Hindu worshippers took to the streets of Oxford on Monday evening (04/10) to deliver a petition asking for help to find a permanent space for worship.
Members of the Hindu community currently meet in a hall in Rose Hill, but have to unpack their religious idols each time, as the centre is used by other groups.
Oxford Hindu Temple and Community Centre Project started looking for premises in 2008, but in the last three years, has been outbid on two potential church purchases. It has also unsuccessfully looked for space on industrial sites.
The 2,500-signature petition asks Oxford City Council to sell them a property where they could establish the county’s first Hindu temple and community centre.
Chairman Mukesh Shori said: “Over the last two years, we have been negotiating with council officials for one of two properties. At present, we have nothing to show for those negotiations.
Dr Gian Gopal, Founder, Oxford Hindu Temple and Community Centre said: "There is no centre for Hindu spiritual and cultural presence and celebration in Oxford or in the county itself. With the number of Hindu families increasing from 3,000 to more than 10,000 now, they really need to practice and celebrate their faith so they can pass their culture on to their younger families."
Dr Gian Gopal, Founder, Oxford Hindu Temple and Community Centre:
Councillor Shaista Aziz, cabinet member for inclusive communities at the council, said: “Oxford City Council has been actively working with the Hindu community to help find premises that could be used as a prayer space, alongside other wider community initiatives.
“We understand the needs of the community and there has been open dialogue between us. We look forward to this continuing.
“Unfortunately finding suitable and available property within the city is challenging. Whilst the Council may have a significant number of properties, the vast majority of these are houses and the pressure for houses is sadly all too apparent. Most of our non-housing properties are either in use or are part of our commercial investment portfolio that delivers rental income to support core services.”
"We have every sympathy with their difficulties over the high price of property in the city and have done our best to help them identify possibilities, but we cannot use taxpayer's money to subsidise any single faith group."