URBANA — Simran Singh, a University of Illinois student who belongs to the Sikh faith, said he became scared when he first heard of the recent shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin.
"My parents called me in the middle of the night from India and asked if I was OK," he said. "I was scared when I turned on the news."
Singh, 22, was among 35 people who turned out for a vigil late Thursday afternoon on the UI campus in response to the shooting in Wisconsin and the burning of a mosque in Missouri.
A gunman killed six people Sunday during services at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis., and a mosque was burned Monday in Joplin, Mo.
Singh said he hopes the vigil will allow more people in our area to become aware of his religion and culture.
According to the group's website — http://www.sikhs.org — Sikhism is a religion with more than 20 million believers. The faith professes belief in one God and preaches devotion to the equality of mankind, the remembrance of God and truthful living.
The founder of the Sikh religion was Guru Nanak, who was born in 1469.
The word "Sikh" in the Punjabi language means "disciple." Believers follow the teachings of the 10 Sikh gurus.
On Thursday, the participants marched from the University YMCA to the Alma Mater spot at the corner of Green and Wright Streets, where they observed a moment of silence.
Some of the marchers wrote notes to send to the people of Oak Creek and Joplin.
Masood Haque, 20, an undergraduate student from Elmhurst, said the purpose of the vigil was to show solidarity and support for the people of Oak Creek and Joplin.
"We look back and grieve and mourn with them over the lives lost and the property damaged this past weekend," Haque said.
"One of main problems that arise from different hate crimes or acts of violence based on bigotry is simply a lack of knowledge. By raising awareness and realizing the damage caused by certain people's actions, we can change the future towards one that is more hospitable to people of all faith traditions or non-faith traditions."
Rizwan Uddin, a member of the Central Illinois Mosque and Islamic Center in Urbana, said he worries about his mosque all the time.
"What do I need to do to make sure nothing like what happened in Missouri or Wisconsin happens here?" he asked. "We worry about the direction the country is going. We hear about these things in Nigeria and Pakistan, my native country, and it is happening here (in the United States) increasingly more so."
Greg Damhorst, 24, of Elgin, said the shooting in Wisconsin was shocking.
"What makes it particularly disturbing is the fact that it was an act of violence that targeted a faith community, particularly a minority faith community in the United States," Damhorst said. "I recognize the importance of having conversations about faith that are positive instead of allowing those differences to create conflict and lead to horrible events like this."
The vigil was sponsored by the Sikh Student Association, DiversityEd, Interfaith in Action, the Baha'i Center, the Asian American Cultural Center, La Casa Cultural Latina, the Women's Resources Center and the Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Relations.