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Swami Dayananda Saraswati Speaks Out on the Religious Conversion Ordinance

Posted on 2002/11/3 8:43:02 ( 951 reads )

Source: The New Indian Express

INDIA, October 21, 2002: Excerpted from an article by Swami Dayananda Saraswati: "I welcome the promulgation of the ordinance by the Government of Tamil Nadu to ban religious conversions 'by use of force or by allurements or by any fraudulent means.' This is a long-awaited step. A step that ensures for the citizens of Tamil Nadu the most basic of human rights. The Universal Declaration of Human rights adopted by General Assembly resolution 217 A (III) in December 1948, holds in Article 18 that 'Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief.' While the the article endorses each person's right to change his or her religion, it does not in any way allow for another person to change a given person's religion. On the contrary, a systematic coercive effort to impose one's religion on another 'by use of force or by allurements or by any fraudulent means' is a clear violation of this basic human right. The denigration of one's religion and the humiliation that accompanies the conversion experience are violations of the dignity ensured to every human being. With the conversion experience come shame, isolation, deep personal conflict and ultimately, the seeds for discord. History testifies to the devastating loss of rich and diverse cultures, gone forever in the aftermath of religious conversion. I appeal to the political leadership of all other States in India to promulgate similar laws and make sure that all possibilities of religious conflict are avoided, and the tradition of religious harmony in India is maintained."

UK Farmer's Market Holds Deepavali Workshop

Posted on 2002/11/2 8:49:02 ( 945 reads )

Source: Evening Herald (Plymouth)

KINGSBRIDGE, ENGLAND, October 21 2002: Children have a chance to celebrate the Hindu Festival of Light, Deepavali, at Kingsbridge Farmers' Market on Saturday, November 2. On top of the usual selection of quality local produce, the monthly market will play host to a special Deepavali workshop run by the play resource charity SPARC. Deepavali, taught as part of the multicultural National Curriculum, is a Hindu celebration of light in which the Goddess Lakshmi is welcomed into people's homes to bring prosperity throughout the year. Children taking part in the free workshop will create special lamps from recycled materials as part of Deepavali, which they can then take home. Kingsbridge Farmers' Market, which is organized by South Hams District Council and South Hams Agricultural Forum, runs on the first Saturday of each month from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Local district councilor Jeff Beer, Chairman of the South Hams Agricultural Forum said, "Special events such as the Deepavali celebration have become a regular feature of the markets and really help to turn them into a great day out for all the family."

Singaporean Buddhists and Hindus Celebrate Festival of Lights

Posted on 2002/11/2 8:48:02 ( 1011 reads )

Source: Media Corporation of Singapore Pte Ltd.

SINGAPORE, November 2, 2002: It was a procession not only to welcome the Festival of Lights and pray for world peace, but also a procession of religious harmony as Buddhist and Hindu communities came together for this recent special event. The divine light procession began from the Leong San Temple at Race Course Road with a short Buddhist prayer. More than 600 people took part in the procession, led by monks and priests of both faiths, together with dragon and lion dancers. And although the procession path was narrow, the aim was broad -- to pray for world peace and encourage religious and racial harmony. The procession ended at the Arulmigu Vel Murugan Temple at Serangoon Road. Indranee Rajah, Member of Parliament for Tanjong Pagar said, "This is a very significant event, especially in the present times. The purpose of it was to show solidarity among the Hindu and Buddhist community. The symbol is quite significant. They chose light which is the universal symbol of many religions." At the end of the procession, devotees were treated to a multicultural feast.

San Francisco Company Merges Business and Astrology

Posted on 2002/11/2 8:47:02 ( 956 reads )


SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA, October 27, 2002: Tom Mitchell and Bruce Cady, former telecommunications executives, are founders of Jupiter Returns, a new San Francisco company that merges business and astrology. "We want to create a brand name," said Mitchell. "When you want a chart done for yourself or your family, you'll call Jupiter Returns. It will be a company like Starbucks or Microsoft." The goal of the company is to help people create successful business relationships through an understanding of astrology. For the past six months, the business partners have hosted astrology seminars for salespeople at US$35 to $40 per person in San Francisco and New York City. Mitchell, a Boston-educated attorney, also has been busy promoting his book, "Star Salesperson: Using Astrology to Get to Yes." Readers learn how to use a client's sun sign to size up his or her character and style. For years astrologers have helped companies and executives figure out the best timing for business planning, marketing and relocation, said Georgia Stathis, a member of the International Society of Business Astrologers and a faculty member at Kepler College in Washington state, which offers bachelor's and master's degrees in astrological studies. Financier J.P. Morgan is famous for his astrological beliefs. Astrologers often cite his quote, "Millionaires don't use astrology; billionaires do."

