Both the houses of the Victoria Parliament in Australia, Legislative Council and Legislative Assembly, have turned down requests to have Hindu opening-prayer in an upcoming session.
On taking the chair at each sitting, Victoria Legislative Council President and Legislative Assembly Speaker read the Lord's Prayer, a well-known prayer in Christianity. Lord’s Prayer has been read in the Legislative Council since 1857, and in the Legislative Assembly since 1928, reports suggest.
Distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, who wrote to then Legislative Council President and Legislative Assembly Speaker requesting that he be scheduled to read opening-prayer in an upcoming session of Council and Assembly respectively and received the denials; feels that it is simply a case of blatant unfairness, exclusionary attitude, discrimination, favoritism, imposing one kind of religious observance; and does not speak well of a democratic society.
Adherents of minority religions and non-believers, who had made a lot of contributions to Victoria 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 Victoria Parliament seemed like efforts at belittling these faiths under government patronage; Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, 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; Rajan Zed, who has opened both the United States Senate and US House of Representatives in Washington DC with Hindu prayers, emphasized.
Zed further said that Standing Orders handling the prayer in the Victoria Parliament needed to be urgently changed as we were well into 21st century and Victoria was much more religiously diverse now.
Rajan Zed suggested that it was time for the Victoria Parliament to move to multi-faith opening prayers. Since Victoria Parliament represented every Victorian irrespective of religion/denomination/non-belief, it would be quite befitting in this increasingly diverse state to do a rotation of prayers representing major religions and indigenous spirituality and including slots for the thoughts of non-believers.
Zed was of the view that the existence of different religions was an evident symbol of God’s generosity and munificence. Victoria Parliament should quest for a unity that hailed diversity.
Parliament of Victoria, located in Melbourne, consists of the Legislative Council with 40 elected members; and the Legislative Assembly with 88 elected members. “Its main roles are to debate issues, pass laws and hold the government to account.”
Hinduism, oldest and third largest religion of the world, has about 1.2 billion adherents and moksh (liberation) is its ultimate goal.