Although a law allowing cremation was passed in Malta Parliament in May 2019, a functioning crematorium is still nowhere in sight.
According to some estimates; going through blueprints, approvals, construction, licensing, etc.; it might be 2026 or 2027 when a working crematorium would be available to the public for cremation of their loved ones. Moreover, the law is reportedly still to be signed by the Malta President to be enacted.
Malta, not having a mechanism for the cremation of deceased Hindus, was forcing the community to bury their loved ones in contradiction of their long-held beliefs that burial hindered soul’s journey; Hindu statesman Rajan Zed said in a statement in Nevada (USA) today.
Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, is urging the Malta Government to subsidize cremations abroad till proper crematorium is built and available for usage in Malta.
Basic cremation abroad reportedly starts from €4,400, but added options can raise the cost. Many non-Hindus in Malta now reportedly also prefer cremation over burial. Pet cremation, however, is reportedly available in Malta.
If the Government was presently unable to offer subsidy for cremations abroad, then in the meantime, Hindus should be allowed to cremate their deceased on traditional open pyres in Malta. For this purpose, the Malta Government should allot a cremation ground near a body of water where Hindus could cremate their deceased on open pyres; Rajan Zed indicated.
Zed further said that Malta should show some maturity and be more responsive to the hurt feelings of its hard-working, harmonious and peaceful Hindu community; which had been in the country since the 1800s and had made a lot of contributions to the nation and society; and continued to do so.
Rajan Zed pointed out that cremation had been a pre-BCE tradition prescribed in ancient Hindu texts. Cremation signified spiritual release, helped severe ties to earthly life and gave momentum to the soul for its continuing spiritual journey. World’s oldest extant scripture, Rig-Veda, told us: Agni, set him free again to go to the fathers.
It was simply heartbreaking for the community to perform something in clear violation of their faith. Being able to follow one’s faith traditions was a fundamental human right, Zed stressed.
Funeral rites/ceremonies were one of the main samskaras (sacraments) of Hindu life. In majority cases, Hindus were cremated, except infants and ascetics. After some ancient rituals at the cremation, remains (bones/ashes) were ceremoniously immersed into holy river Ganga or other bodies of water, helping in the liberation of the deceased. In Hinduism, death did not mark the end of existence; Rajan Zed noted.
Zed emphasized that Malta should follow its own constitution, which stated: “All persons in Malta shall have full freedom of conscience and enjoy the free exercise of their respective mode of religious worship”.
Moreover, Malta, a member country of the European Union, reportedly was a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights. Dr. George Vella and Dr. Robert Abela, President and Prime Minister respectively of Malta, should seriously examine this issue of religious freedom, fairness and equality; Rajan Zed pleaded.
Zed exhorted Dr. Christopher Fearne and Dr. Miriam Dalli, Malta Health and Environment ministers respectively; to speed-up the crematorium process so that Hindus could send-off their loved ones with proper rituals-traditions-customs.
As an interfaith gesture, Rajan Zed also urged Charles Jude Scicluna, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Malta; and Mario Grech, Roman Catholic Cardinal from Malta (who is also Vatican General Secretary of the Synod of Bishops); to come out in the support of Hindu brothers and sisters on this issue. As a dominating majority in Malta, Catholics also had a moral responsibility to take care of minority brothers/sisters from different faith backgrounds, and should thus also seek equal treatment for all. Equality was the fundamental tenet of Judeo-Christian faith, of which Catholicism was a significant part.
If Malta continued to desert it minorities like this, they might think of approaching Dunja Mijatović, Commissioner of Human Rights of Council of Europe, on the crematorium issue; Zed added.
Interest about cremation has reportedly been increasing in Malta. Over 200 people have already registered their wish for cremation with Camilleri Funeral Directors International, paying the registration fee of €295 each. Interestingly, cremation was reportedly prevalent in Malta from prehistoric to late Roman times.