Vegetarians Win McDonald's Beef Extracts Case

Posted on 2002/11/2 8:46:02 ( 1092 reads )


NEW YORK, UNITED STATES, October 31, 2002: A US court has approved a US$10 million settlement in a lawsuit by an Indian American against McDonald's Corporation for misleading customers who don't eat meat by using beef extracts in its fries. Punjab-born Harish Bharti, the lead counsel in the case Sharma vs McDonald's, said he was elated with the victory for consumers. Bharti has filed several cases across the U.S. claiming McDonald's used meat additives in its fries and hash browns long after making a 1990 pledge to cook them in vegetable oil. McDonald's has admitted to using beef extract in fries. The court approved the amount, but not the list of organizations to whom the money was to be distributed, which Bharti disputed. "I won on both counts -- I won on the settlement, and at the same time I did not want McDonald's to give the money to its favorites," Bharti said. The article cited documents stating the specific distribution as approved by the court was laid out by Bharti as follows. "The settlement amount shall consist of $10 million, to be placed in a fund for distribution to charitable and/or other tax-exempt organizations to be mutually agreed upon by the parties on or before the effective date." It said the funds would be divided "to the extent practicable" as "60 percent to vegetarian organizations; 20 percent to Hindu and/or Sikh organizations; 10 percent to children's nutrition and/or children's hunger relief organizations; and 10 percent to organizations promoting the understanding of Jewish law, standards and practices with respect to Kosher foods and dietary practices, and the observance of such standards by persons of the Jewish religion."

Women's Spirituality Conference Planned for Washington D.C.

Posted on 2002/11/2 8:45:02 ( 953 reads )


WASHINGTON D.C., UNITED STATES, November 1, 2002: Sacred Circles: A Celebration of Women's Spirituality 2002, will be held November 8-9 in Washington DC at the Washington National Cathedral. This biannual gathering attracts more than 1,000 women from around the United States who delve into the commonalities they share while honoring their diversities. Representatives of Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Native American and other faith communities will lead workshops focusing on a variety of topics, including peacemaking, prayer, writing, yoga and interfaith families. The two-day event will also offer worship opportunities and spiritual practices, a community art project and walking the labyrinth. Readers may register at "source" above or call 202-537-2221 for more information.

British Parliament Celebrates Deepavali

Posted on 2002/11/1 8:49:02 ( 1041 reads )


LONDON, ENGLAND, November 1, 2002: In what they hope will be the most auspicious new political season of them all, hundreds of British Hindus took incense, diyas (oil lamps), sweets and the spirit of Deepavali for the first time ever into the UK's Victorian houses of Parliament, only to be rebuked by a leading government minister for political apathy. With his mouth full of mithai (a sweet), Home Secretary David Blunkett chided Britain's Hindus for "not voting very much, for any party," a criticism commentators said could imply an insularity and self-centredness at the heart of one of the richest immigrant communities in Britain today. Leading community leaders privately admitted Blunkett was right, but emphasized that change was in the air and Deepavali's arrival in parliament was symbolic. Blunkett's criticism, which were the only fireworks around in the safety-conscious and very inflammable British parliament building, came as prominent Indophile British MPs and those with Indian-dominated constituencies carefully lit oil lamps and chanted "Om shanti, shanti, shanti" -- "Om, peace, peace peace."

Tamil Nadu Passes Anti-Conversion Bill

Posted on 2002/11/1 8:48:02 ( 334 reads )


CHENNAI, INDIA, October 31, 2002: Amid an hour-long acrimonious debate, the anti-conversion bill was passed by the Tamil Nadu Assembly on Thursday with 140 members voting in favor and 73 opposing the motion. In the 234-member house, none remained neutral. Speaker K. Kalimuthu did not participate in the voting. Twenty members, including former Chief Minister, M. Karunanidhi and DMK leader K. Anbazhagan, were not present when the Bill was put to vote, after the entire opposition, barring the BJP, pressed for a division. Replying to the debate, Chief Minister Jayalalitha said the legislation was not directed against any particular religion or minorities. There was no provision under the IPC to prevent conversions and therefore the government felt the need for a legislation to curb forceful conversions through "force and allurement." "Those changing religion on their own volition will not be covered under this legislation." Taking a dig at those opposing the legislation, Jayalalitha quoted the father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi as having said that "conversions are harmful to India. If I had the power and could legislate, I should certainly stop all proselytizing." The law was first promulgated as an executive order by the chief minister, but now has passed as a formal legislative act.

Help Sought for Proposed Museum in Fiji

Posted on 2002/11/1 8:47:02 ( 938 reads )


LAUTOKA, FIJI, October 31, 2002: To mark the 100th anniversary of the arrival of South Indians in Fiji from Chennai, the Fijian Sangam has plans to hold a celebration in the spring of 2003 in Lautoka in conjunction with the Annual Sangam Convention 2003. During the celebration, a book entitled "History of Then India Sanmarga Ikya Sangam" by Dr. Som Prakash, University of the South Pacific, will be released. In addition, the Sangam has proposed to construct a Sangam Museum and Archive at Lautoka Sangam Village at Lovu, