THE BLOG
12/04/2012 10:17 am ET | Updated Feb 03, 2013

Upholding Dharmic Values of Self Reliance: Protecting our Temples, Gurudwaras and Places of Worship

America values the individual contribution and empowers its citizens to self govern their communities at the local, state and national levels. Volunteerism and community service are an integral part of our national consciousness and the very backbone of our communal existence. Values that resonate with the Dharmic philosophy of self reliance are part of our historical heritage; these values enabled Gandhi to win freedom in India.

Today, in America, as new immigrants we have transplanted and built our faith infrastructures. Though there is a high level of acceptance, sometimes we see gaps through intolerance and violence. For example, the Wisconsin Gurudwara shootings and vandalism/theft in Hindu temples, such as the recent theft of Lord Shiva's murti (icon) in India Cultural Society of Wayne, N.J., desecration of the new Jain Temple in Franklin township, vandalism in Sri Siva Vishnu Temple in Lanham, Md., Hindu Temple in Minnesota, et al.

"We had very beautiful murti of Lord Shiva placed on small hillock in the compound of our premises.This has been stolen by some miscreants by truck on the night of Diwali, our sacred Festival of Lights. This incident happening on the holy Diwali day has disturbed thousands of devotees who thronged for darshan and worship at the temple," said Jyotindra Patel, Chairman of India Cultural Society of Wayne, N.J.

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In the last three years I have traveled across the country and visited many Dharmic places of worship. I have found almost all Dharmic places of worship have dealt with security issues. But many are afraid to make waves. This silence of fear and further non-acceptance needs to be broken. In keeping with the American tradition and in line with the Dharmic values of self reliance, it is time we, the Dharmic Americans, empower ourselves and understand how to make our places of worship secure.

And if we start doing it we will find our country, the administration at the highest level, including the Department of Homeland Security and most of our neighbors also willing to help us protect ourselves from the few who hate, are violent and terrorize those different from them. The responsiveness and awareness of our needs is becoming visible. For example, on learning of the theft in Wayne, Hindu American Seva Charities reached out to the N.J. Office of Homeland Security & Preparedness with whom we have been working with for quite some time. They responded promptly and reached out to the temple to help them be better prepared on security issues.

At this time, Hindu American Seva Charities is collaborating with N.J. Office of Homeland Security & Preparedness to present an important educational forum Security Awareness and Vigilance for Everyone (S.A.V.E.) Dec. 4.

Since our formation in 2009, in addition to promoting civic engagement and bringing the Hindu voice to the forefront, Hindu American Seva Charities has been working with the Department of Homeland Security and recommending ways to include our community and address our needs.

At the first White House conference for the Hindu and Dharmic community last year, we started implementing the recommendations by bridging the knowledge gap with our community.

By serving on the Department of Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano's Faith Based Advisory Council we have further highlighted the needs of our community and recommended additional ways to strengthen our Dharmic faith based infrastructures.

And we have partnered with the N.J. Office of Homeland Security & Preparedness to provide many educational forums to increase outreach to the Dharmic and South Asian communities.

We find the Department of Homeland Security is willing to provide the education and training but we need to be willing to develop our own capacity like the temple in Wayne.

It is imperative we learn the tools to strengthen our places of worship, which in turn strengthens America. Let's Serve, Collaborate and Learn while we build communities together, pluralistic communities, partnering with our neighbors and our governance bodies.

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