News of Shooting in Wisconsin Temple Shocks Creve Coeur Sikhs

A small congregation of Sikhs heard the news from text messages during services today.

News started spreading by text message during Sunday services among members of a Sikh congregation in Creve Coeur: A gunman had shot and killed 

Seven people were killed and at least three wounded, according to reports from . Police reportedly shot and killed the gunman, but have no motive yet for the attack. A police officer was also shot several times, but is expected to live. 

"We were in a church when this happened," said Kanwal Seehra, a local Sikh woman who helps to run the Sikh Gurudwara St. Louis, which rents the Masonic Temple on Olive in Creve Coeur for its services. "We got text messages from all our friends."

She said several members of the sangat, or congregation, knew families who are part of the Sikh community in Oak Creek, WI. Seehra said they had been in touch with those friends and they were fine.

Seehra said there about 100 Sikh families in the St. Louis area between the Creve Coeur congregation and a gurudwara (or "house of God") in St. Peters on Willis Road. About 15 or 20 families attend Sikh Gurudwara St. Louis in Creve Coeur, she said. 

"We are going to do whatever we can to support them," Seehra said, referring to the gurudwara in Oak Creek, WI. "We've gotten a lot of support today from people who have called to say 'we love you.'"

She said spreading the word about who the Sikh community is is very important to community members — many of whom fear being confused with extremist Islamic terrorists because of the style of dress Sikhs don for religious reasons. Men wear turbans and keep their hair and beards long, for example.

"It's very important to reach out and let people know about us so people don't get us confused with terrorists. It's very important to have awareness," she said. At the same time, "this is sad. It's the flip side and you worry that other people would get ideas. Will this give ideas to other people in other towns?"

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According to BeliefNet, Sikhs believe that "God Almighty is impersonal, formless ultimate reality and He is the Creator, personal savior, inner teacher, omniscient, omnipotent, and incorporeal" and "salvation is enlightenment, granted by God’s grace only, resulting in liberation from cycles of rebirth and the soul’s merger with God (the Supreme Soul or Guru) after death."

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