Monday, November 28, 2011

Sindh and Its Sindhiyat

Written by Dr. Chainani, a partner of HASC, in response to a recent posting on a community web group regarding the death of three HIndus in Shikarpur, Sindh. Please read below:

The time I've spent in Pakistan over the last year and a half has been life changing. It's taught me much about the history of South Asia, the cultural heritage of Sindh, our Pakistani neighbors, our Sindhi Muslim brothers and sisters, the dynamics of the Muhajir and Sindhi relationship among a few things. But I believe these to be the more obvious lessons that every second generation removed Sindhi Indian American would also search for when they visit.

There's been a deeper and much more personal journey involved for me as well: a spiritual one. I came to the land of Sufis to find myself with the hope to find my God as the grand triumph and ultimate destination of my quest. 

I've learnt that I'm still learning and still looking. On this journey I've found beautiful hidden messages that I've read in books or inscribed on the walls of temples and Sufi durgahs:

"Vasudeva Kutumbakam"

"Ekam sat viprah bahuda vedanti." 

"Satyam amritasya putrah"

To give pleasure to a single heart by a single kind act is better than bowing your head in prayer a thousand times.
-Shaykh Sa'di

I believe not in the outer religion,
I live ever in love.
Say Amen! When love comes to you.
Love is neither with the infidels nor with the faithful.
- Sachal Sarmast

If you are seeking Allah,
Then keep clear of religious formalities.
Those who have seen Allah
Are away from all religions!
Those who do not see Allah here,
How will they see Him beyond?
- Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai 

My time in Sindh surrounded by Sindhi Muslims has shown me the other side of Sindh's story and another side of Islam. The stories of the Muslims who provided their Hindu counterparts their homes to hide out in during the violence that broke out, the Muslims that bid a final farewell to their Hindu friends with tears in their eyes, the Muslims who still hold those memories close to their hearts and feel the loss of the Hindus as something Sindh never recovered from. 

On November 7, 2011 three Hindus were killed in Shikarpur district of Sindh, Pakistan. As many of you already know, I worked in Shikarpur at the start of my time in Sindh. I still maintain close contact with my co-workers. A member of my family also sits on the board of a Hindu association of Sindh. Here's what I must say, as it is the other side of the truth that exists. 

Immediately following the killings the religious (Hindu in this case) spokesperson jumped on the bandwagon to claim religious bias as a cause of the killing. The fact that they were Hindu was exploited for a few days after which it began to die down. Soon after the Muslims responded with an accusation of their own and we were told that the Hindus were killed because of a girl of the Muslim side had been harassed. A few more days went by and finally I turned to my personal network in Shikarpur for answers:there had been an election recently in which the Hindu community had supported the ruling party which won due to the large number of Hindu votes they received. The opposing party didn't take their loss lightly and instead decided to teach the Hindu community a lesson. The end result of which was the death of the three Hindu Sindhis of whom only one was a doctor. Religious bias was not the reason for their death, politics was. Anyone who follows politics closely shouldnt be shocked to learn of the ways in which politicians use religion as a political strategy. As they say, " The road to hell is paved with good intentions."

What followed next was an absolute uproar within the Sindhi community and an alternate backlash against the government for their inadequate response and towards Sindh warning all Sindhis that this type of violence and is anti Sindhiyat and will not be tolerated by the residents of Sindh. They further emphasized that Sindh is the land of Sufis and believes in living in a tolerant society. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend as I was in Islamabad on official business. A young activist was kind enough to send me pictures. 

Following the killings thousands of Pakistanis, both Hindu and Muslim, gathered publically across Pakistan to stand against the death of the three victims and the inaccurate message of intolerance it displayed. There was also a hunger strike that followed. 

Sayings in books thousands of years old that we claim as ours aren't good enough. It is far more necessary to put those words to action and there is no better time than now. Hate only breeds hate. History is meant to learn from not to regurgitate. It's wrong to paint today's canvas with yesterday's paint. When you reach into the paint jar you may end up with dried out, useless paint. This is perhaps why they say one should not live today in the past of yesterday.  

