Learning of the recent burglaries, and further issues, being faced by the Hindu community in Swindon earlier this week left me saddened and desperate to help.
This quiet majority of our community, whose forefathers served alongside us in two world wars and whose current generation are now the sinews of our NHS, had suffered a terrible injustice at the hands of ignorant criminals.
Repeated attempted burglaries and criminal damage had resulted in the theft of thousands of pounds and left their main altar, a sacred place, vandalised over last weekend.
I visited the temple midweek, alongside Supt Phil Staynings, from Wiltshire Police, and our neighbourhood officers, meeting with community leaders and members. Their anger at being targeted like this was palpable. And it was uncomfortable.
We need to do more
We, as a community need to do more. We need to do better by this hugely important section of our society. They are the people who I was elected to represent – to ensure they, their community and their religious centres are protected - and I will.
The police are out there right now trying to track down those responsible. I would hazard this crime was probably conducted by the ignorant in our society – just trying to steal some bits of metal they can flog on – not realising their actions have affected this community, offended their culture and religion and trampled across a consecrated and sacred place.
I have every faith, the police will follow the evidence and, if this is categorised as a hate crime, then we need to come down on those responsible doubly hard.
The Hindu community are known for their progressive and inclusive outlook. Their emphasis has always been on charitable work in our community and they have been left angry and disappointed in the way they have been treated.
My passion is for inclusivity and supporting diversity is well known and this terrible incident is contrary to all my beliefs.
All of this extra pressure comes at a time when they are facing upheaval with their premises and looking for a place to centre their religious activities – pivotal to their community.
I have pledged to help them as much as I can, to do more and to be a better friend to the Hindu community. I hope I left them reassured that they are being listened to and heard.
We need to do more, as a community, not just the police but all of us, to reassure our Hindu friends that we are doing all that we can to help them and support them in their time of need.