Kathmandu, Nepal – Hundreds of Buddhist religious leaders from around the world met in Nepal last Thursday and Friday. They were joined by Christian and Hindu religious leaders. The purpose of the event was to pray together for peace and greater religious freedom for minorities.
The two-day meeting began at the Buddhist temple in Bauddhanath (Kathmandu) and ended in Lumbini, the birthplace of Gautama Buddha. Organised by the Buddhist World Peace Association, the initiative will go on the road to Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, South Korea and other predominantly Buddhist nations. It will also travel to an additional 50 nations.
According to Kenseng Lama, one of the organiser of the Nepali event, the prayer meeting is meant to counter rising conflicts and the repression of religious minorities.
The initiative will be taken to countries where religious freedom is violated, like Myanmar. Slogans will change in such locations to avoid friction with the authorities.
“We Nepalis prayed to see the right to freedom of religion enshrined in a new constitution,” Lama said.
A number of Christian religious leaders, both Catholic and Protestant, joined Buddhist religious leaders in prayer vigils.
“We support the event,” said Binod Thapa, a Protestant leader, “because like Buddhists we want more religious freedom.”
“Under the new government, minority rights and the separation between state and religion are among the new founding principles of the new constitution,” he noted. Yet, Christians in Kathmandu and other Nepali cities still do not have a place to bury their dead, and are still threatened by Hindu extremists.
Nepal became a secular state in 2006 after centuries of rule by an absolute Hindu monarchy. Religious minorities, especially Christians and Muslims, have only recently gained the right to build their own places of worship and conduct religious functions in public.