RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) - From Wisconsin to Virginia members of the Sikh religion are stunned with grief after a shooting at a temple claimed the lives of seven people and injured several others.
"It's a huge disbelief, we can't imagine this thing happening in a place where we pour out our hearts and our minds," said Dr. Bamil Sandhu, local leader in the Sikh community.
On the evening of the shooting local faith leaders gathered to discuss the tragedy.
"This kind of thing happening at a place of worship any place of worship is a huge shock," said Sandhu.
At this point the motive of the gunman is still unknown. He was killed by police during the incident. Authorities are treating the investigation as domestic terrorism. Several Richmond leaders in the Sikh faith believe they are often victims of mistaken identity being confused as Muslim or Hindu.
"Somehow or another the Sikhs have been targeted, they've been the largest victim's of hate crimes since 9-11," said Dr. K Sing Sahni.
Despite misperceptions Sikhism is not from the middle east but instead from northern India. The religion has over 700 thousand followers in the United States.
"I think the lack of awareness plays a huge role," said Sandhu.
Local church leaders say this act of violence would be a terrible tragedy for any faith to endure but they hope the world understands that theirs promotes equality and peace.
"We pray for the safety of the human race, it doesn't say Sihk, jew, Christian, or muslim so I think that tells you in a nutshell what Sikhism is all about," said Sahni.