MILFORD, Mass. — It wasn't that long ago that members of the New England Sikh Study Circle were celebrating. A ceremony was held in Westborough marking the site of their new Gurduara -- or temple -- and members spoke happily about openness and inclusion. That same community is now reeling from news out of Wisconsin that a white supremacist allegedly opened fire during a Sikh ceremony there, killing six.
"As you can expect, our initial reaction was shock and outrage," said circle spokesman Sarbpreet Singh. "But we would be no less outraged if this occurred at a church or mosque."
Singh said the incident was "too horrendous to comprehend," and that it brought back "echoes of 9/11," when some were victims of attackers who mistook the Sikhs for Muslims.
"It felt like we were reliving those days," he said.
Singh said that no group, including Muslims, ought to be targeted because of their religion.
According to published reports, the man believed to be responsible for the shootings, Wade Michael Page, 40, was the former leader of a neo-Nazi punk band and an Army veteran. Page reportedly entered the Wisconsin Gurduara before Sunday services and opened fire, killing six and wounding four, including a police officer who responded to the scene. He was reportedly shot and killed at the scene by responding police.
Singh said that the circle's thoughts and prayers were with the wounded officer, Brian Murphy. Singh said the circle will likely raise money to support the officer's family. "They must be going through a lot," he said.
At the Milford Gurduara, the phone rang often as media inquiries came pouring in. Singh said he's been asked several times if Gurduaras are still safe. He answered with an unequivocal "yes," and added that the Milford temple will continue to be welcome and opening to all.
"We would love for people to come to the Gurduara and visit," said Singh. "We would love for the people to come and get to know us better."
The shooting does not alter the circle's plans to move to Westborough.
"This changes nothing," Singh said. "We were strong yesterday. We are strong today, and we will be strong tomorrow."
He said the incident was "ironic" and "anti-American" because it occured in a country which was built by people from diverse cultures.
Sikh Coalition Volunteer Advocate Kavi Raj Singh of Braintree said the Gurduara has always been a place for Sikhs to find comfort and solace during trying times, and that hasn't changed because of Sunday's shootings.
Both men said that Sikhs have faced always faced prejudice since the monotheistic religion's 16th Century founding in the Punjab region of India and Pakistan. Kavi Raj Singh said that when faced with prejudice, he finds solace in the friends, coworkers and family.
"People will make comments, but you will also have people who defend you," he said.
Becky Sheble-Hall of Dover could be one of those people. She stopped by the Gurduara Monday afternoon with a gift a flowers.
"I'm saddened and appalled by what happened," she said.
Sheble-Hall said she was compelled by her faith as a Unitarian-Universalist to visit the Sikhs and extend her sympathies on Monday.
She said Sunday's shooting brought back memories of a 2008 killing at a Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist church that was believed to be politically motivated. However, she said that in the midst of such trouble, there is an opportunity to connect to those of different faiths.
"My faith calls me to embrace differences," she said.