Latvia Parliament denies Hindu prayer request

This article was last updated on April 16, 2022

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Latvia Parliament (Saeima) has denied the request for a Hindu prayer.

Distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed’s request to lead the Saeima chapel Thursday 8:30 a.m. service with Hindu prayers has ended in a denial with the response: Saeima chapel is arranged in a way that suits the needs of Christian tradition.

Every Thursday at 8:30 a.m. before the beginning of the plenary meeting of the Saeima, a morning service takes place in the Saeima chapel. The morning chapel is led by a Roman Catholic priest, Lutheran or Baptist pastor; according to the responses received through emails from Saeima officials by Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism.

Līga Amata, Senior Consultant of the Saeima Protocol Division who is the person responsible for organizing morning services in the Saeima chapel, responding via email to Rajan Zed’s question on process to change this tradition and including prayers of other religions also sometimes, said that there was no such process. “Christianity is the main religion of Latvia both historically and legitimately”, Amata added.

Amata replied “No” to Zed’s request: “Can one of the Saeima staff/pastor/priest read the Hindu prayer supplied by me at the Thursday 8:30 am service?”

“As the main religion of Latvia is Christianity, the morning services are led only by the pastors of the main denominations of Christianity”, Amata pointed out in the email to Rajan Zed.

Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, urged Latvia President Andris Bērziņš, Latvia Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis and Saeima Speaker Solvita Aboltina to make efforts towards more inclusivity at the highest elected body of Latvia and include prayers of “other” religions also at Saeima as Latvia did not have a state religion. Zed urged religious leaders of Latvia also to push for inclusivity at Latvia Saeima, stressing that a more inclusive and broader understanding of religion was needed as religion comprised much more than one’s own particular tradition/experience.

In this statement, Rajan Zed also asked European Union, of which Latvia is a member, to look into this exclusive practice as this should be unacceptable in 21st century Europe which boasted of its human rights record.

Reports suggest that Roman Catholics, Lutherans and Orthodox Christians are the largest religious groups in Latvia. Besides various Christian denominations, there are Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and indigenous Dievturi also in the country.

According to “2011 Report on International Religious Freedom” on Latvia by U.S. Department of State, there were reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice. The constitution and other laws and policies protect religious freedom.

History of legislature in Latvia goes back to 1918 when Republic of Latvia was proclaimed, but elections to the 1st Saeima were held in 1922. Current 11th Saeima, unicameral Latvian parliament, has 100 members.

Republic of Latvia, serene and charming country in north-eastern Europe, described by Lonely Planet as "sizzling Baltic sexpot"; is known for art-nouveau architecture of Riga, pine-scented Gauja National Park, birthplace of the world's first miniature camera, persistently high unemployment, very high ranking on Environmental Performance Index; and which produced politician Kārlis Ulmanis and Nobel laureate Wilhelm Ostwald.

Hinduism, oldest and third largest religion of the world, has about one billion adherents and moksh (liberation) is its ultimate goal.

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