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Celebration at CNY Sikh Temple Recalls Arson Attack and Forgiveness Message that Followed

Dignelly Torres/WAER News

The Sikh Temple, Gobind Sadan, in Central Square remembered the 18th Anniversary of being burned down shortly after the September 11th terrorist attacks. WAER’s Dignelly Torres reports the message of their weekend celebration was forgiveness.

“Gathering Around the Light” remembered the arson attack back in November 23, 2001. The Sikh Temple was set on fire by three teenagers. They mistakenly related them to the 9/11 attacks. Founding member of Gobind Sadan Ralph Singh says forgiveness helped transformed the lives of the kids.

“When these kids, out of ignorance, post 9/11 the hatred whipped up, they thought that we were followers of (Osama) bin Laden.”

In addition, the Sikh community celebrated the 550th Anniversary of the founder of the Sikh, Guru Nanak Dev Ji.  

The arson burned down the group's old temple, but they rebuilt in Central Square. The group works on overcoming poverty, religious conflict and terrorism.

The weekend event started with a tour. The people who attended visited the Meditation Center next to the Sikh temple. Sacred music played and a meal was served to people. Arnold Hook says it was his first time in Gobind Sadan.

“I’m very happy I did decide to be here today to be with all of these people and to share this experience.”

Divya Rijwani learned from her parents the story of Gobind Sadan and the Sikh tradition. She practices meditation. Righwani says she wants to remember.

“Today, I think I just want to remember that we havce such a loving community.  And the fact that even after 18 years, some people have still been affected by it.  They still find it so powerful that they decide to come back.” 

Singh says they want people to learn from the lessons they learned out of the arson attack.

“Even though you may be different, we can all live together and love in one community.  Forgive each other and then learn to live together in love and peace.”

Singh says remembering is part of being human. He says forgiving doesn’t mean you forget. Singh says to forgive means to let go.