On Sunday January 2 2005 BAPS centers across the United States held Prayer Assemblies in support and memory of the victims of last weekend's catastrophic Tsunami in South Asia.
The well known Swaminarayan "Dhoon" was sung by all those in attendance at the beginning of the assembly to invoke the compassion and mercy of Bhagwan Swaminarayan. This was followed by special Vedic bhajans (devotional songs) that were recited to offer support to those who are suffering from this devastating event.
With over 150,000 dead and countless more injured and displaced this event has become one the greatest disasters of all time. It is at times like these that spiritual organizations like BAPS are able to offer a helping hand to those in need. The Prayer Assembly was organized as a medium to offer prayers and support to all those affected, regardless religion and nationality.
In Houston, the Prayer Assembly was attended by 22 Community Organizations as well as hundreds of well wishers, including Dr. Prem Chand Shridhar (Priest from the Greater Houston Arya Samaj), Mr. Skand R. Tayal (Consul General of India), Mr. Eddie Poerwana (Deputy Consul General of Indonesia), and Ms. Yael Ravia-Zadok (Consul General of Israel) amongst many other distinguished guests. Mr. Barkley Peschel, District Director read a message from Congressman Hon.Tom DeLay - Majority Leader of the House.
At the Prayer Assembly held in Chicago, amongst the many attendees were the representatives of over 20 community organizations as well as noted speakers such as Mr. Andy David, Deputy Consul General of Israel. In New York, more than 30 prominent civic organizations had representatives present. They were addressed by several speakers, including; Mr. Ashok Tomar (Deputy Consul General of India), Congressman Anthony Weiner, and Assemblyman Jimmy Meng.
Similarly at BAPS centers across North America there was an outpouring of support from community leaders and civic organizations. In Washington DC, Mr. Elisha Pulivarti, a special representative of the Governor's Office, read a letter of condolence and support for the victims of the Tsunami disaster, on behalf of Maryland Governor Robert Erhlich.
In Ontario, Premier Dalton McGuinty paid a visit to the BAPS Center in Toronto on January 9, 2005 to participate in a Prayer Assembly organized by BAPS Canada for the victims and survivors of the South Asian Tsunami.
A prayer for the victims from His Divine Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj and an appeal for support was read to the gathered audiences to seek their assistance in providing relief material and much needed food and water supplies to the affected areas. This large humanitarian mission will be carried out by BAPS Care International, a non religious relief organization with a long track record in helping victims of disasters.
At the end of the program a prayer known as the "Shanti Path" was intoned by priests at all of the BAPS centers to seek peace for the souls of those lost in the Tsunami disaster.