Several local Sikhs said they chose to settle in the Oklahoma City area to attend college or because they found job opportunities.
But most members of the close-knit group that met this week at the Sikh Gurdwara of Oklahoma said they have made their homes in cities like Edmond, Shawnee, Nichols Hills and Oklahoma City because they felt those communities were great places for raising families.
They said their sentiments haven't changed even though a fatal shooting rampage at a Wisconsin gurdwara has left some Sikhs across the U.S. unsettled.
Dr. Jaspal Singh Chawla, 66, an Edmond doctor, said education is key to helping the community-at-large understand more about Sikhism, particularly its mantra of peace.
Umi Kaur Chahal, an Edmond resident whose family is in the home health and hospice business, said she has found that one-on-one friendships and work relationships have done much to educate the general public about Sikhism.
“That is the best way — one person at a time,” Chahal, 62, said.
“One person educated is a community educated. It is a seed that continues to grow.”
Many of the Sikhs who attend the gurdwara or Sikh temple at 4525 NW 16 said being members of a minority faith helped draw them closer together.
“One of the reasons we formed this gurdwara was so that our children would be able to grow up with other Sikhs,” Chahal said.
Minnie Kaur Bajaj, 65, a Nichols Hills office manager, agreed.
“We wanted to teach our children the Sikh religion on a regular basis at a gurdwara with other Sikhs instead of just in our homes,” Bajaj said.
Having each other has helped the Sikhs through difficult times associated with being part of a minority religion, the group said.
Chahal and her husband, Bhajee Singh Chahal, talked about his excruciatingly painful decision to cut his hair and stop wearing a turban.