Hindus & Jews want restructuring of prayers at UK Parliament

March 31st, 2009 - 9:55 am ICT by Sampurn Wire  

Hindus and Jews have asked the United Kingdom to re-evaluate the matrix of opening prayers in its Parliament, which probably date back from 17th century.

Rajan Zed, acclaimed Hindu statesman; and Rabbi Jonathan B. Freirich, prominent Jewish leader in Nevada and California in USA; in a joint statement, stressed that either these prayers should be more universal in nature encompassing various religions or leaders of various faiths should take turns to read their prayers.

Zed and Freirich said that Parliament was the representative body of all people of United Kingdom, who besides various denominations of Christianity, now included substantial number of Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Jews, Neopagans, Buddhists, Bahais, etc., in addition to a considerable number of non-believers and Jedi Knights. Prayers in Parliament should also reflect and respect these demographics.

The practice of prayers, which “follow the Christian faith”, started in about 1558 and the present form of prayers probably dates from the reign of Charles II (1660-1685). Members of the public are not allowed into the public galleries during prayers.

In the House of Commons, Speaker’s Chaplain usually reads the prayers, which talk of “…laying aside all private interests and prejudices keep in mind their responsibility to seek to improve the condition of all mankind…”

In the House of Lords, a senior Bishop (Lord Spiritual) who sits in the Lords usually reads the prayers. The text of the Prayers includes the words “…laying aside all private interests, prejudices, and partial affections…”. MPs and Peers stand for prayers facing the wall behind them, “due to the difficulty Members would historically have faced of kneeling to pray while wearing a sword”.

Rajan Zed and Rabbi Jonathan B. Freirich argued that although they prayed regularly to “improve the condition of all mankind” and “laying aside all…prejudices”, yet their prayers reflected only a section of the public and not the society in its entirety.

Zed, who is president of Universal Society of Hinduism, said that presence of different religions was an evident symbol of God’s generosity and munificence. We should quest for a unity that hailed diversity,

The origins of Parliament, which now has 1,388 members and is located in London, goes back to 12th century. Its main roles include examining/challenging the work of the government, debating/ passing laws, and enabling the government to raise taxes. Baroness Hayman is Speaker of House of Lords, while Michael Martin is Speaker of House of Commons. -Sampurn Media

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