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Cremation changes threaten 5000-year-old custom

Cremation changes threaten 5000-year-old custom

5 June 2014

Proposed changes to Auckland’s cemetery and cremation bylaws are threatening 5000 years of traditional Hindu practice, says the Funeral Directors Association.

Chief Executive Katrina Shanks says the changes proposed by Auckland Council are upsetting many ethnic groups, and Hindu’s in particular, who today told funeral directors they should have been consulted before anything was drafted.

“The proposed changes are insensitive to the cultural, religious and social needs of families and are too restrictive.”

Funeral Directors Association Vice-President Stephen Dil and FDANZ Funeral Directors met the Auckland Indian Association in Auckland last night and said its members were surprised to learn of the proposals.

Indian community spokesperson Shanti Patel said Hindu’s regarded the ceremonial aspect of placing a casket into the cremator as a key responsibility for the immediate family following a death.

“This has been part of our custom for more than 5000 years but the council wants to limit the number of people who can participate in this ceremony to a maximum of two.

“What about a father who has four sons?” he says. “How do you tell a son he cannot perform this important rite for his father?

“The Auckland Indian Association (AIAI) is upset the council failed to tell us of its proposals.

“Many of the changes impact on our community directly, and the council should have been more sensitive to our cultural needs.”

Mrs Patel said they only became aware of the changes through the efforts of the Auckland District of the Funeral Directors Association (FDANZ).

“Submissions on the bylaws closed on 5 May but we were unaware of this close-off date and would like the chance to have our concerns heard so we can lay out our cultural needs.”

Mr Dil says other concerns discussed at the meeting included a lack of clarity around items that may be placed in the casket with the deceased, and where ashes may be scattered following cremation.

“Under Hindu custom, ashes are often scattered at sea to honour the ashes being distributed in running water and the new bylaws restrict where ashes can be scattered.”

“For many years, the council’s crematoria have accommodated the cultural needs of the Indian community effectively. We are at a loss to understand why they feel the need to make changes now.”

“FDANZ and AIAI believe effective solutions exist to these issues. For example, obtain pre approval for participants rather than limit the number of observers able to participate in the ceremony to two.”

Mrs Shanks says it is imperative Auckland Council engage with its communities to find solutions that work for everyone rather than impose their own “unrealistic ideas”.

“FDANZ made a submission on the proposals but we were unaware the council did not made a point of consulting ethnic groups, and it would be great if they could re-open submissions in the light of people only now becoming aware of it.

“It has certainly stirred a lot of debate and I think that would be the right thing to do.

“There has been little consideration for families or cultural sensitivities taken into account in formulating these changes.”


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