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Somber interfaith memorial for Gurdwara shooting victims in Washington capital area

Washington, DC: Hundreds from many different faiths gathered in solidarity on Saturday for an act of healing at a vigil organized by the Siva Vishnu Temple and the United Hindu Jain Temples of Washington, D.C. and cosponsored by the Hindu American SevaCharities. The memorial for the victims of last week’s shooting at a Sikh Gurudwara in Oak Creek, Wis. was held at the Sri Siva Vishnu Temple in Lanham,Md.

“We all share the sorrow of our Sikh brothers and sisters at this time of need,” said Dr.Suryanarana Siram, chair of the board of trustees of SSVT. “We must pull together as one community.”

“Events like these bring all religious people together to show support and solidarity,” added Mythili Bachu, president of the United Hindu Jain Temples of Washington D.C., which has 14 temples in the surrounding area. “It also presents an opportunity to educate the community and take us out of ignorance. The Obama Administration has done a superb job. It’s a comfort to know that they are just there.”

Indian ambassador to the United States Nirupama Rao spoke at the event, citing President Barack Obama’s outreach to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh following the tragedy. Gautam Raghavan, associate director of the White House Office of Public Engagement repeated the president’s thoughts and prayers and Lt. Ravi Chaudhary reflected on the important role Sikhs have played in defending America.

Maryland AttorneyGeneral Douglas Genslar commended the Sikh community’s response to the tragedy, calling it a “teaching moment” – one that shows how to respond to hatred with nonviolence, peace and love.

Representatives from Governor Martin O’Malley’s office and the Maryland state legislature joined Attorney General Genslar, sharing their sympathies and comforts too.

Shekar Narasimhan of Dunn Loring, Va., a former trustee of the SSVT and a board Member of the Hindu American Seva Charities said the event brought together representatives from a variety of religions – Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, Zoroastrianism, and the Ba’hai faith – as well as senior representatives from the White House, Pentagon, Indian Embassy, Maryland state government and the Lanham Police Department.

Throughout the event, community leaders talked about the importance of understanding the different faiths that exist freely in the U.S. The Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington distributed literature about the 11 most prominent religions in the United States, including those represented at the event.

The event culminated in a viewing of excerpts from the PBS documentary, “The Asian and Abrahamic Religions: A Divine Encounter in America.” Jerry Krell, filmmaker of the documentary, prayed with others in the audience. Officers from the Lanham Police Department shared their prayers as well, urging the community to play their part by remaining alert and reporting any suspicious activity.

Bel Leong-Hong, chair of the Democratic National Committee’s Asian American Pacific Islander Caucus, was touched by the interfaith gathering. “It was a moving experience,” said Bel Leong-Hong

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