Ireland Parliament’s denial of Hindu opening prayer request is a step back for secularism

Ireland Parliament (Oireachtas) in Dublin, Senate (Seanad Éireann) and House of Representatives (Dáil Éireann), have denied Hindu opening prayer request made by Hindu statesman Rajan Zed.

This is surprising considering that Ireland and other western nations have been championing the cause of secularism for long but it seems that secularism is just a one-way street.

At a time when the world sees terrorism becoming a sort of religion with lone-wolf attacks like the one in London day before yesterday, the composite culture, which in India we call as the Ganga-Jamuna tehzeeb, becomes more and more important. The more we respect each other’s religious rights like India under a strong Hindu nationalist government sending a team for Christian Saint Mother Teresa or the Parliament of Ireland starting their work with the Hindu prayers, the better message it sends to the world.

Rajan Zed was told by Brian Prunty, Private Secretary to the Ceann Comhairle (Chairperson of Dáil Éireann) that:

I must inform you that your offer to read a Hindu prayer at the opening of a Dáil sitting is not something which can be facilitated at this time.

Ireland needs to make a move towards secularism:

Martin Groves, Clerk of Seanad Éireann, replying to Zed’s email request of scheduling him to read the Hindu opening prayer, wrote: Cathaoirleach (Speaker) regrets that he is not in a position to accede to your request.

Ireland or other Christian nations need to make a move towards a more secular society which is respectful of other faiths such as Hinduism and Buddhism. It is important that the people of the world be made aware of each other and the political class needs to wake up to the scenario where one or two religions alone won’t rule the world.

Meanwhile, Rajan Zed has urged the Seanad Cathaoirleach Denis O’Donovan and Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl to relook into their stand and allow the Hindu invocation at least one time at the beginning of their sitting. He is also urging the Ireland President Michael D. Higgins to intervene.

Zed is also urging Archbishop Eamon Martin, President, Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, for help in this regard to make their prayer request possible; as it seemed much in conformity with Roman Catholic mission and goals of helping others.

He is hoping that if nothing would work then they (officials) might consider approaching European Union, of which Ireland was a member; Council of Europe and its Commissioner for Human Rights to persuade Oireachtas for a more inclusive opening prayer.

Per Standing Orders, “At the commencement of each sitting of the Seanad” and each day “before any business is entered upon” in Dáil, following prayer is read: “Direct, we beseech Thee, O Lord, our actions by Thy holy inspirations and carry them on by Thy gracious assistance; that every word and work of ours may always begin from Thee, and by Thee be happily ended; through Christ Our Lord, Amen.”

Zed, bestowed with “World Interfaith Leader Award”, has read opening prayers in the United States Senate and US House of Representatives in Washington DC, various State Senates and State Assemblies/Houses-of-Representatives, various County Commissions and City Councils all over the USA which has covered extensively.

Hinduism, oldest and third largest religion of the world, has about one billion adherents and India, Nepal, and Mauritius, are Hindu majority nations which have chosen secularism as the state policy granting equal rights to other religions. Bali, a Hindu-majority island in Muslim-dominated Indonesia has also chosen secularism as a principle. Hindus are considered model citizens for their contribution to the societies and for their quality of assimilating well with local cultures. Hinduism in Ireland is growing steadily. There was a 75.7% percent increase in the total Hindu population in Ireland between the period of 2006-2011. In 2011, the total Hindu population of Ireland was 10, 688 while Muslim population grew from 32,539 in 2006 to 49,204in 2011. In short, it is time for Ireland to make a move towards secularism.

Picture credit: Ireland Vinayaka Temple (Dublin)