From left to right: Shakeel Shyed (Executive Director of the Islamic Shura Council, Los Angeles), Brian Gibson (Detective Chief Inspector, Glasgow, Scotland), NYPD Inspector Jesus Raul Pinto (New York, USA), Nimai Pandita Raja dasa (ISKCON Barcelona temple secretary, Spain), Rosa Negre Mossos d'Esquadra (Catalan Police Force Sub inspector, Girona, Spain), Salah Betlagui (founding member of Interfaith Glasgow, Scotland)
The Interfaith Center of New York (ICNY) along with the UNESCO Interfaith Dialogue Association, invited ISKCON and Nimai Pandita Raja dasa (JPS) as one of the panelists amongst other religious and police representatives/leaders from New York, Los Angeles, Glasgow and Barcelona, in the Marshall Meyer Retreat helt on the last 12 and 13th June in New York.
They were requested to present their international perspectives on Police Community Relations with the aim of preserving religious freedom and community safety comparing Community-Police relations across cities.
The hottest issue was the dichotomy about the stop and frisk policies followed by the police forces in North America after September 9/11 and the harassment felt by some members of the diverse religious communities and African American and Latino communities.
The Interfaith Center of New York wanted to draw on international best practices on how local law enforcement engages with religiously diverse communities in cities that share common demographics, security, and civil liberty challenges among diverse religious leaders and civic officials living in New York, Barcelona, and Glasgow.
For the first time in 15 years of its existence, the Marshall Meyer Social Justice Retreat for diverse religious leaders invited international experts from both religious and civic communities to address the critical and current issue of how law enforcement balance safety without sacrificing religious freedom. The idea to invite representatives from European countries was about to witness differences and/or common points as well as to get different ideas how police-community work together abroad.
Nimai Pandita Raja dasa (JPS) spoke on behalf of ISKCON Barcelona Temple, making a presentation about ISKCON and Hindu community in Barcelona (Spain), particularly about their experiences and current relations with the Police and Government, speaking from the point of view of a religious minority in Spain and how over the years ISKCON Spain has been developing a healthy growing relations with both government and police.
Going from a Spaniard fascist dictatorship still suffered in Spain when ISKCON devotees established the first temple in 1975, facing violation of human and civil rights like freedom of religion, or freedom of speech at that difficult times, to the following decade in the 80's where both ISKCON and Governement/police, rectified their respective mistakes, to a blossoming and more social acceptance in the 90's, until a cooperation and help from the police to ISKCON calls for help in the new millennium, to the current support from Barcelona City Hall Religious Affairs Office, UNESCO Interfaith Dialogue Association, City Hall Non Discrimination Office, and Police Community Affairs Office. Still Some hitches remain today, like having the right to be accepted as legal marriages made by Hindu - Vaisnava faith priest or right to declare the donations to the temple and thus obtain a discount in their tax declaration, like the roman catholic church members are aloud to do.
The Marshall Meyer Retreat for Social Justice provides professional development and capacity building opportunity for religious leaders, allowing faith leaders to learn about social issues, create networks for mutual support, and meet civic leaders and service providers.
The retreats focuses on four objectives, seeking to: (1) educate grass roots religious leaders about social issues impacting New York’s communities, from interfaith and secular perspectives; (2) build long lasting formal and informal networks of support for the city’s religious leaders engaged in social justice work; (3) connect the city’s religious communities with society’s secular institutions; and (4) generate strategies for addressing common social justice concerns.
Nimai Pandita Raja dasa has been trained in ISKCON Communications courses by Hanuman dasa, and Yadunandana Swami, also has been participating in Interfaith Dialogue with the UNESCO since 2004. After this experience in New York he has witnessed how much positive effect can do effective communications skills. So much so that the Chief Sub Inspector of Spaniard Police sent to New York in the same flight and lodged in the same hotels has set an appoinment to work together in immigration and social problems with the new Indian community in Barcelona through ISKCON advice and counseling, as well as other programs to be promoted in the future.
Also The Sub-Inspector for Community affairs Rosa Negre was invited to ISKCON New York Brooklyn temple, to take darshan (see the Deities) of Sri Sri Radha Govinda, and Srila Prabhupada deity, wich impressed her a lot for the intense presence that she felt. Later took caranamrita (special sweet nectar) with delight, and a delicious maha prasadam plate (pure vegetarian food offered to Krishna in the altar), along with the welcome of the general manager Satya dasi.