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British Parliamentarians Seek Meeting With Foreign Secretary Over Harassment Of Russian Hindus

by Ramesh Kallidai, Hindu Forum Britain

Posted January 22, 2006

18 January 2006 - British Parliamentarians led by Lord Dholakia, Ashok Kumar MP and James Clappison MP will seek a meeting with the Foreign Secretary Jack Straw to discuss the harassment of Russian Hindus and lead a delegation to meet the Russian Ambassador in the UK, it was announced at the launch of the Defend Russian Hindus Campaign at the House of Commons on 18th January. The Campaign which is led by the Hindu Forum of Britain and a number of national and regional Hindu organisations in UK, USA, Australia, Africa and Canada, succeeded in passing a resolution urging the Moscow Government to stop harassment of Russian Hindus and allow them to build a place of worship after it was demolished nearly two years ago. Parliamentarians from all three parties will also file an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons seeking the support of MPS from across the party lines.

The launch at the House of Commons was attended by members of the Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Christian organisations in the UK, who unanimously called for more respect and tolerance to allow Russian Hindus the same right to a place of worship as other communities.

"The crux of the issue is that Russian Hindus were given a temple which was demolished to make way for a commercial complex and were then promised a piece of land to build another temple. This has now been taken back and Hindus in Russia have no place to worship," said Lord Dholakia. "We will therefore be seeking a meeting with the Russian Ambassador in the UK with a view to arranging a visit to Russia to discuss this issue with the Orthodox Church and Moscow authorities."

"The Hindu community in the UK has come of age with organisations like the Hindu Forum of Britain taking up issues like these," explained Ashok Kumar, the main host for the reception. "We will now speak to the Foreign Secretary to seek a meeting and address some of the issues raised by the global Hindu community regarding the issues in Russia."

His Holiness Bhakti Vijnana Swami, who leads the campaign in Russia and had arrived from Moscow to attend the launch, made a presentation on the history of Russian Hinduism and appealed to British communities and Parliamentarians to help safeguard the rights of Russian Hindus.

Michael Whine from the Board of Deputies of British Jews thanked the Hindu community for including references to the Jewish community in the resolution passed at the meeting and said, "When we have meetings at the Presidential level, we get assurances that the interests of the minority faith communities in Russia will be protected, but the difficulty we face is that such assurances rarely get filtered down to the lower levels of the hierarchy."

Ann Noonan who represented the Catholic Bishops Conference explained that the Christian tradition accepted that every human was created in the image of God and asked for everyone to be treated equally without discrimination. She added, "We hope that the issues in Russia are resolved soon."

"What is happening in Russia is a direct violation of the Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights which Russia signed in 1996 and ratified in 1998," said Shabbir Lakha from the Muslim Council of Britain. "Perhaps those who are mistreating Hindus in Russia have not read the instructions in the Bible which urge readers to treat strangers in their land with utmost respect. The irony is that in Russia, the Hindu community are not even strangers as they are fellow Russians who have just chosen to follow another faith."

Other speakers at the launch included Dr Phyllis Starkey MP, Rob Morris MP, Gauri Dasa, President of Bhaktivedanta Manor ISKCON temple and Nitin Palan from the BAPS Swaminarayan Hindu Mission. Earlier, Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, had handed letters of concern from the Hindu Forum of Britain and other organisations to the Mayor of Moscow, Yuri Luzhkov, who had been visiting London last week.

Some members of the Russian Orthodox Church headed by Archbishop Nikon, orchestrated mass protests and started a misinformation campaign against Hindus in the Russian media. Many Hindus were victimised, threatened, bullied and even beaten and subjected to violence.

Yesterday the Russian Orthodox Church had issued a statement to the BBC saying that Hindus in Russia were free to practice and worship as they want, but that "No Church would stand by while their congregation were converted."

"Just last month, 250 demonstrators led by the Russian Orthodox Church had tried to stop a Hindu festival in South Russia asking all Hindus to 'drown in the sea' or stop following the Hindu tradition," explained Ramesh Kallidai, secretary general of the Hindu Forum of Britain. "Archbishop Nikon of the Russian Orthodox Church had written to the Mayor of Moscow to stop the building of a Hindu temple because he considered Lord Krishna an 'evil demon'. After continuing to harass Hindus and trying to stop them building a place of worship, how can the Orthodox Church claim that Hindus are 'free' to worship as they please? Something is seriously wrong with their understanding of the notion of freedom."

"We urge people of all faith traditions to intervene and stop this kind of outrageous behaviour against the peace-loving Hindus of Russia," concluded Vinay Tanna, Chair of the Public Relations Committee of ISKCON Bhaktivedanta Manor. "The international communities continue to monitor the situation closely."

Ends

For more information contact Sanjay Mistry on 07810 368 772 or Ramesh Kallidai on 07915 383 103 or 07867 837 241

Editor's Notes:

  1. The Defend Russian Hindus Campaign is supported by the Hindu Forum of Britain, the National Council of Hindu Temples UK, the Hindu Council UK, Vishwa Hindu Parishad UK, International Society for Krishna Consciousness, the Hindu Council of Australia, the Hindu American Foundation and the Hindu Conference Canada.

