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More than $60,000 raised for vandalized Los Angeles Buddhist temple

As of early March 2, more than $60,500 was raised for Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple through a GoFundMe page set up by the volunteer group Nikkei Progressives.

Recent vandalism at Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple in Los Angeles. Photos via Facebook/Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple

LOS ANGELES (RNS) — More than $60,000 has been raised in the span of a day for a Buddhist temple in the Little Tokyo area of downtown Los Angeles that was vandalized late last week.

As of early March 2, more than $60,500 was raised for Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple through a GoFundMe page set up by Nikkei Progressives, a volunteer organization that formed in late 2016 to advocate for immigrant rights, Muslims and Japanese American issues.

The temple was vandalized on Thursday (Feb. 25), when a person climbed over the fence and set fire to chōchin lantern stands, knocked over two metal lanterns at the stairs leading up to the temple and shattered a glass panel in front of the foyer after throwing a rock toward the temple’s entrance, said the Rev. Noriaki Ito, head minister of Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple, in a statement. No injuries were reported.

The Los Angeles Police Department is investigating the vandalism but has not yet determined whether it was a hate crime, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Funds raised for the temple will go toward repairing the damage, increasing its security presence and improving outdoor lighting.

After news of the vandalism made nationwide headlines, Ito said the temple has received calls and messages from all over the country as well as from Japan.

Ito said he recognized the widespread interest was probably due to the number of incidents against Asian Americans that have been reported in the wake of COVID-19 across the country.

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Stop AAPI Hate, a group that aggregates and tracks anti-Asian hate incidents, reported 245 “incidents of hate in Los Angeles County” between March 20 and Oct. 28 in 2020.

“We will work to repair the damage and to restore the temple,” Ito said in the statement. “But we need to repair the damage to ourselves as well. Like many others in our AAPI community and beyond, we feel hurt and saddened and even angered by the recent attacks on those of Asian and Pacific Islander descent.”

“For many of us, the temple is a second home, and this feels like an attack on our culture, our history, our community, our family,” Ito added.

Ito, in his statement, referenced the words of Shinran Shonin and the Rev. Shigeshi Wada in his pursuit to “open up our temples and to share the teaching with others.”

“If we are the only ones here and speak only in Buddhist terms, the temple will be like an exclusive club of people who speak a language only we can understand,” Ito said.

“We need to acknowledge and coexist with everyone we live together with. In addition to our efforts to continue to learn from Buddhadharma, we need to do our best to create such a society of equals, of true friends,” Ito added.

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