On November 7, 2017, the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, through its newly-created Office of Public Affairs, reached a milestone in the nation’s capital on a day that combined citizen advocacy and celebration of faith. The historic day began with BAPS members from across the country coming to Washington D.C. to meet with their elected representatives and their staff as part of a first-ever ‘Advocacy Day’ and ended with a Diwali and Hindu New Year celebration in the historic Kennedy Caucus Room on Capitol Hill. Throughout the day’s events, BAPS members were able to meet and interact with a total of 57 Congressional offices, including 41 members of the House and Senate.
The ‘Advocacy Day’ brought 75 members of BAPS from across the country to Washington D.C. to meet with lawmakers in Congress as part of the organization’s ongoing efforts to bring about greater awareness amongst elected officials of the Hindu American community and its traditions and beliefs, as well as to advocate on issues important to the community.
In preparation for the meetings with various House and Senate offices, the morning began with a joint briefing and training for BAPS members conducted by leaders of the American Jewish Committee (AJC), a global Jewish advocacy organization, and leaders of BAPS on topics of interest to the Hindu American community, including tax reform and immigration. Thereafter, BAPS members began meeting with elected officials and their staff at both the House and Senate office buildings to raise awareness on the impact of proposed legislation.
In this manner, BAPS members met with 19 Representatives and Senators as well as staff members from 57 Senate and House offices to advocate on pertinent issues and to educate their representatives on the Indian American community and the integral role they play in local communities across the country.
These advocacy efforts and the ongoing outreach to electedrepresentatives from BAPS centers nationwide are having a positive impact with these representatives. For example, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, who represents three BAPS Mandirs as a part of his constituency in Pennsylvania, spoke about Diwali, the Hindu faith and his experience representing the BAPS community on the floor of the House as the day’s proceedings began.
The day culminated with a historic Annakut and Diwali celebration at the famed Kennedy Caucus Room in the Russell Senate Office Building. Joined by six partner organizations – the Hindu American Foundation (HAF), Indiaspora, the Global Indian Jewish Relations Institute (GIJRI), the Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA), The Art of Living Foundation, and the Association of United Hindu & Jain Temples – the Ambassador of India to the United States, the Honorable Navtej Sarna, and 31 members of Congress including Co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-2) all braved a cold and rainy evening to celebrate Diwali, Annakut and the Indian New Year by lighting the ceremonial divas and interacting with over 450 guests and dignitaries.
Members of the House and Senate who attended the event:
|Ami Bera (CA-7)||Marc Veasey (TX-33)||Ron DeSantis (FL-6)|
|Anthony Brown (MD-4)||Mike Coffman (CO-6)||Sanford Bishop (GA-2)|
|Bill Foster (IL-11)||Norma Torres (CA-35)||Ted W. Lieu (CA-33)|
|Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-8)||Pete Olson (TX-22)||Todd Rokita (IN-4)|
|Darren Soto (FL-9)||Pete Sessions (TX-32)||Tony Cardenas (CA-29)|
|Darrin LaHood (IL-18)||Pete Visclosky (IN-1)||Tulsi Gabbard (HI- 2)|
|French Hill (AR-2)||Pramila Jayapal (WA-7)||Val Demings (FL-10)|
|Grace Meng (NY-6)||Raja Krishnamoorthi (IL-8)||Warren Davidson (OH-8)|
|Hank Johnson (GA-4)||Randy Hultgren (IL-14)|
|Keith Rothfus (PA-12)||Rob Woodall (GA-7)|
|Bill Cassidy (LA)|
|Chris Van Hollen (MD)|
|Tammy Duckworth (IL)|
Garlanded elected officials and diplomats, including the Ambassadors of Singapore and Suriname, enjoyed traditional sweets and snacks from BAPS Shayona. Mr. Raj Shah, Deputy Assistant to the President of the United States, provided the final remarks of the evening and congratulated the Indian American community for celebrating Diwali with such energy.
Celebrating festivals and days of cultural and religious importance with our representatives in Washington D.C. is one of the primary missions of the BAPS Office of Public Affairs. The Office will continue to partner with diverse groups to raise awareness among lawmakers and government officials about Hinduism and Indian Americans in the United States.
More information, videos, and pictures can be found by following the BAPS Office of Public Affairs on Twitter at @BAPS_PubAffairs.