Hindus are urging all public, private/independent, charter, parochial schools in Orange County (Florida) to close on their most popular festival Diwali; which falls on October 24 this year.
Distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada today, said that it was simply not fair with Hindu pupils in Orange County schools as they had to be at school on their most popular festival, while schools were closed around other religious days.
Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, stated that since it was vital for Hindu families to celebrate Diwali day together at home with their children; closing schools on Diwali would ensure that and would also display how respectful and accommodating these schools were to their faith.
Rajan Zed indicated that holiday on Diwali in Orange County schools would be a step in the positive direction in view of the reported presence of a considerable number of Hindu students; as it was important to meet the religious and spiritual needs of Hindu pupils.
If schools had declared holidays around other religious days, why not Diwali, Zed asked. Holidays of all major religions should be honored and no one should be penalized for practicing their religion, Zed added.
Rajan Zed suggested all Orange County schools to seriously look into declaring Diwali as an official holiday, thus recognizing the intersection of spirituality and education. Zed noted that awareness about ‘other’ religions thus created by such holidays like Diwali would make their students well-nurtured, well-balanced, and enlightened citizens of tomorrow.
Zed urged Orange County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Barbara M. Jenkins and Board Chair Teresa Jacobs to work towards adding Diwali as an official holiday in their schools; and persuading the area private/independent, charter, parochial schools to follow. He also sought the wholehearted support of Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Junior and Florida Education Board Chair Tom Grady; Florida Council of Independent Schools; Association of Independent Schools of Florida; Orlando Roman Catholic Bishop John Noonan; on this issue.
Rajan Zed further says that Hinduism is rich in festivals and religious festivals are very dear and sacred to Hindus. Diwali, the festival of lights, aims at dispelling the darkness and lighting up the lives and symbolizes the victory of good over evil.
Hinduism is the oldest and third largest religion of the world with about 1.2 billion adherents and moksh (liberation) is its ultimate goal. There are about three million Hindus in the USA.