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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A coalition of Salt Lake City attorneys known as the “Refugee Justice League” has begun work to help Bhutanese refugees build a Hindu temple.

More than 300 lawyers have volunteered their services to help build a temple for the thousands who settled in Utah after escaping religious persecution in the South Asia country Bhutan, the Salt Lake Tribune reported last week.

Bhutan is a Buddhist country wedged between China and India. Over 100,000 Hindus fled Bhutan after they say majority Buddhists imposed their religion and language on the Hindu minority.

In 2008, the U.S. took in about 60,000 Bhutanese refugees.

The nearly 2,000 refugees in Utah gathered at a Krishna temple for classes, dances and festivals last year. But they say the need their own Hindu temple to practice their faith, preserve traditions and pass on their language.

“Our younger children are forgetting how to speak it,” refugee Gyanu Dulal said.

The lawyers are helping refugees in setting up a religious nonprofit, considering locations, talking about land use and explaining what it takes to build a sacred structure.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance,” Salt Lake City real estate attorney Matthew Wirthlin said, “to help folks who have experienced hardships I will never know.”

Dual said that the 1980s saw members of the Buddhist majority pushing Hindus out of jobs, looting their businesses and raping Hindu women.

In late 1990, Dual said his family escaped to a refugee camp in Nepal, where they spent the next 17 years eating rations provided by aid organizations.

Nearly 10 years after settling in Utah, Dual said he hopes the temple and community center will help Bhutanese refugees reconnect through worship.

“Our senior people are isolated and depressed in their apartments because they have no place to practice their rituals,” Dual said.

The proposed temple and community center will be open to Hindus, Buddhist, Kirats and similar faith minorities.


Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune,