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Washington, July 17
Condemning the terrorist attack on Sikhs and Hindus that killed 18, US Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard has called for confronting "hatred with love, fear with understanding, and darkness with light".
Speaking at a memorial meeting for the victims on Sunday, Gabbard, who is the first Hindu elected to US Congress, said: "We must continue to stand up to bigotry and hatred in Afghanistan, here at home, and around the world." The Islamic State has owned up responsibility for the suicide bombing on July 1 that struck members of the Sikh and Hindu communities waiting to meet President Ashraf Ghani. 10 people were injured.
Sam Brownback, the head of the State Department's Office of International Religious Freedom, said in a message to the meeting, "Our office will continue to monitor the conditions faced by religious minorities in Afghanistan. I stand with you and will work toward an Afghanistan that is peaceful and secure for all its people."
He added, "The loss of these community leaders was a terrible blow, not only to Afghanistan, but also to the international community." The meeting was organised by the by the Afghan Hindu Association (AHA), in conjunction with the Embassy of Afghanistan, with the assistance of the Hindu American Foundation (HAF), and held in front of a mural at the mission depicting the ancient relics of the Buddhas of Bamiyan.
AHA President Sena Lund solemnly recited the names of the 18 slain Sikhs and Hindu.
According to a HAF press release, Afghanistan's Ambassador Hamdullah Mohib said: "This occasion is one that brings us together to recognize a community that has deep roots in Afghanistan. For many, they often think of the minority Hindus and Sikhs as migrants from India. But in reality, the Hindus and Sikhs of Afghanistan are original residents of this country." Jay Kansara, the HAF Director of Government Relations, said Hindus and Afghanistan have more than 5,000 years of history binding their civilisations and a shared destiny in democracy.
Leaders of the local Washington gurdwara and the National Sikh Campaign sang Sikh hymns, and Pandit Ram Kumar Shastri of the Asamai Mandir recited verses from the Bhagavad Gita.
Former AHA President Joginder Kapoor said: "What the future holds for us, a miniscule minority, does not look bright as long as foreign insurgents are in Afghanistan. They must be eradicated." Puneet Kundal, the Deputy Chief of Mission at the Indian Embassy, conveyed condolences from the Indian government's condolences to the Afghanistan government and the people of the country.