UNION CITY -- Gary Singh, a longtime Tri-City area resident and practicing Sikh, said he was deeply saddened by the recent mass shooting at the hand of a white supremacist in a Wisconsin Sikh temple.
But Singh, a Union City small business owner, said his firm belief that tolerance will overcome racial violence is one of many reasons he is excited for the eighth annual Union City Sister City Festival, scheduled to begin 5 p.m. Sunday.
"We are all here, we are all American, we're all part of the same community and we're not leaving," he said. "So, we have to educate people about different cultures."
Singh -- a member of the Union City Friends of Sister Cities commission, which is sponsoring the event -- said those types of cultural exchanges are the best ways to prevent senseless racial violence.
"When kids see and learn about people who are different from them, they become more accepting," he said.
The upcoming festival will celebrate Asadabad, Afghanistan -- the sixth and newest sister city with which Union City has established a cultural partnership, Councilwoman Pat Gacoscos said.
Abdullah Aimaque, the Consul General of Afghanistan in Los Angeles, and Mohammad Qayoumi, president of San Jose State University and the first person of Afghan descent to head a major American university, are among the event's scheduled speakers.
Other participating sister cities include: Chiang Rai, Thailand; Liyang, China; Jalandar,
Nearly all of those nations' cultures will be represented with several festival performances, including those by local dance troupes and a Sikh martial arts organization.
"The composition of our sister cities is like a microcosm of our city and the nation," Gacoscos said.
Union City -- like many East Bay cities -- is very diverse, according to 2010 census figures. About 24 percent of the city is white; 23 percent is Latino; 20 percent is Filipino; more than 11 percent is Indo-American and nearly 11 percent is Chinese.
Adding Asadabad -- whose residents are predominantly Muslim -- to its list of sister cities presents Union City with another faith to celebrate, Gacoscos said.
"We have so many different religions here -- Catholics from the Philippines, Buddhists from Thailand, Sikhs from India and now Muslims from Asadabad, Afghanistan," she said. "Having sister cities helps ease tensions among many different groups in the entire Tri-City area, not just in Union City."
Contact Chris De Benedetti at 510-353-7011. Follow him at Twitter.com/cdebenedetti.
WHAT: Union City Sister City Festival
WHEN: 5 to 9 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: Union City Sports Center, 31224 Union City Blvd.
INFO: 510-918-7555 or www.unioncity.org