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Indian-Americans rally for terrorism fight

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Indian-Americans from a wide range of faiths held a prayer service in New York Sunday to encourage Washington's fight against terrorism and show they share in America's grief over the terrorist attacks.

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The group waved small American flags and carried signs reading, "Hindus Against Terrorism," "USA and India Together," and "Proud to be an American Indian." Some wore buttons emblazoned with the American flag and the words, "I am a Sikh. God bless America."

"We have suffered a lot," said Sant S. Chatwal, president of the Sikh Organization of New York. "Our prayers are with everybody in the World Trade Center, and our prayers are with President Bush, Mayor [Rudy] Giuliani and [Gov. George] Pataki. God give them more energy so that we can look after America and protect all Americans."

Hundreds of Sikhs, Hindus, Christians, Buddhists, Jains and Jews convened for the interfaith prayer meeting, held at the north end of Union Square, which has become a popular gathering place for mourners since the attacks.

They represented a long list of groups, including the Indian American National Foundation, Guru Nanak Mission in New York, Christians of India, Jews of India, Muslim Federation, and various Sikh organizations.

Chatwal said they wanted to show the United States that Indians, and Sikhs in particular, pose no threat and should not be falsely connected to supporters of Osama bin Laden.

"People are mistaking us because we are keeping a beard and the turban," he said. "People do keep the beard and turban, but we are Sikhs of America. We are not Afghanis. We are no relation to bin Laden."

India's loss, too

Condemning bin Laden as a "terrorist," he said, "We've got to get him dead or alive. We've got to finish terrorism. We are all suffering over here."

The event coincided with a visit to New York by Indian External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh, who was scheduled to meet with Giuliani.

A full-page ad from Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was printed Sunday in The New York Times, in which Vajpayee declared his country's solidarity with and support for the United States.

The number of Indian citizens killed in the attacks on the World Trade Center is the highest India has ever experienced in a single terrorist act, Vajpayee said.

"Their lives symbolized our common pursuit of freedom, of democracy, of pluralism and prosperity," Vajpayee said. "This irreplaceable loss binds our two peoples in a common resolve to defeat forever the forces that oppose these values."


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