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Monday, July 14th, 2003

Johannesburg, South Africa

Rainbow Nation

What about the other colors?

When I returned from Durban last week, the Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Ashram here in Lenasia had a new resident: Bhakta Peter.

Peter is white. What is so remarkable about that? Well, it just struck me that all the devotees that I have met here in South Africa who belong to the Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math — without exception — are Indian.

I wonder why this is still so? Ever since I became interested in Krishna consciousness, way back in 1981, all the local devotees that I have ever met have been Indian. To my knowledge, there have been no non-Indian South African devotees recruited, other than myself, a so-called "Colored."

The 1984 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, dubbed South Africa a "rainbow nation" after his compatriot, 1993 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Nelson Mandela, became the first black president in the country's first democratic elections. The country once universally reviled for its apartheid practices is now affectionately known as the "Rainbow Nation" for its variety of cultures, ethnic groups, languages (there are eleven official languages!) and religions.

So where are all the other colors: the whites, the blacks, the browns? Are only Indians interested in Krishna consciousness? Why this apathy towards other races?

Is it just laziness? Do we only make overtures to Indians because they are "easier" to preach to since they are already acquainted, for the most part, with Vedic knowledge and culture?

This is an anomaly that our South African preachers should address — soon.

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