Representatives of Chicagoland Hindu temples were hosted by “Hindu Mandir’s Executive Conference” (HMEC) committee of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) here at Manav Seva Mandir, April 25, to discuss common challenges and forge a common platform across the Midwest region.
Coordinator Kaushik Joshi’s welcome outlined the objectives and vision behind this undertaking, following which Bharat Barai delivered his opening message. After each institution had introduced itself, conference moderator Abhaya Asthana gave an overview of HMEC and temples’ expectations.
The two sessions on engaging Hindu community in North America and on attracting and retaining the next generation, were each followed by Q&A moderated by Ajay Jain. An open forum rounded up the afternoon.
The following questions and concerns collected via surveys were among those raised for discussion: involving priests in regular youth programs (Bal Vihar) to make them more accessible to younger devotees; ensuring that priests are able to explain the meaning of the marriage ceremony (sapta-padi) that they perform, especially when the spouse hails from a different religion; preparing priests, scholars and temples to better address needs of the youth; formulating common, simple and clear answers about the tradition (sanatana dharma); and training priests in English and effective communication.
Speeches were made by Jay Kansara director of Hindu American Foundation, Keshav Patel on the launching of the regional HMEC of Southern California, Richard Benkin on saving the Hindus of Bangla Desh, and by Raju Padadda on the threat to the Hindu heritage. Each temple gave a presentation on how to pass on the heritage, steps taken and to be taken.
Participants included Chinmaya Mission, Hindu Temple of Greater Chicago, Sri Venkateswara Swami (Balaji) temple, Manav Seva Mandir, Vaishnava Samaj of Midwest, Gayatri Gyan Mandir, ISKCON Naperville, Bharatiya Temple of Northwest Indiana, Sri Jagannath Society, VHP, Geetha Mandalam, Hindu Temple of Lake County, Vishwa Jagruti Mission of North America, Yogi Divine Society and Shivalaya Hindu Cultural Center.
Barai delivered the vote of thanks.