DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA, September 6, 2003: Hundreds of delegates from all parts of the country are in Durban for a two-day National Hindu Convention. The gathering is to assess Hinduism and its place in South Africa. President Thabo Mbeki is to officially open the meeting later this morning. The convention is being hosted by the South African Hindu Maha Sabha and is aimed at uniting Hindu organizations and the preservation of the culture. Ashwin Trikamjee, the president of the Maha Sabha, said for the first time in the history of this country almost every single Hindu organization would be represented. The Sabha wants to make every effort to support the activities of its affiliates and to ensure the relevance of the tradition. Discussions at the convention will also focus on the role of the youth, women and the functions of Hindu priests. Other dignitaries that will attend include Shiv Sankar Mukherjee, India's High Commissioner to South Africa.
A second report on this convention, available at source, reads, " 'The inaugural Hindu Convention, being held in Durban, would make a great contribution towards the spiritual enrichment of South Africa's diverse society,' President Thabo Mbeki said. Speaking at University of Durban-Westville's Hindu Centre, Mbeki said the convention constituted a significant development in the evolution of South African Society. 'There was a time when it was unthinkable that a religion (that is, Hinduism) which, according to the Apartheid ideology, was outside the officially sanctioned religious mainstream, could assume its rightful place in our spiritual life,' he said. Apartheid not only suppressed political freedom, but also stifled religious choices. Forced removals saw the destruction of sacred places. 'As we know, during removals, graves, temples, halls and other cultural institutions were destroyed in areas such Cato Manor, Riverside and Clairwood.' He said it had taken the Hindu community a long time to rebuild their places of worship in relocated areas such as Lenasia, Chatsworth and Phoenix. Thankfully, in the new South Africa all religions are recognized and there is freedom of worship. 'Given our divided history, religious organizations have an important role to play in the reconstruction and development of our country, especially in the welfare and civil society sectors.' He said the convention would empower South Africa's Hindu community to enhance its contribution to peace.