Dear reader of this website, Oslo 1. January 2015
Welcome to our website. The website www.buddhismreligiousminorities.org has been set up by the Buddhist Federation of Norway as part of our project “Religious Minorities in Buddhist Majority States”. Why have we started this project? What kind of activities does it involve? And what does it aim to achieve? I will try to answer these questions in a few words.
We have started this project because we realize that although Buddhism has been largely perceived as a peaceful religion that values reason, non-violence and tolerance, it has also been increasingly questioned on these points. The picture of Buddhism coexisting harmoniously with other religions or beliefs has also been challenged by reports by United Nation bodies and others.
Against this background there seems to be a need to articulate more clearly the Buddhist values regarding relations between different religions. For the same reasons there is also a need to look in depth at the relations between the religious majority and the religious minorities in Buddhist majority states such as Myanmar, Thailand and Sri Lanka.
Our aim is to strengthen Buddhist engagement with bodies such as the United Nations and organizations representing other religions helping to dispel misunderstandings about Buddhism and also to be useful to Buddhists in judging own practices in the light of Dhamma and the standards of the United Nations.
This project brings together Buddhist scholars in a series of workshops and meetings where interreligious relations and religious minority rights are discussed. We believe that raising these sensitive issues in an atmosphere of mutual understanding between fellow Buddhists can contribute to constructive solutions to the challenges facing Buddhism. In order to share more widely the contributions of the participants of the workshops (as well as other useful material) we have set up this website. This site, together with a planned academic book, is the most important means of the Buddhist Federation of Norway to realize these goals.
The website focuses on fundamental topics such as the concepts of the Dhamma compared with those of the Human Rights of the United Nations. Moreover, it raises discussion on the standards of Buddhism concerning contentious issues such as conversion, proselytism, inter-religious marriages, religion in education and freedom of expression.
We have selected for this website papers by prominent scholars that explore these issues. Moreover, the site offers various relevant UN documents and reports. We have also included references to articles, books and websites that relate to these issues. Reports and presentations from workshops and meetings of the project are also included.
We are well aware of the sensitivity of these issues where accusations and counteraccusations seem to be part of the picture. Our approach is therefore to be solution-oriented looking at valid principles rooted in the Dhamma and in the international standards developed by the United Nations to resolve grievances and promote harmony between religions.
Yours in the Dhamma
President of Buddhist Federation of Norway
Leader of project on Religious Minorities in Buddhist Majority States