New Delhi, Feb 17, 2023: Hindus very much like the idea of prayer in Redding (California) headquartered Gateway Unified School District (GUSD) Board of Trustees meetings, as long as it includes the prayers of diverse religions and denominations practiced in California and the nation and the expression of non-believers.
Talking about prayer; distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada today, said 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.
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, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, explained.
Rajan Zed indicates that GUSD Board; like the United States Senate and US House of Representatives, California Senate and Assembly, many county commissions and city councils in California; should start the day with a prayer which should be optional for the attendees so that nobody feels coerced into it. Prayer should be rotated among various traditions and non-believers should also be included in this rotation to say their viewpoint, so that nobody feels left out.
The plurality of religious traditions has come to characterize California and the nation. There is a need to energetically engage with pluralism, actively seek understanding across the lines of difference and remove our ignorance of one another. It would be a good idea to introduce diverse prayers in GUSD schools also, as listening to prayers from seriously diverse faiths would make GUSD students well-nurtured, well-balanced, and enlightened citizens of tomorrow; Zed notes.
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These diverse invocations 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.
Zed further said that we needed to find a common ground on this issue where various religions and denominations could find equitable representation in the Board prayer and non-believers could be offered an opportunity of expression where no deity was invoked or petitioned.
Cherrill Clifford and Lindsi Haynes are President and Vice President respectively of the Board of Trustees of GUSD, whose schools are spread in Redding and Shasta Lake, and whose Mission includes: Engage all students to develop character, social/emotional assets and prepare students to respect and celebrate diversity.