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After six people were killed and three were injured by a gunman who opened fire at a Sikh temple in Milwaukee on Sunday, a few Penn State voices weighed in on the tragedy.
Police said Wade Michael Page fired the first shots at about 10:30 a.m. on Sunday. The gunman was killed outside the temple in a shootout with police officers.
Page was in the U.S. Army from 1992 through 1998. However, Page was demoted and received a general discharge for “patterns of misconduct.”
Sources told the Associated Press that Page had strong ties to white supremacy and neo-Nazi groups, including being a member of the Hammerskins. He was involved in the white power music scene in the 2000s, and was involved in several neo-Nazi rock bands.
The six individuals killed in Sunday’s shooting were identified by police as five men who included Satwant Singh Kaleka, the president of the temple in Oak Creek; Sita Singh, 41; Ranjit Singh, 49; Prakash Singh, 39, and Suveg Singh, 84 — and one woman, 41-year-old Paramjit Kaur, according to CNN.
Sikhism, the fifth largest monotheistic religion in the world, preaches a message of devotion and remembrance of God at all times, truthful living, selfless service and equality of humankind.
Jonathan Brockopp, an Associate Professor of History and Religious Studies, said Sikhism is a religion that more people should understand and learn about.
“The lesson we have to learn is that we cannot take out violence on others and reach out to our neighbors,” said Brockhopp. “Many individuals assume that Sikhism is a part of Islam or Hinduism; however, people need to learn more about different religions in order to learn more about themselves.”
Brockhopp described religious tolerance as “a message of suffering through enduring other religions.”
“Tolerance isn’t enough, and people need to be morally driven to learn more,” said Brockhopp.
Ben Yaroslavsky, a supporter of the Penn State Sikh Student Association, is dismayed with the measure taken by Page.
“With the recent shootings you hear about on the news, it seems like everyone has something they are against and by hurting innocent people it is not helping our goal as humans towards world peace,” said Yaroslavsky (freshman-business administration). “If we were able to just accept other individuals’ beliefs and be willing to understand that each person is different then we would never have to worry about violence in regards to race and religion.”
The Sikh Student Association at Penn State University has a mission to encourage an on-campus community that spreads awareness of the Sikh religion and inspires others to engage in community service, according to its Facebook page. Its members aim to achieve their goals through religious, cultural, and social activities that are open to the entire Penn State community.
The SSA at PSU works to achieve its mission by adhering to the principles of Sikhism.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.