Monday, 30th October 2017

E- paper

US temple ravaged, faith in religious unity restored

Hundreds gather at Swaminarayan Temple in Kentucky to erase messages of hate

  • Published 5.02.19, 5:21 PM
  • Updated 5.02.19, 5:45 PM
  • a min read
Representative image: The Swaminarayan Temple had been defaced with hate messages, but the residents of Louiseville, Kenutcky, were determined to erase them. iStock

Many in India might find this piece of news incredible, but a Hindu temple in the United States has turned into a site of religious unity.

Thousands of miles away from Ayodhya, hundreds of people of different faiths headed to the Swaminarayan Temple in Louisville, Kentucky, on a Saturday morning to clean and repaint images and walls that had been defaced with hate messages a week ago.

Police have arrested a 17-year-old in connection with the incident and charged him with third-degree burglary and first-degree criminal mischief.

The messages — some of them racist — spray painted on the walls included references to Jesus and God. But they only ended up inspiring an entire community of people — young and old, Hindus, Christians, Muslims, and others — to join hands and erase the hate.

The incident also brought together Attorney General Andy Beshear and Governor Matt Bevin, often seen bickering in public.

"This action of vandalism was an act of hate, but this cleanup today was an act of love," Beshear told the WHAS11 website.

"This speaks volumes about this community," Bevin told the same website. "This speaks volumes about our state."

The temple authorities made sure every person who had gathered at the temple had enough paint to join the clean-up act.

The volunteers also made a wall of unity where they scribbled messages of love for worshippers at the temple.

"I think an event like this can be good because it shows people of different faiths and people of no faith can still respect one another," one of the volunteers, Ben Johnson, told the website WLKY. "(I) can still respect your right to believe what you want to believe. I don't have to agree with it, and we need to have more open, honest dialogue."

So many people had turned up to help that the work was over long before expected. But they weren’t done yet. The volunteers used the time at hand to freshen up other parts of the temple. They also distributed food and books, and collected donations, which will be given to the Coalition for the Homeless in Louisville.