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US Senators partook Langar (Community free meal) on Capital Hill

August 01, 2017 05:01 AM

US Senators partook Langar (Community free meal) on Capital Hill

Washington, DC, July 28, 2015 – It was a heart-warming sight on Capitol Hill as manifold US lawmakers, the most powerful in the world, together with over 350 attendees, partook in the centuries-old Sikh tradition of ‘Langar’ (a free vegetarian meal promoting equality) at an event organized by dedicated and down-to-earth college students.

 Congressman Crowley told the gathering that while “we have had tremendous success in the last couple of years regarding the Sikh community especially in hate-crime tracking, there is so much more work to be done. Sikh Americans need to have their rightful place to serve in the US armed forces, the right to serve as police officers in cities like New York and around the country”, he said. “There is so much more that needs to be done to make the Sikh community part of the American fabric. We are here to make that happen”, he vowed.

SikhLEAD, an initiative of the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF) which enables young aspiring leaders to intern in the nation’s capital, spearheaded the praiseworthy effort highlighting Sikh values to bipartisan lawmakers and the mostly Congressional aides who attend the annual event, now in its second year.

 Democratic Congresswoman Judy Chu of California, co-founder of the American Sikh Congressional Caucus, declared at the outset, “This is one of my favorite events! The turnout is even more spectacular”, she said, looking around the venue. “It is so great to see everyone participating in this beautiful aspect of the Sikh religion. It shows what great diversity we have here on Capitol Hill and in this nation. It celebrates the great things about the Sikh American community”.

About the bipartisan American Sikh Congressional Caucus, she noted, it “helps members of Congress understand the issues which are important to the Sikh community such as racial profiling”. Referring to the horrific massacre at the Oak Creek Gurdwara in August 2012 that killed six worshippers, Congresswoman Chu said, “We know that hate crimes are a very real issue. That is why we advocated for the (Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation) crime-tracking database to include hate crimes against Sikh Americans. Fortunately, the category has been included this year to ensure more accurate reporting”. Previously, no federal statistics were kept on hate crimes against Sikh, Hindu and Arab Americans, posing a stumbling block in identifying and preventing such criminal offences.

In his remarks welcoming Democratic Congressman Joe Crowley of New York to the ‘Langar’, Jasjit Singh, Executive Director of SALDEF, commended the lawmaker for taking a leadership position on advocating for Sikh Americans to serve in the US armed forces with their articles of faith, leading the hate-crime tracking effort by the DOJ-FBI, and graciously hosting the SikhLEAD class of 2015 on Capitol Hill.

Democratic Congressman Joe Crowley of New York (left) with SikhLEAD interns who organized the second annual Langar on Capitol Hill

 Congressman Crowley told the gathering that while “we have had tremendous success in the last couple of years regarding the Sikh community especially in hate-crime tracking, there is so much more work to be done. Sikh Americans need to have their rightful place to serve in the US armed forces, the right to serve as police officers in cities like New York and around the country”, he said. “There is so much more that needs to be done to make the Sikh community part of the American fabric. We are here to make that happen”, he vowed.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (Republican – Wisconsin), who was tapped by Republican Mitt Romney to be his vice-presidential running mate in the 2012 race, represents Oak Creek and at the ‘Langar’, he emphasized that the Gurdwara was “a site where a community came together, where the Sikh community displayed just incredible warmth, incredible generosity” in the face of “bottomless evil and violence”.

He underscored, “The peace and the love and the community (spirit) that was displayed by Sikhs impressed so many people in southern Wisconsin. I can’t describe in words the feeling that we have towards the Sikh community in southeastern Wisconsin”. Sikh Americans are “pillars of our community that we are so proud to call our friends and neighbors in Oak Creek”.

To the organizers and attendees of the ‘Langar’, Congressman Ryan said, with admiration, “All of you here are doing your part to lend in the incredibly important effort of expressing and advancing religious tolerance and freedom”.

Recognizing the dedicated efforts of SALDEF, Congressman John Garamendi of California, Democratic Co-Chair of the American Sikh Congressional Caucus, said, “because of the advocacy of your organization, the FBI now recognizes the issues of faith-based communities”.

The lawmaker, whose District includes Yuba City which is home to a vibrant and economically successful Sikh community, noted, “We are also making progress on the military service issue. We have got work to do which will not succeed without the participation of the Sikh American community”, he emphasized.

Congressman Jim McDermott (Democrat – Washington) greeted the gathering in the traditional Sikh manner with ‘Sat Sri Akal’ and proceeded to recount how he has been involved with the Sikh community in Seattle for a long time through personal friendships and associations and has seen it “evolve in all its glory”.

Democratic Congresswoman Grace Meng of New York with SALDEF’s SikhLEAD interns at the second annual Langar on Capitol Hill

The lawmaker recalled that after 9/11, a Sikh manager of a motel in Seattle was beaten brutally due to ignorance, an utter lack of understanding. He spoke about the hate-free zone in his District to protect the community and foster a spirit of oneness. “We are all one”, he emphasized. “The Sikh community has done a number of things to bring that message to the American people”.

Jasjit Singh pointed out that Congressman McDermott “has been phenomenally supportive of Sikhs serving in the military”, to much applause and appreciation from the audience.

Congressman Ami Bera (Democrat – California) told the gathering that as Co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian-Americans, he is proud to work with his colleagues in a bipartisan way to address issues which concern Sikh Americans such as racial profiling, hurdles when it comes to serving in the military with their articles of faith, and playing basketball on a national level with a turban and beard. “We have to break those barriers down so every individual has the right to practice their religion and serve”, he declared.

Democratic Congresswoman Judy Chu of California is flanked by SikhLEAD interns Gurleen Ahuja (left) and Arjan Singh Grover at the fourth annual Langar on Capitol Hill

About Langar, he noted that the tradition was started by Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the first Sikh Guru. “Go to any Gurdwara in the country and they will share a meal with you”, he said. “It is about breaking barriers, sitting together for a simple meal, because in the eyes of God, we are all one. If you look around this room, it represents the best of who we are. My legacy would be if someone in this room is elected to Congress”.

Jasjit Singh informed the gathering that SALDEF has “ten interns who have come to DC this summer to work on Capitol Hill, in federal agencies, and with non-profits. They represent our best and brightest”, he said.

Expressing the hope that an intern would follow in the footsteps of Dalip Singh Saund, the only Sikh American elected to Congress in 1956, Jasjit Singh pointed out that the “SikhLEAD program was started some five years ago to build our community’s capacity of activism and to support our future leaders”.

(From indian-American Community News)

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