First Hindu prayer in United States Senate creates debate
Reno (Nevada, USA):
Historic first Hindu opening prayer in United States Senate in Washington DC by chaplain Rajan Zed on July 12 and the shouting protest to it has been making unprecedented rounds of the Internet.
On You Tube, the about 90-second C-Span video clip of his praying in the Senate has been one of the “top favorites” (463 times) of the week, most viewed (with just one posting having 229, 744 views), “top rated” with 872 ratings, “most discussed” video with 4799 comments, “most linked” with 44, 194 links, and “most responded”. This video is also popular on other video services like Daily Motion, iFilm, Google Video, etc. Utalkmarketing.com of United Kingdom declared it one among the “Top 5 Viral Videos”.
Google search with “rajan zed” brought 120, 000 results and Google Blog Search yielded 1, 571 reuslts. Zed has received lots of e-mails, many from strangers, about the prayer and related event. Besides English, some blogs are in Dutch, French, Italian, and Spanish. Office of the Senate Chaplain and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid reportedly received hundreds of protest calls.
About seventy percent of blogs are very encouraging, according to a team of friends Zed put together to monitor the Internet traffic. Here are some samples “…he is the first Indian after Vivekananda to have an effect on the American public on the subject of Hinduism”, “…Hindu prayer in session is American values on faith in practice at their very best”, “…insult to God…”, “Senate opening invocation by a Hindu chaplain represents an official stamp by the government on paganism, a move which may draw God’s anger”, “While God did not write our laws, He was certainly a consultant in the process”, “God gave us this country, and has blessed us for over 200 years. To have a pagan pray in the Senate on our behalf is a slap in God’s face…”, “Intolerance from A to Zed”, “I seriously doubt that Americans want to change the motto, ‘In God we Trust’, to ‘In gods we Trust’,” “I love the idea of competing Gods”, “One Nation, Under God (s),” “With this prayer, USA has officially turned back on God”, “It is a sign of American religious health”, “Our mythological text is sacred and infallible, and all others are abominable”, “Please pray for the US”, “Only 1 God Allowed In The Senate”, “Congratulations to the Senate for opening our collective mind”, “Why Didn’t God Stop It?”, “Where the usual dress code on the senate floor is a suit, Rajan came flaunting his saffron orange robes and a mala around his neck”, “Is America Rejecting God?”, “Guest minister prays to the ‘wrong’ god(s)”, etc.
But the e-mails Rajan Zed received are all encouraging. Here are some examples: “I would like to apologize on behalf of the American people”, “You are a man of faith who cares about our country”, “Please forgive them”, “Thank you for being a messenger of peace, “I am a Christian and I had small tears of happiness in my eyes as I watched you giving the historic prayer”, “Neighbors are very proud” (an e-mail from Reno where Zed lives), “I myself am a Christian and believe that the world needs all the prayer it can get”, “I am a 15 years old Catholic and will pray for you and your works”, “I am sure you are receiving higher guidance”, “I wasn’t able to watch the entire clip due to the discomfort at the disrespect you received”, “I am a member of the Lutheran Church. Please accept my apologies. They know not what they do”, “Please accept my sincere apologies. God has taught us to love our neighbors”, “I would like to apologize for the treatment you suffered. Please be assured that we are not all like that”, “I am so sorry and apologize at least for myself”, “I wish to offer you apologies from your fellow Americans” (an attorney from Los Angeles), “The unfortunate intolerance of those people at the senate earlier is not representative of 99.999% of Americans”, “As an American, I am proud of the inclusiveness of our society. As an Episcopalian, I am embarrassed by the demonstration”, “I am so sorry, it left me very embarrassed”, “I apologize for how you were treated at the opening prayer of the Senate this morning. As an employee of the Senate, and as an American, I was embarrassed”, “I make an apology for the unfortunate incident in the Senate” (a Major in United States Air Force), “Thank you for being a decent and honorable American”. The e-mails came from all over the country--from Phoenixville (Pennsylvania), Beaverton (Oregon), Avon (Connecticut), Moorestown (New Jersey), Winston-Salem (North Carolina), Dallas (Texas), Bay Area (California), Rockville (Maryland), to name a few.
In addition, he has received many letters by regular mail also. One such letter read “…It was not only a very special moment for the institution, but also for me as a human being…It is from efforts such as yours that we may retain any hope of enlightenment for our world…Thank you for coming to the capitol, your presence was an honor…” The people, who could not find Zed’s e-mail address, e-mailed their messages to the organizations on whose boards he serves.
In media releases, American Jewish Committee of New York said, “The American Jewish Committee is deeply troubled by the verbal assault on Rajan Zed…”; Americans United for Separation of Church and State of Washington DC deplored the disruption of the prayer; while World Muslim Congress and the Foundation for Pluralism of Dallas said, “…We are very proud of this milestone in our history…”
Interfaith Council of Northern Nevada is organizing a reception to honor Rajan Zed for his feat at Reno on August one, where besides political/government/civic leaders, clergy of various religions including Christianity (various denominations), Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, Bahai, etc., will speak and offer prayers. We should promote trust, mutual loyalty, and life of truthfulness, despite our different traditions, says Reverend Gene Savoy Junior of International Community of Christ, who is Coordinator for this event.
According to reports, people in India were thrilled to get the news where it mostly received front-page display. There are reports of schoolchildren praying, fireworks, religious recitations, etc., at some places in India.
Let us learn from each other, live affectionately with each other, and cooperate in common causes as we are headed in the same direction, adds Rajan Zed.
Details of the pictures attached:
Schoolchildren in India praying for the success of first Hindu prayer in United States Senate.
Rajan Zed being honored in Shiva Vishnu Temple in Lanham, Maryland, USA, after the prayer.