Fiji Times

SUVA, Fiji (May 13, 2008) – The destruction of the Gangaiyamman Kovil [Hindu temple] in Lautoka on Saturday was a disgraceful and despicable act. It is understandable that devotees would weep openly after the blaze. For in one callous, thoughtless move, an unthinking thug has destroyed a lifetime of devotion and commitment.

[PIR editor’s note: Lautoka is the second largest city of Fiji. It is in the west of the island of Viti Levu, 24 kilometers north of Nadi, and is the second port of entry in Fiji, after Suva.]

Hundreds of thousands of dollars was paid by the community which has worshipped at this site for more than 60 years.

They built the temple, installed deities and hosted an annual firewalking ceremony, which drew people from around the Western Division.

The Gangaiyamman Kovil became an icon not only for Field 40 but for Hindus and people of other faiths.

Its name Gangaiyamma tells us of the kovil's links to the Ganges, a mother figure to the people of India in both a physical and spiritual sense.

The burning of the temple can be likened, therefore, to the murder of the mother of the South Indian community of Field 40.

True to their Hindu faith, the devotees of this temple have built the Lautoka Andhra School and operate a kindergarten from the kovil premises. In the provision of education, the temple owners have taken in children of all races and religions.

They have provided students with knowledge and prepared them to live life as useful members of society.

The people who burnt the Gangaiyamman Kovil paid no attention to these facts when they broke in to the premises in search of money.

And before they set the temple alight, it is unlikely that they gave any heed to the good deeds done by worshippers.

Ignorance would have meant that the arsonists had no idea of the central theme this temple played in the lives of worshippers.

These people did nothing to deserve the desecration of their place of worship.

Ignorance of what others do in the community blinds the nation.

We must open our eyes to the good intentions of people of other faiths and show our gratitude for their involvement in community life.

There is no need to become converts to their faith, unless that is what we want.

Most importantly we must accept their right to worship in a manner and place of their choice.

The burning of any place of worship is despicable.

In this case the fire was reprehensible because devotees considered the main temple deity to be their mother.

Police must find the people responsible for this injustice and bring them before the courts to pay for their actions.

Fiji Times Online: http://www.fijitimes.com.

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