The mind cannot begin to fathom how much chaos surrounds us today. As a nation grows weary with divide and mistrust, many of us can barely muster the energy to stand at the forefront of so many issues, let alone understand the depravity of injustice and what it is capable of doing. The nation that taught me growing up that pluralism is key to the development and prosperity of all people is now being challenged by the likes of a monolithic and fervorous nationalism that seeks to blame 'the other', hate 'the other', and hurt 'the other'.
Vandalism and violence have gripped many communities for decades, even centuries now, at the hands of ignorant and equally fearful people who misunderstand others while wanting their own safety and stability. The Jewish community has been one of many communities in 2017 to bears witness to such horrible treatment as over 100 synagogues and Jewish community centers have received calls of bomb threats that have led to evacuations and a sharp increase in the need for added security and intervention from federal agencies. As if this was not enough to show a clear message of hate-mongering towards a specific community, 2 Jewish cemeteries in St. Louis and Philadelphia had hundreds of gravesites desecrated and damaged in what could be considered a blunt message...
Hate has left any stone unturned; the depravity of moral consciousness does not even let the dead rest in peace. Neither you nor your deceased loved ones are welcome here.
The level of cowardice and audacity that has emerged from the shadows has no place in a society as diverse and inclusive as the United States of America. More importantly, these harsh words and actions against innocent people defy our duty as Hindus and Americans.
"Ekam sat viprāḥ bahudhā vadanti"
"The Truth is one; the sages talk of it in many ways."
-Rig Veda (Book 1, Hymn 164, Verse 46)
The South Asian community, and the Hindu, Sikh, Muslim, and other diverse religious and secular communities that derive from it, have a vital responsibility to stand with their Jewish neighbors as we mourn together in the loss and pain that this week has given to both of our communities. The death of Srinivas Kuchibhotla and injury of Alok Madasanim and Ian Grillot are speaking volumes about the ignorance that exaggerates fear and motivates heinous acts to become a social norm in the United States.
With the celebration of Shivaratri on Friday, the Hindu community seeks the piety and wisdom of Lord Shiva to contemplate how we understand and support our Jewish brothers and sisters:
"People follow different paths, straight or crooked, according to their temperament and depending on which they consider best or most appropriate; but, at the end of the day, they all reach You alone just as rivers enter the ocean."
- Shiva Mahimna Stotram, Paragraph 7, Verse 3-4
It is time for our communities to not just condemn these hate crimes and empathize with their struggles, but to step up and work with them to change the narrative that wishes to divide us. We cannot be bystanders in the presence of justice; if we do nothing, we have become an accomplice of the oppressor.
Written by Tahil Sharma, Interfaith Liaison of Sadhana: Coalition of Progressive Hindus