Hindus are urging the Welsh Government to urgently revisit collective worship in schools and rotate it among diverse religions and the thoughts of non-believers.
Distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada today, said that Hindus very much liked the idea of prayer in Wales schools, as long as it included the prayers of diverse religions and denominations practiced in Wales and the United Kingdom and the expression of non-believers. Increasingly diverse Wales needed to understand that we were well into 21st century now.
Talking about prayer; Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, stated that a reverent petition for help or expression of devotion-love-praise-thanks addressed to an object of worship was important, intensely valuable, significant and uplifting to many of us. Prayer for common good helped us to grow in holiness and prayers from diverse traditions offered opportunities for creating harmonious communities.
Democratic governments should not be in the business of promoting one religion and excluding others and non-believers and thus infringing upon the human rights of minority religions and non-believers; Rajan Zed, who has opened both the United States Senate and US House of Representatives in Washington DC with Hindu prayers, emphasized.
Estyn (education and training inspectorate for Wales), in a publication “Supplementary guidance: collective worship in non-denominational schools” (2017) “to provide updated guidance for inspectors on evaluating collective worship”, wrote: “most acts of collective worship in each term should be wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character”, “pupils may be encouraged to read an extract from the Bible”, “The law states that most acts of collective worship in each term should be ‘wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian nature’”, “If the ‘thought for the day’ is mainly Christian then this is an acceptable approach”.
Zed feels that it is simply a case of blatant unfairness, exclusionary attitude, discrimination; and does not speak well of a democratic and highly developed country like Wales. He suggested First Minister Mark Drakeford, Education Minister Jeremy Miles, Social Justice Minister Jane Hutt to introduce a rotation of prayers in collective worship in Wales schools where various religions and denominations could find equitable representation and non-believers could be offered an opportunity of expression where no deity was invoked or petitioned, so that nobody felt ignored.
Adherents of minority religions and non-believers, who had made a lot of contributions to Wales and continued to do so and paid their share of the taxes, thus felt left out by this monopoly on worship. Focusing on worship of the majority religion seemed like efforts at belittling the minority faiths under government patronage, Rajan Zed noted.
The plurality of belief systems has come to characterize Wales and the United Kingdom. There is a need to energetically engage with pluralism, actively seek understanding across the lines of difference and remove our ignorance of one another. Moreover, listening to prayers from seriously diverse faiths would make Wales students well-nurtured, well-balanced, and enlightened citizens of tomorrow; Zed indicates.
These diverse prayers will strengthen society and display respect for religious liberty and pluralism. These can also lead to scope for positive dialogue; which brings us mutual enrichment, assists us to see interconnections and interdependencies, helps us overcome the prejudices- stereotypes-caricatures and create bridges of understanding; Rajan Zed adds.
Sometimes described as pilgrimage of the spirit, heartfelt communication or establishing rapport with the deity in the form of prayer could be highly meaningful to many. Petitioning/pleading the God through prayer for the benefit of everyone helps us to flourish in piety, whichever religious perspective the prayers come from. Since all life comes from God, prayers help to link us to God, with the expectation that God hears us and blesses us; Zed explains.
Rajan Zed was of the view that existence of different religions was an evident symbol of God’s generosity and munificence. Wales should quest for a unity that hailed diversity.