Temple shows compassion

It’s enlightening to see a community respond with compassion toward those who have wronged them.

The Hindu Temple of Minnesota had scheduled its grand inauguration for early last June. Unfortunately, the opening had to be delayed. Construction workers arrived at the temple one morning in early April to find extensive vandalism: broken windows, holes in the walls, and handcrafted granite statues of Hindu deities in ruin.

The vandals had exacted about $200,000 worth of damage on the new temple, but, according to temple leaders, money was the least of the harms. It was the destruction of Hindu idols that was most distressing. The statues had been meticulously handcrafted by artisans in India, and they were sacred symbols of their religion.

In the weeks following the incident, the congregation banded together. They successfully collected enough money to commission the sculpting of new statues. They then had the new statues air-freighted from India as to not delay the opening further.

During those same weeks, police apprehended the vandals: two young men, aged 19 and 20. They had purportedly committed the senseless acts of destruction not out of malevolence, but out of boredom. Both were convicted of the crimes, and the sentence included paying $96,454 in restitution and 200 hours of community service at the temple. At the sentencing, Dr. Sane, a member of the Hindu Society board of trustees, spoke on behalf of the young men and asked the judge to be lenient. He emphasized tolerance, peace and forgiveness – tenets that are central to the Hindu faith.

During the entire process, the temple community acted with compassion. They repeatedly asserted that the most they can hope for is that the two men learn from their mistakes and learn about the values of Hinduism. This included a visit to the new temple, where they apologized before the congregation. They were received with a warm reception and were then given a tour.

It’s enlightening to see a community respond with compassion toward those who have wronged them. When they could have sought vengeance, they responded with love and understanding. The two young men learned profoundly from this incident, and we can, too.