The Legislative Assembly of Northern Territory in Australia has turned down a request to have Hindu opening-prayer in one of its sessions.
At the commencement of each day in the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly in Darwin, the Speaker or a nominee conducts a specified variation of Lord’s Prayer, a well-known prayer in Christianity.
Mathew Bates, Clerk and CEO, Department of the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory; responding to prayer request from distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, wrote in an email:”…you would not be permitted to perform the opening prayer as it is not something provided for in our Standing Orders.”
Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, and who requested Speaker Mark Monaghan and Bates to schedule him to read opening prayer in an upcoming session of the Assembly; feels that it is simply a case of blatant unfairness, exclusionary attitude, discrimination; and does not speak well of a democratic society.
Adherents of minority religions and non-believers, who had made a lot of contributions to Northern Territory and Australia and continued to do so and paid their share of the taxes, thus felt left out by this monopoly on prayer. Not allowing prayers of minority religions in the Assembly seemed like efforts at belittling these faiths under government patronage; Rajan Zed pointed out in a statement today.
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; Zed, who has opened both the United States Senate and US House of Representatives in Washington DC with Hindu prayers, emphasized.
Rajan Zed further said that Standing Orders handling the prayer in the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory needed to be urgently changed as we were well into 21st century and the Northern Territory was much more religiously diverse now.
Zed suggested that it was time for the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory to move to multi-faith opening prayers. As this Assembly represented every resident of Northern Territory irrespective of religion/denomination/non-belief, it would be quite befitting in this increasingly diverse Territory to do a rotation of prayers representing major religions and indigenous spirituality, and including slots for thoughts of non-believers.
Rajan Zed was of the view that existence of different religions was an evident symbol of God’s generosity and munificence. The Legislative Assembly of Northern Territory should quest for a unity that hailed diversity.
Function of the Assembly, which has 25 members, is to be the meeting place for the elected Members to represent their constituencies.
Hinduism, oldest and third largest religion of the world, has about 1.2 billion adherents and moksh (liberation) is its ultimate goal.