Sikh Priest Whose Father Was Injured in Oak Creek Tragedy Reflects on Forgiveness and Charleston Shooting


Three years after a shooting at a Sikh temple and just weeks after the Charleston shooting, Raghuvinder Singh talks about forgiveness.

Three years ago, on August 5, 2012, a shooting quite like the one in Charleston, SC took place. The tragedy in Oak Creek, Wisconsin took the lives of six Sikhs, injured four and left the shooter, Wade Michael Page, dead by his own hand. These deaths shook the lives of families, friends and strangers, leaving them to pick up the pieces.

Raghuvinder Singh was one of those who had to pick up the pieces, shaken at the sight of his father, Punjab Singh, in a coma for four months. He had been shot in the face and neck, severing his spinal cord, as he was preparing to lead services at Oak Creek. The same feelings of shock and sadness swept over him after the shooting in Charleston, which left nine dead.

Raghuvinder Singh followed in his father’s footsteps, becoming a priest and teaching his members about forgiveness. He regularly points toward the families of the victims in South Carolina. They forgave Dylann Roof during his first appearance at court. He said that our nation “need[s] empathy rather than hatred.” When his father first came to from his coma, Singh asked if he had forgiven his shooter. The man blinked twice, indicating yes, he has forgiven.

Amar Kaleka, who lost his father in the Wisconsin shooting, agreed with Singh, stating, “It’s very similar to what happened in Oak Creek. You feel for them, and you want to reach out and hug them, and you want to make sure that they’re okay.”

Filmmakers, including Valerie Kaur, spent weeks on end documenting and reporting on the shooting and its aftermath in the immediately following weeks. The group had been recording short films to speak on civil issues and events, but they all agreed that they “had never seen such depth of sorrow result in such unity, strength and hope.” Their recordings demonstrate the strength that people can have, even among such pain and heartache. Members of the community cleaned up the church, humming prayers, and buried the victims while saying the name of god.


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