WASHINGTON, DC, June 5, 2019 (HAF): Lanham, Maryland’s Sri Siva Vishnu Temple Center for Dharma Education hosted a town hall Saturday, June 1, on the importance of the Caribbean Hindu community in advancing Hinduism in the Diaspora, as well as some of the challenges many Diasporic Hindus face in the United States. The town hall, “Bhakti in Berbice and Beyond,” was co-sponsored by HAF, Indiaspora, HACSI, HMEC, India International School, the Maryland Milan Mandir, and featured nationally renowned Caribbean Hindu activists and advocates. Speakers highlighted key themes in the Caribbean Hindu experience, including the legacy of indentured servitude and slavery from the 19th century; the coerced conversions to Christianity in the West Indies; feelings of exclusion from many East Indians/South Asians; and the importance of Bhakti in carrying on traditions passed down for generations.
Aminta Kilawan-Narine, A New York-based lawyer and columnist, said that unlike some Indian American Hindus, most Caribbean Hindus were proud of their faith, and did not see a conflict between their religious identity and their engagement with social justice spaces. Vijah Ramjattan, the founder of the United Madrassi Association, echoed those comments, adding that the Hindu community needed to put aside territorialism over geography, sects, etc., and emphasize “unity in the community,” the United Madrassi Association’s motto. All of the speakers agreed that more needs to be done to integrate the experiences of Diasporic Hindus into the larger narrative of Hinduism.