Hindu, Christian and Muslim Leaders Speak Out About Suicide on Reunion Island

February 7, 2007

Source: Hindu Press International


REUNION, FRANCE, February 7, 2007: (HPI note: translated from the original French. The first paragraph is an introduction by the author.) With a suicide case every 40 minutes and more than 10,000 deaths every year, France is one of the industrialized countries largely affected by this phenomenon. A national debate this week calls for an urgent need to openly discuss the issue. Representatives of the major religions of Reunion Island, a French Territory outer island, express themselves on this taboo.

More than 100 cases and 3,000 attempts are officially registered each year in Reunion Island (off the southwest coast of Mauritius). According to Pierre Rey, president of S.O.S Solitude, "Because he feels bad, the victim seldom leaves behind an explanation for his suicidal act." Religious leaders, looked upon as saviors, agree to speak about suicide. A Catholic bishop said that suicide was against the church's teachings, but, in recognition of the psychological problems involved, they did not any longer call those who committed suicide "bad Christians." The Bhagatte Imam at the mosque of Saint-Denis said, "Suicide is strictly prohibited" in Islam.

Hindus adopt quite another approach on the issue. "In Hinduism, the final point does not exist," explains Swami Premananda, of the Puri Order and manager of the "Maison de l'Inde." Tamils here believe in reincarnation. But to kill the body is like refusing "to sit for an examination which we are expected to pass." This is not the solution to a problem but, on the contrary, "The person simply amplifies his sufferings," he explained. "Very often those prone to suicides knock at our door with questions about their existence in this lifetime. At such calls for help, the manager of Saint-Louis Hindu Asram provides practical solutions. "When we learn that the person is overburdened with debts, for example, we offer a free loan, a cash gift or we pay the school fees of the children." He considers that such pragmatic solutions as an eternal duty and it is an opportunity to allow others know who they are at the ashram."