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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Interfaith effort to honor the deceased

Interfaith Center Spearheads Effort to Honor the Deceased

This is a beautiful story of valuing the otherness of other, in this case, Muslims, Buddhist and Jews valuing the Hindu traditions.

It is time to plant the seeds for a new paradigm and embark on bold initiatives to do our share of repairing the world. The faith leaders can join together and embolden our commitment to co-existence and well being of every human being.

My comments continue after the article

Interfaith Center Spearheads Effort to Honor the Deceased

For Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists, burial soon after departure is a spiritual mandate. But for bureaucrats, burial is a risk, as the premature release of a body can result in its improper identification.

In New York City, with one of the world’s most religiously diverse populations, tensions between religious communities and the city government can become particularly intense over burial rites for the deceased. Yet the desperation of those in mourning prompted what amounted to a (benign) inter-religious coup this month.

Biswajit Chandra Paul, as he has now been identified, moved to New York to earn money as a taxi driver. When he died tragically in a house fire, it took a village – in this case an inter-religious one – to secure the release of his body. The effort was spearheaded by Matthew Weiner, Director of Programs at the Interfaith Center of New York and a member of the Board of Scholars and Practitioners of the Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue, as reported in the New York Times:

Mr. Paul was a Hindu, and in his faith, bodies are typically cremated within hours of death. Yet for the past month, Mr. Paul’s remains have lain in a refrigerator in the city medical examiner’s office, pinned under the weight of bureaucratic law. The office, which cannot release a body until it is officially identified, has faced a host of obstacles: Mr. Paul, 36, was burned beyond recognition, most of his belongings were destroyed and his family is 8,000 miles away.

“My mother and father are very sick about this and want his body,” his brother, Shipon, said this week in a telephone interview from Bangladesh.

Finally, the medical examiner received DNA samples from the family on Friday morning, the identification was made, and Mr. Paul’s remains were released to a local funeral home to be sent back to his homeland.

Though the hurdles in his case were unusually high, identifying a body can be difficult for immigrants or others who are far from or bereft of family or friends. And the effort to release Mr. Paul’s remains drew help from New Yorkers of many faiths — including Buddhists, Muslims and Jews — who have fought similar battles to reclaim remains for funeral rites and burial.

“It’s the kind of spontaneous response of religious communities in times of crisis to help each other,” said Matthew Weiner, director of programs at the Interfaith Center of New York, a nonprofit organization in Manhattan that helped coordinate the effort. “There’s a commonality of the recognition of the value and importance of religion.”

By the time the Interfaith Center of New York was finished, a Muslim, Jew, and Buddhist had all contributed to the identification of Mr. Paul's body and its release to family and friends in Bangladesh. While religious groups have been accused of being unable to cooperate with each other even in matters of life, Mr. Paul's story shows just how well they can cooperate, even after life is past.

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Mike Ghouse comments

The change is coming, the paradigm is moving from exclusive to inclusive societies. In our life time collective blame on religions will become a thing of the past and individuals will be held responsible for their acts and not their family, neighborhood, community, nation or their religion. It is a sure way to find justice, as religions are intangibles that cannot be punished or hung and justice never happens and societal balance is seldom achieved.

The idea of Pluralism will gain momentum in 2010 and we are humbly preparing to give direction to it. We are far from being civilized, the biggest change on the political scene is the election of Obama; a totally new paradigm in politics of the world, where the governance is placed in the hands of moderate for the first time in the history of mankind. The same process will permeate in religion, societies and other aspects of society.

Welcome to the decade of Pluralism
Mike Ghouse

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