other community has been targeted?" asks Barbara Harris, of the Interfaith Community of Schenectady.
"We will ask for peace and tranquility in this community and throughout the country and throughout the world," asserted Dr. Paul Uppal, , Executive Director of the Niskayuna Gurdwara.
The universal call for calm comes as memorial candles were burning outside the Niskayuna temple, illuminating with reverence seven photographs -- six of them Sikh murder victims, and the other one the heroic police officer, expected to recover from nine point blank gun shot wounds.
"This is a land of opportunity," proclaimed Sukhi Singh, president of the temple congregation. "We came here to make a better future and we never thought these things can happen in a place of worship."
Singh says Wisconsin is a reminder of the widespread ignorance involving people who don't fully understand the peaceful nature of Sikhs. He thinks educating the community about their beliefs will go a long way toward raising awareness and easing fears.
"What ever we can do within the channels of government, we need to do," said Congressman Paul Tonko (D - Amsterdam)
Tonko says legislation is unlikely to stop the violence but what needs to happen, he says, is that people need to start respecting one another.
"The sensitivity and respect for different cultures, different creeds, different races that are all part of the American quilt need to be bridged and need to be respected," Tonko said.
Saturday afternoon (August 8/11) there's a memorial service scheduled at 1:00 P.M. at the Hindu temple on Albany Shaker Road in Colonie that will also honor the victims of the Sikh massacre.