RICHMOND HILL, Queens (WABC) -- A group of suspects vandalized a Hindu temple in Queens twice, and police are asking for the public's help in identifying them.
Police say the group walked passed the Tulsi Mandir temple in South Richmond Hill and knocked over a statue of Gandhi on Aug. 16.
Then they struck the statue with a hammer and defaced it with spray paint.
Police say the men got away in a Toyota Camry and a Mercedes.
"I want to know why they did it, if they could answer why they did it, then they should be a little bit more educated about what Gandhi stands for," said lead priest Lakhram Maharaj.
Maharaj says the pictures of the aftermath are heartbreaking and create a sense of fear in attendees.
"They're saying to me that if someone can come and destroy the statue in front of the building, that such a person can elevate and come into the temple," said Maharaj.
The priest says he plans to replace the statue, but it will cost up anywhere from $7,000 to $10,000.
Police said similar vandalism happened back on Aug. 3 and they're also looking for the people responsible for that.
Community leaders in the area are teaming up with the temple to make sure they show support and echo the message of the Hindu religion of love and peace.
"Hate crimes are up 125% since last year, but we believe in the Gandhian ideal that love will overcome hate, that's the approach that the community has taken towards this outrageous act," said New York State Rep. Jennifer Rajkumar.
That's a message Maharaj is willing to show despite the difficult situation.
"When somebody gives hate to you, you show them love and kindness," he said. "With love and kindness you'll be able to win their heart."
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