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Buddhists call upon World Fellowship of Buddhists (WFB) to lobby for Recognition of Buddhism as an official religion in non – Buddhist countries

by Senaka Weeraratna 

www.lankaweb.com

The German Dharmaduta Society, Regional Centre of the World Fellowship of Buddhists (WFB) based in Sri Lanka has submitted a Resolution to be tabled at the forthcoming 28th General Conference of the WFB to be held in Seoul, South Korea from Sept. 26 -30, 2016, calling on WFB to join hands with Governments of pre-dominantly Buddhist countries and well – wishers world wide to engage actively in lobbying the international community to confer recognition to Buddhism as an official religion in non – Buddhist countries.

Outside Asia only two countries recognise Buddhism as an Official Religion, namely Russia and Austria, despite Buddhism being recognized as a global religion by the United Nations (UN) and a special day being allocated in the UN Calendar for celebration of Vesak ( Buddha’s birthday).

The non – recognition of Buddhism as an Official religion in Europe has led to discriminatory treatment such as categorizing Buddhists as being members of ‘sects’ and ‘cults’ among other things. Official Recognition would allow Buddhists certain rights such as access to the media, financial support, legal standing, and recognition equal to those of Christian Churches, and right to teach in a school. It would allow them the legal right to form voluntary societies as exclusive Buddhist Societies with membership restricted only to Buddhists.

The absence of State recognition to Buddhism in almost all European countries bar Russia and Austria functions as an impediment to the proper practice and development of Buddhism in Europe.

There are no public holidays for Buddhism or any other non – Christian religion in the Public Holiday calendar of European nations i.e. with a Christian heritage.

Even UK denies Official Recognition to Buddhism. It does not allow the construction of new Buddhist Temples. But allows Buddhists to occupy existing Buildings and use them for their religious functions. This is also true of several other West European countries.

However, despite restrictive laws, there is growing public acceptance and accommodation of Buddhism in several European countries including UK, France and Germany.

Senaka Weeraratna

The full text of the Resolution is appended below

 2.   The Title of the Resolution

Recognition of Buddhism as an official religion in non – Buddhist countries

  1. 3.   The Conceptual Frame-Work of the Resolution ……

The World Fellowship of Buddhists (WFB) is mandated in its Constitution to propagate the sublime doctrine of the Buddha (Article 3.3). A reasonable construction of this mandate empowers the WFB to take all possible lawful steps to facilitate the spread of the Buddha Dhamma in both Buddhist and non – Buddhist communities and countries world –wide.

It is estimated that there are now altogether between 1 and 4 Million Buddhists in Europe, the majority being in Germany, Italy, France and the United Kingdom. Despite a commitment to ‘multi – culturalism’ and ‘religious pluralism’ in Europe, the official recognition of Buddhism is confined only to two States i.e. Russia and Austria.

This discriminatory treatment meted out to Buddhism in Europe and other parts of the world despite Buddhism being recognized as a global religion by the United Nations (UN) and a special day being allocated in the UN Calendar for celebration of Vesak ( Buddha’s birthday), must be reversed by active lobbying on the part of Governments of pre-dominantly Buddhist countries,  premier International Buddhist organizations such as the WFB  and well wishers.

Official State recognition to Buddhism in Europe would enable Buddhists to secure a place and standing in each European country and also avoid being subject to derogatory treatment such as categorizing Buddhists as being members of ‘sects’ and ‘cults’ among other things. It would also allow Buddhists certain rights such as access to the media, financial support, legal standing, and recognition equal to those of Christian Churches, and right to teach in a school. It would allow them the legal right to form voluntary societies as exclusive Buddhist Societies with membership restricted only to Buddhists.

The absence of State recognition to Buddhism in almost all European countries bar Russia and Austria functions as an impediment to the proper practice and development of Buddhism in Europe.

There are no public holidays for Buddhism or any other non – Christian religion in the Public Holiday calendar of European nations i.e. with a Christian heritage.

Even UK denies Official Recognition to Buddhism. It does not allow the construction of new Buddhist Temples. But allows Buddhists to occupy existing Buildings and use them for their religious functions. This is also true of several other West European countries.

However, despite restrictive laws, there is growing public acceptance and accommodation of Buddhism in several European countries including UK, France and Germany.

  1. 4.   How the Proposed Resolution will be implemented if it is adopted by the General Conference

(Kindly give more details based on the planning process) 

The propagation of the sublime doctrine of the Buddha is a primary obligation of the WFB. It necessitates taking steps to remove barriers that stand in the way through advocacy, appeals and lobbying on the part of the WFB in association with Governments, Buddhist organizations and well wishers.

5.  Participation and allocation of the budgets by those concerned for realization of the Resolution.

If  any funds are required then efforts will be made to seek such funds from Governments ,

Buddhist organizations and well wishers.

6.  Observation and/or recommendation (if any)

This step of the WFB in lobbying for the Official Recognition of Buddhism in largely non – Buddhist countries is long overdue for the premier World Buddhist Organization.

PS

Please also visit the following web link for more details

docs.google.com

Official Recognition of Buddhism in Europe – Problems and Perspectives

by

Senaka Weeraratna

International Buddhist Conference – 2012

Anuradhapura



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