When our Chinese immigrant ancestors came to the United States in the 1850s, we faced exclusion and violence, our Buddhist and Taoist temples desecrated and set ablaze. When our Japanese American forebears were herded into U.S. concentration camps in the 1940s, our priests were classified as a threat to national security, our Buddhist faith deemed un-American. When our South and Southeast Asian parents and grandparents arrived on these shores in the 1970s, many fleeing wars inflamed by the American military, we were told our cultures and Buddhist traditions didn’t belong.
Asian Americans are now experiencing another wave of religious bigotry and racial animus. We have witnessed a stark increase in violent attacks over the past year. The March 16th Atlanta shootings claimed the lives of eight people, six of them women of Asian descent, including the 63-year-old Buddhist Yong Ae Yue. She is remembered by her two sons as a selfless person who stood up against discrimination and always advocated for treating people right.
Yong Ae Yue’s tragic death follows upon months of unrelenting racist taunts and violence against Asian Americans, including the senseless assault of 84-year-old Vicha Ratanapakdee in San Francisco. His daughter, who herself had been accosted twice in the past year and told to go back to Asia because “Asians caused the coronavirus,” described her father as a devout Thai Buddhist; his funeral was held at Wat Buddhanusorn in Fremont, California.
Our temples have also come under attack. Six Vietnamese American temples in Orange County, California were vandalized in a single month; an outdoor Buddhist statue was spray-painted with the word “Jesus” at Huong Tich Temple. More recently, the Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple in Los Angeles was damaged when windows were smashed, lanterns broken, and the property set on fire.
We welcome Asian American Buddhist temples and organizations, ally sanghas, and individuals of all backgrounds to participate in this ceremony by watching the livestream of the national Buddhist memorial on May 4th, and by endorsing this gathering.
As the sutras remind us, spiritual friendship is the whole of the Buddhist path. We look forward to joining together with you, in memory of our Asian American ancestors, to cultivate belonging and liberation for all beings.
In spiritual friendship,
Duncan Ryuken Williams, Funie Hsu, Chenxing Han
COVID Relief for India
Online Meditations and Donations
(Source: Tallahassee Chan Center)
Financial donations to grass root organizations, bypassing governmental mediation:
Oxygen for India: This GoFundme campaign is trying to raise 1 million USD to deliver 3000 oxygen concentrators to India at a record cost of $350 per concentrator. I am personally inspired by their creative approach to helping cities which are not in the limelight right now.
Coronavirus Relief Fund (Ketto): This portal hosts many individual fundraisers for supporting individual families in dire financial need. The Mission Oxygen (accepts donations from non-Indians) initiative under this Ketto Fund was started by a group of respected Indian entrepreneurs who post regular updates on the progress of procuring concentrators for India.
Goonj: This respected disaster relief organization is providing essentials (includes food, supplies) for communities across India. Their initiative ‘Rahat’ was started last year. Their immediate and long-term support measures in cities and villages are addressed to families who due to paucity of resources and livelihood options were badly affected by the pandemic. You can read more about their approach, ground reports on the link.
You may also consider donating to these larger nonprofit organizations:
UNICEF: UNICEF is on the ground, working with partners to deliver urgently needed medical equipment, PPE, hygiene supplies and critical care to those in need. Your generous donation will help fight the pandemic.
PATH: a global health nonprofit based in Seattle, has worked on increasing oxygen access for years to several low- and middle-income countries for years and currently has a team of more than 200 people working in India to procure oxygen supplies and accelerate Covid-19 testing and surveillance.