Faculty Blog

Diverse funerary needs at a time of crisis

The Covid-19 pandemic is profoundly changing our habits. Across Europe, gathering are banned or restricted, even when it comes to saying goodbye to a loved one. In some countries, funeral ceremonies are limited to close relatives ; in others, gatherings are simply prohibited. Under pressure, the burial sector are working hard - often at personal risk - to do as much as possible to undertake funerals and make them as humane and accessible as possible within the constraints of public health measures. A mission and a tough subject that the CeMi project - of which the University of Luxembourg is a part of – discusses on its blog this week.

Involving 8 Universities, the CeMi project aims to explore if cemetery and crematoria are meeting the changing and diverse needs of today’s multicultural North-Western Europe. The impacts of the current restrictions speak directly to the issues the project is exploring. 

On their blog, the researchers involved in this project explain that “the impact of these restrictions is at the core of what we are trying to explore in this project: what does it mean to not be able to practice your funerary and bereavement needs in the manner that you would like? In a way that feels respectful or traditional? ». But they also share some of  their previous findings on possible alternatives “In our previous research on diversity issues in Cemeteries and Crematoria in England and Wales, we recommended increasing weblinks to funerals in order to facilitate maximum participation for international family networks, as well as others unable to attend in person, whether those housebound or those unable to get a visa to travel. The benefits of digital links made a clear difference to families..."

In times of crisis like those we are going through, to respecting everyone's rites may seem to pick up the details for some but the researchers warn :“…there is another key issue, and that is ensuring appropriate cemetery and crematoria preparations and funeral rites are made to meet the needs of diverse local communities. It may seem indulgent to insist on what might be perceived as ‘niceties’ at a time of global crisis, but our research as shown that lack of appropriate graves, rites etc. can cause fear for the wellbeing of the deceased and create even more grief for the bereaved”…”It is important in these challenging times, that we do not lose sight of the fact that people of different faiths and those of no faith have varying requirements for death and funeral rites. Doing our best to respect these can be crucial to the peace of mind of both the dying and the bereaved in these difficult times. There will be challenges and compromises faced by all in such times, but we must make sure that the discussion about these are informed by the needs and wishes of all, not just assumptions about majority practices and needs.” 

Read the full article here

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Cemeteries and Crematoria as Public Spaces of Belonging in Europe
In our multicultural North-Western Europe, cemeteries and crematoria gardens are places where different traditions and belief-systems need to coexist. But do they? 8 Universities, one of which is the University of Luxembourg, study migrant and minority cultural inclusion, exclusion focusing on cemeteries and crematoria as a highly sensitive ‘contact zone’. Called CeMi, this research project aims to identify and disseminate good practices.