By Kancana-valli Devi Dasi
On December 17, 2009, about 120 guests attended the formal inauguration of the Belgian Council of Religious Leaders (BCRL) at the Belgian Parliament in Brussels. The guest of honour was the future Queen of Belgium, Her Royal Highness Princess Mathilde, Duchess of Brabant.
On December 17, 2009, about 120 guests attended the formal inauguration of the Belgian Council of Religious Leaders (BCRL) at the Belgian Parliament in Brussels. The guest of honour was the future Queen of Belgium, Her Royal Highness Princess Mathilde, Duchess of Brabant.Other prominent guests included leading politicians such as Jos Chabert (President of the Belgian Senate) and Mia De Schamphelaere (Vice-President of the Chamber of Representatives of the Belgian Parliament). Unfortunately, Belgium’s Prime Minister, Yves Leterme, was unable to attend, but his representative, Mr Van de Voorde, read out the Prime Minister’s message, expressing his strong support for interreligious cooperation.
On the formation of the Council, Vebjørn Horsfjord, General Secretary of the European Council of Religious Leaders, commented, “This ceremony is very encouraging. It is the second launch of a national Religions for Peace interreligious council in Europe in only two months. I am convinced that bringing together religious leaders to promote peaceful coexistence is a great value to any European society.”
As an interreligious council, the BCRL consists of the leaders of all the main religious communities in Belgium, namely, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, and Jains. Hence, the speech by Reverend Dr Guy Liagre, chairman of the BCRL, was followed by those of Bishop Athenagoras Peckstadt (Christian churches), Abulaziz al-Yaha and Biran Tig (Muslims), Lama Karta (Buddhists), Hridaya Caitanya Dasa (Hindus), Ramesh Mehta (Jains), and the Grand Rabbi of Brussels, Albert Guigui (Jews). Along with other speakers, Mahaprabhu Dasa was also invited to make a presentation about the meaning of the BCRL.
Cardinal Godfried Danneels (Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussel) was first among the religious leaders to sign the Council’s founding document, which articulates its commitment to strengthening harmonious interreligious relations in Belgium. By signing the document, all the religious leaders expressed their conviction that the BCRL will contribute to attaining more cohesion among the different religions and cultures present in Belgian society.
“The BCRL is committed to supporting peace and harmony between all religious and cultural groups; to be an instrument of dialogue between different Belgian religions, and to interface between religious groups and the civil and political authorities.” – Statement of purpose of the BCRL.
The formation of this council is an important step in the process for receiving formal recognition for Hinduism as an official religion in Belgium. The foundation of the Hindu Forum of Belgium and the Hindu Forum of Europe was the beginning of this process, much of the impetus for which was from the hard work of Mahaprabhu Dasa (Martin Gurvich).
During the inauguration celebrations, devotees from Radhadesh worked hard, serving delicious prasadam snacks and sweets and making sure that everything was nicely presented. And judging by the Princess’ repeated expressions of delight, it appeared that she appreciated both the refreshments and the devotees’ service very much. Her Royal Highness spoke with the devotees at length, especially with Hridaya Caitanya Dasa and Mahaprabhu Dasa.
After the reception, Flemish National Radio interviewed BCRL representatives Reverend Guy Liagre and Hridaya Caitanya Dasa about the inauguration and its significance.
Reverend Liagre mentioned afterwards that he would like to have the Council’s next meeting at Radhadesh.
Godfried Danneels, Catholic Church Métropolite Panteleimon of Belgium, Orthodox Church Robert Innes, Anglican Church Guy Liagre, Protestant and Evangelical Community Francis Renneboog, Protestant and Evangelical Community Abdulaziz M. AlYahya, Muslim Community Semsettin Ugurlu, Muslim Community Ahmed Hany Mahfoud, Muslim Community Albert Guigui, Jewish Community Lama Karta, Buddhist Community Phra Suddhinanavides, Buddhist Community Frank De Waele, Buddhist Community Hrdaya Caitanya Dasa (Herman Janssens), Hindu Community Ramesh Mehta, Jain Community