The Conversion Agenda

"Freedom to convert" is counterproductive as a generalized doctrine. It fails to come to terms with the complex interrelationships between self and society that make the concept of individual choice meaningful. Hence, religious conversion undermines, and in extremes would dissolve, that individual autonomy and human freedom.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

MPs adopt "Defend Russian Hindus" resolution

Nabanita Sircar
London, January 19, 2006

British Parliamentarians, members of the Hindu, Jew, Muslim and Christian communities adopted a resolution at a meeting held at the House of Commons to launch the Defend Russian Hindus campaign in protest against the alleged harassment of Hindus in Russia by the Orthodox Church on Wednesday.

The resolution has called upon the Moscow Government to ensure Russian Hindus are "neither discriminated against nor harassed, by denying them a place of worship to practise their peaceful religion." An early day motion will also be tabled in the House of Commons and the Lords.

Campaigning for the cause, Bhakti Vigyan Swami who travelled all the way from Russia said he had already met Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh about the matter. He said, "We simply want to be heard. When we are in Russia we are not heard."

He has chosen the UK for his campaign because "England is part of Europe and Russia wants to be part of the European community," so he hopes the UK will lend a credible voice of support. Last week London Mayor Ken Livingston handed over letters to the visiting Mayor of Russia Yuri Luzhkov in wake of the harassment.

Speaking at the launch, Lord Dholakia said, "A Hindu is a Hindu anywhere in the world and we will stand together as a community." He added, "What affects other religions affects us as well. This is an issue which involves basic rights enshrined in any democracy." Lord Dholakia said it is important to see "What our own government (India) is doing about the persecution of Hindus in Russia."

The MPs, led by Ashok Kumar of Labour party also intend to meet the Foreign Secretary on the matter. "If you have a democracy that subscribes to human rights, then our Foreign Office can inform Russia," said Lord Dholakia.

Baroness Shreela Flather suggested the Russian ambassador should be invited to the House of Commons for a discussion.

Preparing to travel to Moscow probably in April, the team of MPs from all three parties and community members reminded the Russian government in the resolution that "Hinduism is officially recognised and registered both by the Russian authorities, and the UN, as a bona fide religion, and therefore should be treated as such."

The resolution also stated, "In line with the United Nations Charter for the Practice of Religion, we call upon the Moscow Government and Russian Orthodox Church to accept the right of Russian Hindus to practice their faith in a suitable public place in the spirit of respect, love and dignity that all faiths stand for."

The resolution also demanded a public condemnation by the Archbishop of Ufa and Sterlitamak Nikon, which "would be a consistent step we would naturally expect the Russian Orthodox Church to take."

Ramesh Kallidia, secretary general of the British Hindu Forum, which is behind the campaign informed that the Russian Orthodox Church has recently said in a statement to the BBC: "Krishna tradition is not part of Hindu tradition," said a shocked Kallidai.

Other Parliamentarians attending the campaign included Dr Phyllis Starkey MP, John Grogan MP, Angela Watkinson MP, John McDonnell MP, Shailesh Vara MP, Jim Dobbin MP and Mark Lazarowicz MP.

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