At its Diwali dinner this year, Christ Church served Haribo Goldbears, which contain beef, for which it has now apologised.
While Haribo does sell beef-free sweets, the ones served at the dinner contained the animal-derived gelatin.
For Hindu people, cows are seen as a sacred religious symbol that must be protected. Beef is therefore a taboo to be consumed, especially on Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights which is one of the holiest festivals of the year.
Christ Church has since clarified the situation, explaining that gelatine-free Skittles were distributed at the first dinner, but after there was a slight shortage, Haribo sweets were used to make up the numbers, and these did not specify what kind of gelatine was in the sweets.
Ordinarily, Diwali celebrations are organised in conjunction with students themselves, but the COVID-19 situation this year rendered this impossible.
Christ Church apologised for the incident, saying:
“We are very sorry for any upset this lack of clarity may have caused. As you know, the usual arrangements for Diwali were not in place this year due to the pandemic, but the ingredient list for the additional list for the additional sweets should nonetheless have undergone further scrutiny. Our internal processes will be reviewed accordingly.”
News of this mishap has even reached across continents to the president of the Universal Society of Hinduism, Rajan Zed, who is based in the United States, who commented that this should not be taken lightly, saying “Christ Church College needs to grow up, educate itself and show more maturity and sensitivity to the feelings of its minority populations.”
He continues, “Oxford University should urgently send its senior executives for cultural and religious sensitivity training. It was shocking and deeply hurtful for the Hindu community to visualise its students being reportedly served with beef-laced fruit gum candies Haribo Goldbears.”
This news comes after Christ Church was earlier this year implicated in a variety of racism scandals after which they ordered staff and students to undergo compulsory anti-bias training as part of an induction program in order to combat racial bias.
Mr Zed has sought a formal apology from chancellor Christopher Francis Patten and vice-chancellor Louise Richardson, and Christ Church dean Martyn Percy for this “blatant insensitivity” towards Hindu students.
Christ Church College, Christ Church JCR President & ERM Representative and the Oxford University Hindu Society have all been contacted for comment.