After the horrific and tragic series of terrorist attacks in Mumbai between Wednesday 26 November and Saturday 29 November 2008, BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, UK (BAPS), held a Special Prayer Assembly at the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Neasden, London, on Saturday 29 November 2008.
The assembly was organised to pray for all those killed, injured and affected by the deplorable acts, and for peace and normalcy to be restored as soon as possible.
With at least 195 lives lost and many more injured during the course of the attacks and ensuing siege, this act of violence was one of the worst in India’s history. At critical times like these, spiritual organisations such as BAPS are able to offer comfort and support in a lasting and meaningful way.
In remembrance of each of the innocent lives lost in Mumbai, 195 divas were lit along the central aisle of the Prayer Hall. Everyone’s thoughts were especially with the families and loved ones they have left behind.
The evening began with the traditional dhun that was sung by all those gathered as an invocation to the Divine. This was followed by a recital of ancient Vedic verses and the Shanti-Path by sadhus, yuvaks, kishores and balaks of BAPS London.
Many dignitaries, Members of Parliament, well-wishers and supporters had sent their messages of condolence and sympathy for the occasion.
The first to share his message was Mr J K Sharma, First Secretary of the Indian High Commission, who conveyed the grief and resolve of the Indian Government. He also paid tribute to the emergency services and armed forces who had served courageously in these testing times.
The Prime Minister of Great Britain, Rt. Hon. Gordon Brown MP, had also sent a special letter of condolences for the occasion in which he also offered “all necessary support to the Indian authorities as they respond to the crisis.” He added: “Temples serve as a place of reflection and comfort as thousands gather to pray together following the callous attacks in Mumbai.” Tony McNulty (Minister for London and Minister of State for Employment and Welfare Reform) read out the Prime Minster’s letter, adding his own thoughts while echoing the Vedic sentiments that the whole world is one family.
Messages of support and sympathy were also conveyed by Cllr Bob Blackman on behalf of Rt. Hon. David Cameron MP, leader of the Conservative Party, and by Cllr Gavin Sneddon on behalf of Sarah Teather MP, Cllr Paul Lorber, Leader of the Brent Council, and representatives of the Liberal Democrats. A message had also been received from the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson MP.
In his keynote address, the head sadhu of the Mandir, Yogvivek Swami, spoke of the importance of peace, faith and unity in such times of tragedy. He said: “Today, gathered here in the United Kingdom, we stand together, as people of different backgrounds, different races, different cultures and different religions – yet united in one voice, united in affirming that terrorism has no place in any nation, no role in any religion, and no justification anywhere in our civilised world.”
Yogvivek Swami also relayed the message of His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj who has appealed for calm and offered his prayers for all those who have suffered from the atrocities in Mumbai, adding: “We pray that no country, people or community ever have to deal with such a horrific attack again.”
His Holiness especially emphasised that “Violence is not the answer to terrorism. We encourage people around the world and especially in Mumbai to stay calm and at peace. BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha will continue to offer its support in this time of tragedy.”
A short presentation followed with visuals of prayer assemblies already held at BAPS centres around the world, including that held at Tithal, India, in the presence of Swamishri. Many more prayer assemblies are scheduled at other centres on Sunday.
The assembly concluded fittingly with two minutes of silence and the arti ceremony, after which Mr J M Patel, Chairman of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, UK, conducted the vote of thanks.
The assembly, though organised at short notice, was well attended by members of all the major religions, including representatives from the Jewish, Christian, Islamic, Buddhist, Sikh, Jain, Zoroastrian and Hindu faiths. There was also strong cross-party political representation from local MPs, MEPs, GLA members, the Mayor of Brent, Mr Ralph Fox, and Councillors from Brent, Harrow and other London boroughs. Several other local and social organisations had also been present, including representatives from the Metropolitan Police.