Indian-American Congressman Shri Thanedar formally launched the bipartisan Congressional Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh and Jain American Caucus in the US Congress on Friday, which has gained the support of over two dozen lawmakers.
A congressional caucus refers to a group of members in the US Congress who seek common legislative objectives. This particular caucus launched by Thanedar is aimed at combating religious discrimination and promoting freedom for these ethnic groups.
At a press conference in Washington, Thanedar said, "... We're assembling to pioneer a movement—one that strives for understanding, inclusion, and affirmative policy actions... A movement that says every faith, every culture, and every community has a place in America— the land of the free and the home of the brave. My name is Shri Thanedar. I am proof of America’s diversity in Congress."
He further termed the caucus as a show of commitment towards standing against religious discrimination and promoting inclusion and celebration of diversity. The caucus will help engage in action and dispel misinformation and disinformation of the culture and societal norms associated with these religions.
At least 27 Congressmen from Republican and Democratic parties have joined the caucus. "We are not talking about abstract communities or conceptual problems. These are real issues affecting real people—our friends, our neighbours, and our constituents," further said Thanedar.
Religious groups in the US
According to Thanedar, there are approximately three million Hindus, 1.2 million Buddhists, half a million Sikhs and 200,000 Jains residing in the United States, apart from thousands of worship places associated with these religions that act as centres for the development of the communities and spiritual well-being.
“So, when we speak about these communities, we are speaking about a substantial portion of our nation's populace—a segment that contributes significantly to the American fabric yet often remains underrepresented or misunderstood,” he said.
He also said that some cultures are misunderstood and everyone should have the right to practice their respective religion. The HBSJ caucus, he said, will aim toward preventing religious discrimination, promoting accurate representation and inclusion, addressing cultural misunderstandings and bolstering empowerment and well-being.
Americans for Hindus founder and chairman Romesh Japra described it as a "momentous occasion" and said that it will help in protecting the interests of these minority communities. "There was a long-felt need of the Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains in the country," he said.
On the same day, the US House of Representatives marked a historic occasion by allowing a Sikh Granti to offer prayers to start the day's proceedings. These prayers are generally offered by a Christian priest.
Granthi Giani Jaswinder Singh from Pune Hill Gurdwara in New Jersey started the proceedings on Friday after an announcement from House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. He became the first Sikh chaplain to make prayers in the US House of Representatives.
(with PTI inputs)