Sikhs celebrate new beginning with first religious services after shooting

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OAK CREEK -- Members of the Sikh community gathered at Oak Creek's Sikh Temple Sunday, August 12th for the first religious services since a shooting just one week ago left six dead and three critically wounded. 

"I think God meant for this thing to happen, as tragic as it is, to open the eyes to the world that we can't continue on like this. We need to show each other love and embrace each other," Kanwardeep Singh Kaleka, who lost his uncle in Sunday's shooting said.

Sikh community members gathered at the temple Sunday morning, for religious services "to commemorate the lives lost and come together in unity for a future of peace and understanding" -- according to a statement released Saturday night.

Kaleka's uncle, Santwant Singh Kaleka was the temple's president. Kaleka said his uncle always wanted everyone to see his temple, and Kaleka said following Sunday's services, he feels that became a reality.

Sikh community members gathered outside the temple for a flag raising ceremony slated for 9:00 a.m. The flag was lowered, the pole was washed and a new banner was raised. Traditionally, the flag in front of the temple is raised just once a year -- in November, to celebrate the birth of the first Guru.

"The flag stands for a lot. It's a stand against hate and it shows the love we have, and it is a rejuvenation -- the point that no matter what people do to try to hurt others, it's only gonna make us stronger," Kaleka said.

"For us, today is a new beginning after everything that's happened. We want to show after going through so much, we're starting new," Kirandeep Cheema, who teaches youth at the temple said.

Sunday's services occurred from 10:30 a.m. until noon and included devotional hymns and prayers and the closing of the Sikh holy book. The holy book has been read in its entirety over the past three days.

Speeches followed services from noon until 1:30 from representatives of the victims’ families, the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin and others.

A luncheon followed, as is Sikh tradition.

"The world is here, and we pray together. My hope is we continue to do so," Kaleka said.

Funeral services were held Friday, August 10th for all six who lost their lives in the shooting.

Three remain in the hospital.

Froedtert Hospital officials Friday, August 10th announced the condition of one of three individuals critically wounded in the Oak Creek Sikh Temple shooting has been upgraded. Santokh Singh's condition was upgraded Friday to "satisfactory."

50-year-old Santokh Sing suffered a single gunshot wound that penetrated his chest, diaphragm, stomach and liver. All of his injuries were repaired in two surgeries and he is recovering well.

Oak Creek Police Lt. Brian Murphy is in "satisfactory condition." Murphy was among the first to the scene, and was reportedly ambushed by the shooter -- Wade Michael Page -- while providing aid to a victim in the temple's parking lot. Lt. Murphy was shot eight or nine times. He was initially in Froedtert's ICU in critical condition, and underwent surgeries.

According to Froedtert Hospital's website, 65-year-old Punjab Singh suffered a single gunshot wound to the face that caused facial fractures and damage to his right carotid and vertebral artery. There is evidence he also may have subsequently suffered a stroke. He requires mechanical support to breathe and remains in "critical" condition.

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