A group of almost 250 Sikhs and non-Sikhs gathered together to pray at the Nassau County Legislature in Mineola Thursday night, coming together in an interfaith event and vigil for the recent .
The evening began with an opening and welcome from Daniel Russell, Executive Director of the Nassau Commission on Human Rights as well as commission chairman Zahid Syed and talk show host Gurmeet Sodhi.
The familiar chords of the National Anthem and “God Bless America” mixed with a traditional shabad, or Sikh hymn in the legislative chamber.
“We have come together to prove the hateful acts of one man cannot extinguish the faith of many,” New York State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, R-Rockville Centre, said.
“Tonight is a night of prayer,” New York Assemblyman Charles Lavine added. “As we pray together we will remain one people.”
Several religious leaders from the Christian, Muslim, Hindu and Jewish faiths also offered their prayers and blessings towards the Sikh community during the inter-faith ceremony, including Habeeb Ahmed of the Islamic Center of Long Island in Westbury, who quoted the Quran: “‘To kill one innocent person is like killing all of mankind. To save one innocent person is like saving all of mankind.’”
Rabbi Michael Stanger of the Old Westbury Hebrew Congregation spoke about how all religions have to stand together and support each other.
“We may never be able to solve all the problems of the world,” he said, “but we have to try. We cannot remain silent, for to remain silent is to lose hope.”
Members of the Sikh community also came forward to comment on the situation. “We reflect on this event to bring awareness to the community,” said Paramjit Bedi of the Hicksville Gurdwara.
“At the core of Sikh is forgiveness and hukam,” said Dr. I.J. Singh, a professor of anatomy at New York University Dental School. “In life progress is rarely linear, but the ideals remain.”
The prayer vigil closed with a candlelight vigil on the steps of the legislative building.
“As a Christian it’s what we’re called to do,” said Rev. Mark Lukens, pastor of the Bethany Congregational Church. “And the most anti-American thing to do is attack someone at their place of worship.”
“When something tragic happens to a family, they come together,” said Nancy Dwyer of Pax Christi, a Catholic group dedicated towards peace. “This is a family.”
For the Sikh community, this outpouring of support was everything they hoped to see.
“We were expecting fewer than this,” Sodhi said. “To see the other communities come together makes them feel like they’re not alone in such a tragic time.”