Hindus are urging for a permanent and dedicated Prayer Room at University of Auckland (UoA), “New Zealand’s world-ranked university”.
Distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, said that UoA should respond to the requirements of Hindu students to provide designated prayer-meditation hall for rituals, quiet reflection, festivals and spiritual exercise; which would help in their personal growth.
Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, pointed out that Hindu Prayer Room would be a step in the positive direction in view of presence of a substantial number of Hindu students at UoA, as it was important to meet the spiritual needs of these students.
Rajan Zed suggested that the Hindu Prayer Room preferably should have an altar containing murtis (statues) of popular Hindu deities like Shiva, Vishnu, Rama, Krishna, Durga, Venkateshwara, Ganesha, Murugan, Saraswati, Hanuman, Lakshmi, Kali, etc.; besides being equipped with ghanta (big metallic bell hanging from the ceiling), dholak (two-headed hand-drum), Shiva-linga, etc.
Zed urged UoA University Council and its Vice-Chancellor Dr. Dawn Freshwater to seriously look into this issue of unfair treatment and disparity. A public and taxpayer funded “New Zealand’s pre-eminent research-led institution” like UoA, which claimed to be a “Five Stars Plus institution”, should not be in the business of discriminating among various religions and belittling entire communities; Zed noted.
If UoA, which claimed itself as “inclusive and equitable University”, really believed in its “Values” which included commitments to “equity and diversity”, it should be more receptive to the needs of its diverse student body and staff, Rajan Zed indicated.
Zed further said that Hinduism was oldest and third largest religion of the world with about 1.2 billion adherents and it should not be taken frivolously. All faiths, larger or smaller, should be duly respected.
Rajan Zed also urged all New Zealand higher education institutions, both public and private, to respond to the needs of their considerable Hindu student bodies and offer prayer facility. Educational institutions needed to recognize the intersection of spirituality and education, which was important in Hinduism, Zed added.
UoA has Maclaurin Chapel which holds “Easter events”, “Christians in Science seminars”, etc.; and is available for baptisms. It has a Muslim prayer room, which “hosts a separate area for female and male worshippers”. It also employs various Christian chaplains and a Muslim chaplain. There seems to be no Hindu chaplain on the staff.
Founded in 1883, public research university UoA is the country’s largest and highest ranked university with over 40,000 students.