Dr Hemant Kumar is a medical doctor in Dublin and the President of the Vedic Hindu Cultural Centre of Ireland. He arrived in Dublin in the 1990s from India and soon became a central figure of Hinduism in Ireland.
NEW EUROPE (NE): You are up to opening the first Hindu Temple in Ireland, could you tell us what are the challenges you faced during the process of having it opening.
Hemant Kumar (HK): There were lot of difficulties in the beginning. The first idea to open a temple goes back to 40 years ago. But at that time, there were very few Hindus in Ireland, and to collect enough money to open a temple rapidly revealed itself out of question. But still, activities were organized in each and every house, and people started this money collection. Then, 20 years ago, with a growing number of Hindus arriving to Ireland, we created the Hindu Cultural Centre of Ireland, which later on became the Vedic Hindu Cultural Centre of Ireland.
The problems we faced at this time were due to the fact that immigration in Ireland is quite a new phenomenon, and then there is no government funding available for that kind of religious project.
That is why we had to do everything from our own capabilities, everything by our own. So to collect the funds, buy a place which would be ready for the religious use with all the various requirements for being able to receive a huge amount of public, go to the City Council to get permits, took a lot of time. But finally, we came across everything, and we should be able to open this first Hindu temple of Ireland, in Dublin, in the next few weeks.
NE: Do you considered that in Ireland, Hindus faced discrimination?
HK: Hindus do not feel any type of discrimination. First of all, we have, amongst Hindus, many different types of worship. Everyone has his own way of worshiping and believing, and actually this worshiping can be done in a Church, in a Mosque, in a Sikh Temple, and it’s fine with the Hindus. So we managed to be able to practice freely our religion within the existing religious facilities that existed in Ireland. In addition, I think that Ireland is a good and fair country for practicing Hindus.
It is a secular country, but of course what is less good, is that not having been used to immigration, and not knowing and having seen so many different faiths, they did not develop proper guidelines for helping these communities with religious beliefs not known to the country.
NE: How do you see future for Hindus in Ireland?
HK: I’m very hopeful. As a medical doctor, I am in contact with politicians and with the general people, and people here, and the government, are very nice to religions. Things are developing, and they will develop further, and I think these problems that we are facing now, our next generations most likely will not face.
NE: What are your interactions with other religions in Ireland?
HK: Yes, there is an interfaith forum here, with regular meetings and activities, and we do participate whenever we can to these activities with other Irish religions like the Catholic Church, Church of Ireland, Muslims, Sikhs, Methodists, and others. Also, we had a lot of interaction with the Church of Scientology of Ireland. They helped us a lot. For example, in their Community Centre of Dublin, they have a big auditorium, which we used to organize big events where we have been able to raise sufficient money to fund our first Hindu temple. We then got very closely to each other and became real friends.
NE: What would you say to the young generations regarding faith in Ireland?
HK: I would tell them that faith is a personal thing, and that is the basic philosophy of Hinduism. So everybody has a right to his own worshiping activities, it is a part of human rights. Everyone has a different mindset about his relationship to God, so everyone may choose his own pathway. I hope people, and moreover young generations, use this right, and actually I see it is used quite a lot, which is good. In Ireland, I’m very hopeful that things are going to improve very soon. Then Ireland is a part of European Union so this should also go to the European Union level as well. I mean that the guidelines that are needed for Ireland, should also exist for the European Union as a whole. We should have the same kind of guidelines that we have for the economy, the health, the defence, but for the right of having and practicing our own faith, in the 27 countries of the EU, and then we will be able to promote it outside of Europe as well.