No one is saying that the sentiments of the Hindu Sindhis are wrong. Anger for being removed from your land and from your sacred river is justified. But another truth follows suit: there's a time for anger and then there's a time to let go, to change and to move on. 

Tides must turn. 
Peace must prevail.
Only then will their be prosperity in South Asia again. 

Praying for peace

Reference reading:

"Be the change you want to see in the world." - Mohandas Gandhi

Friday, November 4, 2011

Deploring Anti-Hindu Remarks of Kentucky’s Gubernatorial candidate with Call to Action: Let us Build Bridges of Understanding in Kentucky and around the World

Hindu American Seva Charities urges Hindus and people of all faiths to come together and turn the narrative around and make it an opportunity for generating better understanding of our culture and heritage through seva, interfaith seva. Let us show Kentucky and the world what Hindu values are and bring the divine, godly qualities to the forefront. Let us honor all the teachers and educators with tilak- GuruSeva, honor the veterans/military and invite our neighbors to come to our homes and temples and learn about our faith, yoga, traditions, food, our very way of life. Let us keep the Diwali light of knowledge and goodness burning brightly. Let us shower the world with Hindu acts of kindness, at every occasion, every festival with UtsavSeva.

We, Hindus, are the people of illustrious heritage of yoga, Meditation, of highest concepts of spirituality, of Mahatma Gandhi's non-violence, of Ayurveda (Holistic health concepts) and so much more. As documented in Phil Goldberg's American Veda, Hindu thought has contributed greatly to American spirituality. Today yoga is ubiquitous and accepted everywhere and it is as much a Hindu spiritual practice as putting a tilak for ground breaking ceremony. Its roots are undeniably in Vedic Hindu tradition. Let us take control of our own narrative and bring the positives to the forefront. We are proud to be Hindus. Let us work collaboratively with people of all faiths to serve all and solve the problems of the country.

Hindu America Seva Charities is appalled at the lack of acceptance and tolerance displayed by the Republican candidate, David Williams, when he criticized Governor Beshear for taking part in a Hindu groundbreaking ceremony of an India based company that is undertaking the construction of a $180 million manufacturing plant and promises 250 jobs in Kentucky. Williams, a state senator, criticized the Governor’s involvement in the ceremony as an act of “idol worshipping” which is against his faith.

It is deplorable that Hindus are seen by some fundamentalist leaders as "idol" worshipers, with a strong negative connotation. Therefore, it’s important to explain what is Murti puja, a core element of Hinduism. Hindus believe that God is transcendent (beyond every thing) as well as immanent (in every thing), ie: omni-present, every where, in everyone and everything, including all humans, animals, birds, trees, the oceans, and so forth. Murtis were created to help humans focus their minds on something tangible. The purpose of murti puja is to facilitate meditation and to promote harmony and brotherhood. It is impossible for humans to conceive of the transcendent God. Whatever human mind could imagine about God, would be deficient and flawed. Therefore, Hindu sages approved of images, expecting that it will help the common person to connect to God. Our scriptures say that Murti worship would be meaningless if the worshipper does not think of the transcendent God (Srimad Bhagavatam 3.29).

The xenophobia that many Hindus have faced, and still face, is coming to the surface in political forums. Hindus must deal with it publicly and strengthen the Hindu American identity on many fronts - through education, through interfaith collaboration, and through seva (volunteer community service).

Seva is our community social responsibility which enables (and ennobles) our youth and adults to put their faith in action and be better understood - people to people. Hindu American Seva Charities is trying to do just that and help our youth not only feel comfortable in their faith skins, but be proud of their heritage. As one example: In Wichita, Kansas, after 9/11 some Hindu kids were abused and called Osama's kids. The Hindu temple is afraid to put a sign outside. Lately, on HASC's initiative, Rema Venkatsubban, working as AmeriCorps VISTA, engaged many youth and adults to build interfaith bridges on many fronts, feed the homeless, and bring the issues to the political decision makers to help diffuse the "otherness".

Let our call to action be for building communities, for becoming the problem solvers of critical problems facing our country and create more jobs like those in Elizabethtown. Let us turn the narrative to show the world the true Hindu spirit of ahimsa and seva!