WASHINGTON — The nation’s oldest Roman Catholic university announced this week that it has appointed its first “director for Hindu life,” who they are noting to be the first Hindu priest chaplain in the nation.
Georgetown University’s newspaper The Hoya explained on Tuesday that Interim Vice President for Mission and Ministry Howard Gray, S.J. sent out a campus-wide email advising that Brahmachari Vrajvihari Sharan had been selected for the appointment.
“Br. Sharan was drawn to Georgetown by its commitment to interreligious student formation, and by the vibrancy of the university’s Hindu community,” Gray wrote.
Sharan had previously worked at the University of Edinburgh, where he had served as chaplain since 2010. He completed Hindu ritual training at Vishwanath Sannyas Ashram in India and also serves as a senior monk at Shri Golok Dham Ashram.
He follows Pratima Dharm, a Hindu Army chaplain who worked at Georgetown for only three months before resigning in January for personal reasons.
“I pray as I prepare to leave you that you will continue to live out the very pluralistic principles of Sanatan Dharma [an alternative name for Hinduism] at Georgetown,” Dharm stated upon her departure.
There are estimated to be 400 students and staff at Georgetown who identify as Hindu.
Rajan Zed, the president of the Universal Society of Hinduism, released a statement on Wednesday applauding the appointment and urging Georgetown to make additional accommodations for Hindu students.
“GU should make efforts to provide specific designated space for worship, congregation and cooking to Hindu students, like some other religions on the campus,” he said. “It should preferably include a shrine containing murtis (statues) of popular Hindu deities like Shiva, Vishnu, Rama, Krishna, Durga, Venkateshwara, Ganesha, Murugan, Saraswati, Hanuman, Lakshmi, Kali, etc.”
As previously reported, Georgetown University drew controversy in April when Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards delivered a speech at the school.
“This is the latest in a long history of scandal at Georgetown University,” Cardinal Newman Society President Patrick Reilly told reporters. “Disguised as an academic event, this is nothing more than a platform for abortion advocacy at a Catholic university.”
But Michael Khan of Georgetown Right to Life explained that many of the students at the Roman Catholic university don’t identify as Catholic.
“We’re probably the most liberal Catholic university in the nation,” he stated. “Many of our students and faculty aren’t Catholic and are very hostile to Catholic doctrine and Jesuit and Catholic values. We certainly have an active and strong pro-life group on campus, but there’s an equally, perhaps stronger, pro-choice group on campus.”