July 3, 2016 | By Sikh Siyasat Bureau
Norwich, Connecticut (Press Release): Residents quietly gathered at Norwich City Hall courtyard Thursday night to remember the 49 killed earlier this month in the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Fla.
The vigil, organized by the Norwich Area Clergy Association, drew residents, elected officials, police officers, firefighters and religious figures spanning the Sikh, Jewish and Catholic religions. The speakers, including U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, Sen. Cathy Osten, and members of the LGBTQ community, encouraged attendees to remember to stay united and to choose love instead of hate in response to the tragedy.
A poster with the pictures and names of the 49 dead was placed at the courtyard for the vigil as a reminder.
“This is a time to remember that no matter what our individual religious beliefs may be, and whatever our political position may be, we all stand united in this. People have a right to live their lives without interference,” Rev. George Blair III said.
Kia Baird, a representative of Out CT, a noprofit LGBTQ group based in New London, said she lost her own partner a few years ago to tragedy and knows how the families who lost a loved one in Orlando feel.
“I know how easy it can be to hate the people who took our loved ones from us,” Baird said. “Forgiveness is the one thing that has helped me thrive in the past years. I pray the families of the victims will do the same. It is our differences that make our world a beautiful place. And through love we can all be connected.”
Swaranjit Singh Khalsa, representing the Sikh religious group as President of Sikh Sewak Society International and one of the organizers of the vigil, said the goal of the evening was to remind the city that emergency responders are prepared if a similar massacre were to happen in Norwich.
Khalsa said “By this vigil We wanted to display a clear message that Their is Zero Tolerance for Hate at City,State and Country level.
To show this we have invited City Officials,Law Enforcement,Congressman,State Representatives,State Senators and agents from F.B.I Connecticut branch.
Khaksa also said ” Recognize all Human Race as one is the message given to Sikhs by their tenth Guru Sahib and Sikhs where commemorating 1984 Golden temple massacre 32 nd Anniversary ,they also praying for orlando Victims in their Gurudwara Sahib(Sikh Temple).
“The FBI in Connecticut is doing everything and anything to make sure a tragedy like that does not happen in Connecticut,” Charles Grady, a member of the FBI based in Connecticut, said in address to the audience. “I encourage all of us to be vigilant in this fearful time in our society.”
To solidify their message of unity, members of the Norwich Area Clergy Association stood together to recite a litany of reconciliation and peace. Hinchey also unveiled a paver to be placed in the courtyard in remembrance of the 49 victims. The paver read, “Orlando Strong – Orlando United.”
After a moment of silence, the participants gathered in a circle to light candles.
Sarah Tefft, of Sprague, came out to City Hall Thursday night. She said the Orlando tragedy struck her especially as a member of the LGBTQ community.
“It’s a wonderful thing that we can come together and it doesn’t matter who we are or what our backgrounds are, but to come together and say this is something that shouldn’t be happening,” she said.
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