Hindu Temple Event Promotes Interreligious Understanding Among Children

July 12, 2004

Source: Hindustan Times/Indo-Asian News Service


On July 12, 2004 the Indo-Asian News Service reported, "South African children got a glimpse of Hindu rituals and the rationale behind them at a temple here in an event aimed at fostering cross-cultural understanding. Children of devotees at the Swaminarayan Temple joined many others, including some invited from homes in Gauteng, to share the diversity and depth of culture in South Africa. 'South Africa for years was under the cloak of apartheid, which did not allow for cross-cultural learning and knowledge transfer,' said Ajay Makan, one of the coordinators of the event. 'For the last 10 years many South Africans have been surprised by the diverse cultures within our country...The youth group has already embarked on a programme of visiting local children's homes and participating in their religious services. It is only proper that this intercultural exchange is reciprocated and continued,' Makan said, adding that events of this nature also help build character, leadership skills and responsibility amongst the youth...The day began with children being given an explanation of basic Hindu principles in the temple, including an opportunity for some of them to participate in celebratory rituals such as the Aarti prayer, with lit lamps. But it was not just a ritual following of what Hindu children were doing. An explanation was provided of what the rituals meant for Hindus, to place the activities in context for the visitors. Makan emphasised that the exercise was not at all aimed at converting children from other religions to Hinduism, but purely to share Hindu culture and practices with them to foster better inter-cultural understanding, breaking the myths often held by other religious groups about these practices."