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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 14 October, 1998, 09:30 GMT 10:30 UK
Hindu family back Dome's religious zone
Dome
The Dome's zones all have funding - except the Spirit Zone
A wealthy Hindu family has agreed to underwrite the completion of a section of the Millennium Dome dedicated to religion.

There was concern over the summer that the Spirit Zone would have to be scrapped because no sponsor had come forward.

And a Church of England spokesman has rebuffed calls for them to cough up for the project.

Businessman Srichand Hinduja said: "We firmly believe that multicultural understanding is the biggest problem of the world.

"We feel that businessmen and politicians should focus on multicultural understanding to remove all differences and respect one another."

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, he confirmed that he and his brother, through the Hinduja Foundation, are prepared to put millions of pounds into backing the controversial project.

The family, who are noted for their generosity to charity and support for muticultural causes, also helped to build a stunning Hindu temple in Neasden in North London.

It is hoped that the brothers will be joined by sponsors from other faiths in backing the Spirit Zone.

Christianity puts its hand in its pocket?

The Bishop of Maidstone Gavin Reed rebuffed the suggestion that Christian churches should have backed a project which is primary marking the anniversary of Christ's birth.

"I don't think that the Hinduja brothers claim to be Hinduism. The Church of England is not the same as Christian businessman who are also being approached."

"Those who fund the project will not have control over what goes on inside the zone."

Hindu Temple
The Hindu temple in Neasden was built with community contributions
Chairman of the Arch-bishops' Millennium Advisory Group, he said that Christians found other faiths' response to millennium celebrations "very heartening".

But when pressed about why the Anglican Church was not 'putting its hand in its pocket' for the zone, he said: "The Hinduja brothers are not Hinduism.

"Christian individuals are almost certainly also being spoken to and taking stock about whether they should put money in. It is at that level - the level of formal religious organisations - that this has happened."

"I'd be very surprised if there are not other people - other Christians who are also putting money in."

'Faiths cause division'

Speaking about his motivation behind such a large financial contribution - estimated to be 6m - Mr Hinduja said: "I don't agree when we say Hindus or Christians - because we are all human beings. It's only which faith people follow that has created differences between us."

Mr Hinduja and his brother, from Bombay, were associated with Baroness Thatcher when she was prime minister - and also supported John Major when he came to power.

Their global empire, run from New Zealand House in Haymarket, London, includes oil and industrial interests.

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Spirit Zone sponsor Sirchand Hunduja and Bishop Reed on Today programme
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