Hindus are concerned at what they view as unfair treatment at England’s prestigious Durham University (DU).
Distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada today, said that there was no Hindu chaplain and no dedicated Hindu prayer room at this “multi-cultural, multi-faith” public research university, which according to its own admittance, “has a substantial number of Hindu students and staff”.
On the other hand; it has about six Anglican, four other Christian (Roman Catholic, Baptist, Friends International, Orthodox), and one each of Jewish, Muslim, Humanist chaplains. It also houses two “dedicated Islamic Prayer Rooms”, a “dedicated kosher kitchen”, a “magnificent” Cathedral and eight chapels (including two in one of its colleges) with “regular Sunday services”. It is “able to offer” Halal food and its colleges often hold special celebrations such as carol services; Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, notes.
A public and taxpayer funded “one of the world’s leading Universities” like Durham, which claimed to be “committed to providing opportunities for its students to explore and follow their religious beliefs”, should not be in the business of discriminating among various religions and belittling entire communities; Rajan Zed pointed out.
Moreover, teaching and research within its Department of Theology and Religion, which was claimed to be among “World Top 10”, was focused on three key areas: Biblical studies, Christian theology and the study of religion; Zed added.
Rajan Zed further said that Hinduism was oldest and third largest religion of the world with about 1.1 billion adherents and a rich philosophical thought, and it should not be taken frivolously. All faiths, larger or smaller, should be duly respected.
Zed urged DU Chancellor Sir Thomas Allen, Vice-Chancellor Stuart Corbridge and University Council Chair Joe Docherty to put an end to this disparity by having a Hindu chaplain, strengthening Hinduism studies and establishing a permanent and designated Hindu prayer-meditation hall (with attached kitchen) for rituals, quiet reflection, festivals and spiritual exercise; which would help in the personal growth of its Hindu students and staff.
Rajan Zed suggested that the Hindu Prayer Room preferably should have an altar containing murtis (statues) of popular Hindu deities like Shiva, Vishnu, Rama, Krishna, Durga, Venkateshwara, Ganesha, Murugan, Saraswati, Hanuman, Lakshmi, Kali, etc.; besides being equipped with ghanta (big metallic bell hanging from the ceiling), dholak (two-headed hand-drum), Shiva-linga, etc.
Zed indicated that Hindu Prayer Room and Chaplain would be a step in the positive direction as it was important to meet the spiritual needs of Hindu students and staff. DU, which claimed to be “one of the world’s great universities”, needed to recognize that intersection of spirituality and education was important in Hinduism.
Founded in 1832 and claimed to be a “globally outstanding centre of teaching and research excellence”, DU ranked sixth in the United Kingdom and claims that its “research spans the world and beyond”. It has 26 schools and 18,707 students and offers many research degrees.
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