August 5, 2012 / 8:24 PM / 7 years ago

Factbox: Sikh temple shooting strikes heart of religious community

(Reuters) - A shooting at a Sikh temple outside Milwaukee on Sunday left at least seven people dead, including a gunman, police said. The Sikh Temple of Wisconsin is located in the suburb of Oak Creek.

Following are some facts about the temple and the Sikh religion:

- The Sikh Temple of Wisconsin was founded in October 1997 with a community of 20 to 25 families, according to its website. It currently has 350 to 400 people in its congregation and has grown rapidly, the group says.

- The congregation started in rental facilities in Milwaukee and established its first dedicated facility in 1999. It later bought 13 acres of land in Oak Creek and broke ground on the current temple in 2006.

- Sikhism was founded in the 15th century in the Punjab, an area straddling the border between Pakistan and India, by Guru Nanak Dev and has had 10 successive gurus. The Punjab is the only area in the world with a majority Sikh population.

- It is the fifth-largest organized religion in the world with more than 30 million followers. The Sikh place of worship is called a gurdwara and can be identified by tall flagpoles carrying the Sikh flag. The most revered site is the Golden Temple at Amritsar in India.

- There are an estimated 250,000 to 500,000 Sikhs in the United States.

- The Sikh faith includes belief in only one God and that the soul goes through cycles of rebirth and death before reaching human form. The goal of life is to lead an exemplary existence.

- Sikhs who have made a public commitment to the faith by going through a special baptism are called members of the Khalsa. They adopt five symbols known as the Five Ks which include uncut hair and beard and a ceremonial dagger known as a kirpan. They also wear turbans.

- In the United States, especially since the attacks of September 11, 2001, Sikhs have sometimes been confused publicly with Muslims, but they are not Muslim. In September 2001, an Arizona gas station owner, Balbir Singh Sodhi, was shot five times and killed by a man who was said to be seeking revenge on Muslims for the hijacked plane attacks on the United States.

Sources:;;;; Encyclopedia of Sikhism; The Pluralism Project at Harvard University.

Writing by Cynthia Osterman; Editing by Jackie Frank

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