Faith

Why This White House Event Should Be Celebrated by American Religious

This interfaith moment between President Trump and people of the Hindu faith can pay enduring dividends in mutual respect

It seems that in today’s aggressive political climate, people of faith are supposed to be at odds with those of different religious persuasions. But President Trump made an unprecedented outreach to people of Hindu faith by choosing to find commonality.

President Trump hosted prominent Hindus and Indian-American leaders at the White House to celebrate Diwali, which is the Hindu Festival of Lights on October 17.

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The religious holiday of Diwali is a celebration of light’s victory over darkness. People of Hindu faith shop for new clothes and gifts for family, which makes Diwali one of the biggest shopping seasons in India and Nepal. It is a happy holiday celebrated every autumn.

“Today, I was deeply honored to be joined by so many administration officials and leaders of the Indian-American community to celebrate Diwali … As we do so, we especially remember the people of India, the home of the Hindu faith, who have built the world’s largest democracy. I greatly value my very strong relationship with Prime Minister Modi.”

By showing respect to the dominant religion in India, President Trump showed that he values the people of Hindu faith. While campaigning in 2016, then candidate Trump pledged his friendship to India.

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Shalabh “Shalli” Kumar, founding Chairman of the Republican Hindu Coalition, said, “There is a reason why [then] candidate Trump loves Hindus. They are model citizens: More than 4.2 million Hindus live in the U.S., and 67 percent have a bachelor’s degree; 55 percent have an advanced degree. Hindus have the highest per capita income of all groups, give the maximum to charity, take the least from government, have almost zero crime, have strong families, and pay $50 billion per year in taxes. And one out of 10 are businesspeople who create jobs. Who wouldn’t want to reach out to them?”

And there it is. Rather than fixating on the differences, Trump brilliantly focused on the similarities. He saw that by and large, Hindus are people of character. They live by a moral code that is very similar to that of conservative Christians.

How much more productive would our society be if we set aside differences and worked to find common ground. There is value in the old saying, “agree to disagree.” It is admirable to build friendships and partnerships with people of different persuasions.

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This is an opportunity not only to build a more diverse society, but to share our own faiths as well. How else can we expect to be understood if there is not a conversation to explain our personal beliefs and the foundation of those beliefs?

From a worldwide political perspective, it is wise to grow a partnership with India. As Secretary of State Rex Tillerson stated on the day of the Diwali celebration, “It is indeed time to double down on a democratic partner that is still rising, and rising responsibly, for the next 100 years. But above all, the world, and the Indo-Pacific in particular, needs the United States and India to have a strong partnership.”

What a brilliant strategy to forge a friendship that would be mutually beneficial with a religious people group who share similar conservative principles of family, prosperity and ingenuity.

Katie Nations, married for 15 years, is a working mother of three young children in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

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