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Buddhist is allowed to re-inter family remains

12 September 2014

CREATIVE COMMONS

Putney Vale Crematorium

Putney Vale Crematorium

A BUDDHIST petitioner who had interred the remains of three members of his family in consecrated ground, and who then believed that that would bring "bad karma", has been granted a faculty for the remains to be exhumed and interred in unconsecrated ground.

The petitioner, Kiet Kham Hong, is of Chinese and Vietnamese parentage, and he and all his family are Buddhists. In 1991, his brother died in an accident, and his remains were cremated, but not interred at the time. In 1993, Mr Hong's grandmother died, and her body was buried in the consecrated section of Putney Vale Cemetery.

In June 2014, Mr Hong's father died, and his body was buried in the plot in which the grandmother had been buried. Mr Hong's brother's ashes were placed in his father's coffin. Vietnamese Buddhist monks made the funeral arrangements.

Mr Hong was then distressed to be told by members of his family that, according to Chinese Buddhist tradition, those arrangements were inappropriate, that they adversely affected the spirits of the deceased, and that, if not rectified, would bring bad karma and misfortune. What was required to rectify the situation, according to Chinese Buddhist tradition, was for his father's and grandmother's bodies to be cremated, and for their ashes, together with his brother's ashes, to be scattered in the Garden of Remembrance in the unconsecrated part of Putney Vale Cemetery.

The Worshipful Philip Petchey, in the Consistory Court of Southwark, said that it would be extraordinarily harsh to take the line that Mr Hong's family's beliefs were not consistent with Christian beliefs, and for that reason were to be disregarded.

In practice, that would involve saying that, essentially, it was inappropriate for Buddhists to be interred in consecrated ground, and that, against the sort of problem that had now arisen, those who made the funeral arrangements for Mr Hong's grandmother should have ensured that her body was buried in unconsecrated ground.

That seemed to be "unrealistic", Chancellor Petchey said, in "a society in which many faiths are held". The faith of the Church of England was very different from the Buddhist faith, and its views about the appropriate treatment of the remains of those who had died were evidently divergent, the Chancellor said; but the views of Mr Hong and of his family were genuinely held, and were appropriately treated with respect.

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