After Shaanti Bhavan Mandir in Queens, New York, declared itself a sanctuary for undocumented immigrants March 19, garnering significant national attention, leaders in the Hindu community say they are gaining more support within and outside the congregation. But it’s a “quiet” support. Though Shaanti Bhavan is the first Hindu temple in the country to declare itself a sanctuary, they say, some other Hindu temples, especially in the Indo-Caribbean community, are helping those who feel vulnerable.
This coming Saturday May 13, a workshop on citizenship applications is schedule to be held at the Lakshmi Narayan Mandir on Liberty Ave. in Richmond Hill, Queens.
“We hope to partner with this mandir (Lakshmi Narayan) and others and strengthen the Hindu temple community efforts to support our own people and also take a stand for immigrant rights,” Sunita Vishwanath, founder of Sadhana, the Coalition of Progressive Hindus, told Desi Talk. Sadhana joined Shaanti Bhavan to declare it a sanctuary. The move garnered national attention with articles appearing in The Huffington Post and the New York Times.
Since its announcement as a sanctuary, members of Shaanti Bhavan’s congregation have begun “quietly” talking to other members of the community who need help, according to activists. At this time, it is those with Green Cards who are eligible to get citizenship but don’t know how, are being helped, said Viswanath.
“But we do know there are more vulnerable people, and they are a very large part of the community that goes to this temple (Shaanti Bhavan),” Viswanath added. “The fear is very real – and given that – we are moving quietly and gently,” she said. Not all temples even within the Indo-Caribbean are willing to join the sanctuary, and Indian-American Hindu temples have generally stayed away, conceded Viswanath.
One (Indo-Caribbean) temple clearly said “no” because it believes the sanctuary movement was too political, Desi Talk learnt. But others are working behind the scenes even if not openly.
“We are taking a moral stand that nobody should be deported. It is very much driven by our religion and spiritual tradition — Manav Seva – that we should join to serve those most in need,” Viswanath emphasized.
New York’s New Sanctuary Coalition is helping organize future workshops for the Indo-Caribbean temples, she said.