  2. The Hindu Forum of Britain is the representative umbrella body for British Hindus with formal membership of over 250 Hindu organisations from different regions and cultural backgrounds in Britain. The Hindu Forum of Britain has conducted some of the largest community consultation activities on behalf of the Hindu community to influence Government policy and runs a number of projects for Hindu youth, women, community safety and temples.

  3. Although the Hindu Forum is a national organisation, it has a large regional presence through its membership from the largest regional umbrella organisations, religious organisations, community organisations and youth organisations.

  4. At the core of the Forum's activities is a strong belief in the richness and diversity of the Hindu culture, its value system that encompasses respect for all beings and faiths, and a cultural heritage that facilitates community cohesion and coexistence. For more information visit the HFB Website: www.hinduforum.org.


Resolution Adopted at the House of Commons - 18th January 2006

We the undersigned resolve to support the Defend Russian Hindus campaign and call upon the Moscow Government to ensure that the Russian Hindus are neither discriminated against nor harassed, by denying them a place of worship to practise their peaceful religion, and specifically request the following:

  1. Uphold and protect the equal religious rights of the followers of all religions regardless of their status in terms of the number of their followers or the period of their existence in Russia, as stated in the Constitution of Russia.
  2. Remember that Hinduism is officially recognised and registered both by the Russian authorities, and the United Nations, as a bona fide religion, and therefore should be treated as such.
  3. Take impartial and swift, corrective action based on the fact that the destruction of the only Hindu temple in Moscow in June 2004 has left thousands of Hindu followers in the city with no proper place for practicing their faith, and many of them without electricity, gas or basic sanitation facilities.
  4. Recognise that the recent retraction of the plot of land offered for the construction of a new temple by the Moscow Government to the Hindu community of Moscow in exchange for the destroyed temple is not only a stark violation of the original promise, but also blatantly disrespectful to the numerous Hindu followers in Russia and all over the world, and potentially damaging to the historically strong relationship that has existed between India and Russia.
  5. Recognise that the recent offensive and disparaging public statements made by the Archbishop of Ufa and Sterlitamak Nikon against Lord Krishna and the sacred tenets of Hinduism are very likely to incite prejudice, hatred and even aggression against the peaceful followers of Hinduism throughout Russia, especially in view of the current worrying trend towards religious and racial intolerance in Russia.
  6. Request that Russia, being a truly modern and democratic state capable of taking over the Presidency of the G8 group of countries, reaffirm its commitment to human rights obligations by ensuring that the most fundamental right of religious freedom amongst minority faith communities without fear or persecution, is safeguarded.

The Hindu faith is one of the oldest religious traditions in the world, and is intrinsically peaceful, tolerant, and accommodating. In line with the United Nations Charter for The Practise of Religion, we call upon the both 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 faith traditions stand for.

In closing, we should point out that our request gains all the more urgency and relevance in view of the recent outrageous and violent attack on a Moscow synagogue by a Russian anti-Semite, which was vehemently condemned, amongst others, by the Russian Orthodox Church. In this regard, a similar public condemnation of the recent extreme anti-Hindu statements by the Archbishop of Ufa and Sterlitamak Nikon would be a consistent step we would naturally expect the Russian Orthodox Church to take.

This resolution is adopted and supported by the following organisations and individuals, but more will be added:

1.. Lord Dholakia Liberal Democrat

2.. Ashok Kumar MP Labour

3.. James Clappison MP Conservative

4.. Baroness Flather Conservative

5.. Dr Phyllis Starkey MP Labour

6.. Rob Morris MP Labour

7.. Ann Noonan Catholic Bishops Conference

8.. Arjan Vekaria Hindu Aid

9.. Bhakti Vijnana Swami ISKCON Russia

10.. Chunilal Chavda Lib Dem Councillor, London Borough of Brent

11.. Cllr Ramesh Patel London Borough of Brent

12.. Dilip Joshi Hindu Concil UK

13.. Gauri Das Bhaktivedanta Manor

14.. Harsha Trivedi Brahmin Society North London

15.. Jehangir Sarosh Religions for Peace - Europe

16.. Kapil Dudakia Milton Keynes Hindu Association

17.. Micheal Whine Board of Deputies of British Jews

18.. Nitin Palan Swaminarayan Mission (BAPS)

19.. O P Sharma President National Council of Hindu Temples

20.. Panna Vekaria Hindu Youth UK

21.. Paurush Jila Zoroastrian Trust Funds of Europe

22.. Prabal.S.J.B Royal Nepalese Embassy

23.. Rajinder Chopra Hindu Cultural Society

24.. Ramesh Kallidai Hindu Forum of Britain

25.. Shabbir Lakha Muslim Council of Britain

26.. Shane Jones Russia Section, Foreign & Commonwealth Office

27.. Dr Narayan Rao Venkateshwara Balaji Temple

28.. Swami Nirliptananda London Sevashram Sangha

29.. V H Patel BAPS Swaminarayan Hindu Mission

30.. Vinoo Wadher Vishwa Hindu Parishad UK

31.. Vladimir Felzmann Dir All saints Pastoral Centre