Arson at New York Sikh Center, Gobind Sadan USA

Source: The Syracuse Post-Standard

http://www.syracuse.com/news/syrnewspapers/index.ssf?/newsstories/20020217_rotrip.html

On February 17, 2002, The Syracuse Post-Standard featured the article “7,500 Miles to Redemption: Local man to represent community at Sikh event in India.” It reported on the journey of Mark Lichtenstein, president of a local school board, to India: “For the 40-year-old Oswego County resident, the next 11 days will be a pilgrimage of hope, forgiveness and understanding in a Sikh religious compound 15 miles south of New Delhi.” The article explained that he travel with the spokesperson for Gobind Sadan USA, Ralph Singh. After Gobind Sadan was destroyed by arson, it was discovered that one of the teenagers charged in the crime was in Lichtenstein’s district. He noted, “‘I kept asking myself, what could we, as a school district and as a community, have done to eliminate the kind of ignorance’ that led to this crime, he said. ‘I’m not unrealistic. I know that I can’t change everyone, but I really wanted to know what more could have been done to prevent something like this. … I am not going there representing the school district,’ he said. ‘I am going as an ambassador for our community, to express our sorrow about what happened.”


Arson at New York Sikh Center, Gobind Sadan USA

Source: The Post-Standard

http://www.syracuse.com/news/syrnewspapers/index.ssf?/newsstories/20020120_rnsikh.html

On January 20, 2002, The Post-Standard featured the story “Second Fire a Funeral Pyre:
Controlled burn of Sikh temple to make way for rebuilding.” It quoted Ralph Singh: “‘This is a touching day for us,’ said the spokesman for Gobind Sadan USA, a religious center for Central New York Sikhs. ‘In our culture we cremate, so for us this is a funeral service. … And out of the ashes, like a phoenix, we will be reborn.'”
The article continued, “[Singh] and several other members of the Sikh community thanked the firefighters and handed out refreshments. ‘First, we have the funeral, now we have the wake, with coffee and doughnuts,’ Singh said.”


Arson at New York Sikh Center, Gobind Sadan USA

Source: The Oswego Palladium-Times

On December 19, 2001, The Oswego Palladium-Times published the editorial “Alleged hate crime brings shame to county.” It described the arson at Gobind Sadan as “a black eye for Oswego County.” The crime “has drawn national media attention, while the investigation is being assisted by not only local law authorities, but state and federal officials as well. … Oswego County District Attorney Dennis Hawthorne said, ‘The seeds for such conduct of those arrested were planted in their minds for several years, possibly by an older family member or friend. These three are not the only ones responsible for this crime. The people who instilled those thoughts into their minds are also to blame.’ … This perpetuating cycle is what keeps racism and religious intolerance alive.”


Arson at New York Sikh Center, Gobind Sadan USA

Source: The Post-Standard

http://www.syracuse.com/news/syrnewspapers/index.ssf?/newsstories/20011215_rnfire.html

On December 15, 2001, The Post-Standard reported “3 Arrested in Temple Fire.” The article noted, “Three teen-agers told police they plotted to burn down a Sikh temple in Palermo last month because they thought the people who worshipped there supported the recent terrorist attacks. … In their statements to police, the teens said they thought the center was called Go bin Laden, not Gobind Sadan.” The article continued, “Their statements are filled with accounts of how their companions spoke racial and religious slurs about the people who worship at the temple. … During a press conference following the arrests Friday, Oswego County Sheriff Reuel Todd said investigators expect to arrest at least one more person in the case. District Attorney Dennis Hawthorne Sr. said he is considering charging Centrone, Reeves and Hudson with a hate crime.” The article concluded, “Ralph Singh, co-founder of Gobind Sadan, said the religious group has forgiven the teens for what they did to the temple. ‘There is no doubt that the act was terribly wrong, no matter what the motivation,’ Singh said. ‘By forgiving our enemies, we have the opportunity to create peace.'”


Arson at New York Sikh Center, Gobind Sadan USA

Source: United Press International

On December 10, 2001, The United Press International reported that “the ‘real story’ of the blaze at the Gobind Sadan shrine actually developed into a rather marvelous one, recounts Ralph Singh, the center’s spokesman… Jews, Christians, Hindus, Muslims, and Buddhists came out to express their solidarity, Singh recalled. And then there were individual acts of kindness… With a trembling voice, Ralph Singh spoke of the ‘outpouring of love’ the 100-strong congregation at the former farmstead received from neighbors and religious communities in central New York State.”


