"Diwali is both literally and figuratively a festival of lights, in that it celebrates the triumph of knowledge over ignorance as well as light over darkness," said Mr. Barton. "Thursday evening, I hosted a Diwali reception which sought to illuminate the strong partnership between the UK and India and the remarkable contribution that Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains have made to Britain's culture, business, politics, science, medicine, media and many other fields."
The United Kingdom is home to over 2 million Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains, the largest population of these groups in Europe and among its most successful minority communities. In addition to representing the United Kingdom's diverse citizenry, Mr. Barton described his deep connection to Indian culture and spirituality that derives from his accomplished career with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the UK. A senior diplomat in India in the 1990's, Mr. Barton also served as Director of South Asia in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 2008 and in other senior positions involving the United Kingdom's relationships with Afghanistan and Pakistan prior to being posted in the United States in his current role.
"We're grateful to the British Embassy and its staff for partnering with the Hindu American Foundation to host such a memorable event in honor of Diwali," said Jay Kansara, HAF's Associate Director of Government Affairs. "The British Government has displayed the pluralistic ethos that we here in the United States value and encourage other nations to uphold. We anticipate our initial partnership with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office will parlay into substantive dialogue on issues affecting the Hindu community globally, including human rights violations against Hindus in South Asia."
Mr. Barton was joined in lighting the diya by Ms. Suhag Shukla, Esq., HAF Executive Director and Legal Counsel, Mr. Bhupesh Mehta, President of the Jain Society of Metropolitan Washington, Dr. Rajwant Singh, Founder of the Sikh Council on Religion and Education, and Ms. Mythili Bachu, of the United Hindu Jain Temples Association (UHTJ) of D.C. Over 100 government officials, foreign diplomats, and community members attended the event. The evening concluded with musicians from the D.C. based South Asian Performing Arts Network (SAPAN) singing traditional hymns venerating Hindu deities in honor of Diwali.
"It was a great honor as a Hindu American elected official to celebrate Diwali at the residence of a British diplomatic official in Washington, D.C.," said Kumar Barve, Majority Leader of the Maryland House of Delegates. "Nothing says more about the value of religious freedom and acceptance between three of the greatest representative democracies on earth - the United States, the United Kingdom, and India."