Arson at New York Sikh Center, Gobind Sadan USA

Source: Beliefnet

http://www.beliefnet.com/frameset.asp?pageLoc=/story/95/story_9514_1.html&boardID=30014

In early December 2001, Ralph Singh, co-founder and spokesman for Gobind Sadan USA, wrote a piece for Beliefnet.com, “‘God Must Really Be Here.” He wrote about the arson, noting “Astonishingly, the Guru Granth Sahib survived, as did the Dasam Granth. As we eventually discovered, even the ruhmalas (holy cloths in which the scripture was wrapped) went unscathed. The fire marshal came out saying he had never seen anything like it in his life. With all that heat, there was no way that they should have survived. This miracle – for there is no other way to logically explain it – brings a message of hope to all people. … This sign of hope has touched the hearts of whoever hears this message–God’s holy word does indeed triumph over hatred and ignorance. Many people from the surrounding communities began calling, asking how they could help, wanting to help us rebuild.”


Arson at New York Sikh Center, Gobind Sadan USA

Source: The Pluralism Project

http://www.pluralism.org/about/morning_prayers.php

On November 28, 2001, Dr. Diana Eck’s Morning Prayers at Memorial Church of Harvard University included her reflections on the arson at Gobind Sadan: “After the arson attack, Ralph [Singh] described the outpouring of support and love. ‘Complete strangers were offering money to help rebuild the shrine, saying this is not the America they stood for, veterans saying this is not the America they fought for, and clergy offering support and even their sanctuaries for the community to hold services.’ He went on to say, ‘This provides us the opportunity to help rebuild and repair the overall community, to rebuild the sense of love and compassion that will triumph over the hatred in our society. Out of that love, the building in its time will also be rebuilt.'”


Arson at New York Sikh Center, Gobind Sadan USA

Source: The Oswego Palladium-Times

On November 27, 2001, The Oswego Palladium-Times reported that “a substantial reward is expected to be offered for information relating to a fire which struck a Sikh house of worship Nov. 18.” The article continued, “They are also looking at the fire in the former farmhouse as a possible hate crime, a federal offense…Investigators say the fire in Palermo is suspicious because it follows two other apparent acts of vandalism at the site.” The article quoted Ralph Singh, co-founder of Gobind Sadan USA: “‘The irony of this whole thing is that Gobind Sadan stands as a beacon for peace and as a model for how people can overcome their differences and hatred.'” Area churches have extended offers to use their buildings for worship, and the InterReligious Council of Central New York organized a prayer service at the center as a show of support.


Arson at New York Sikh Center, Gobind Sadan USA

Source: Gobind Sadan USA

http://www.gobindsadan.org/gsusa/

Photographs of the damage to the Gobind Sadan building can be viewed at the center’s website: http://www.gobindsadan.org/gsusa/fire/


Arson at New York Sikh Center, Gobind Sadan USA

Source: Gobind Sadan USA

http://www.gobindsadan.org/gsusa/messagetoamerica.shtml

On November 27, 2001, Baba Varsa Singh (“Babaji”), founder of Gobind Sadan, offered a “Message to America” about the suspected arson. “‘Perhaps this is God’s way of giving us the opportunity of bringing people of all faiths together to share in rebuilding this sacred house of God and making it an even more beautiful place.'” He offered thanks and cited the ways in which the community has offered assistance, including the efforts of local authorities, the offers of temporary space by local churches, and help from a local school which organized a fundraiser.

The web site also noted the responses to the arson: “When George Pataki, Governor of New York, heard about the devastation, he said, ‘…It is an offense that strikes at the very heart of the freedom that all Americans hold dear.’ On seeing the burnt temple, Bob Hanson, executive director of the InterReligious Council, spoke these poignant words: ‘We stand in awe of the power of God. We stand on sacred space that has been violated. We pray that this will not happen again to anyone, anywhere.'”


Arson at New York Sikh Center, Gobind Sadan USA

Source: The Valley News

http://www.valleynewsonline.com/news/2001/1124/Front_Page/017.html

On November 24, 2001, The Valley News reported, “Sikh worship house fire evidence sent to federal lab in Maryland.” The article noted, “Evidence from the fire that destroyed a Sikh house of worship in the Town of Palermo may take up to two weeks to analyze, according to local and federal law-enforcement officials.” Co-founder Ralph Singh was quoted as saying, “‘When we got over the shock, we immediately gathered in prayer to offer forgiveness to those who might have done this so that the love of God — which this place stands for — can take away the ignorance and hatred.'”


Arson at New York Sikh Center, Gobind Sadan USA

Source: The Post-Standard

On November 19, 2001 The Post-Standard reported, “Sikh Temple Burns in Palermo.” It noted, “A suspicious fire early Sunday extensively damaged Gobind Sadan, USA, an interfaith religious center in Palermo where many of Central New York’s Sikhs worship…The fire damaged the main building of Gobind Sadan, USA, an Interfaith Retreat and Meditation Center, where people from all religions interact and offer spiritual counseling.” Despite extensive damage to the building, the Guru Granth Sahib (the religious scripture of the Sikhs) was not burned. Spokesperson Ralph Singh noted, “‘They can burn the structure, but God’s holy word will always triumph over evil.'”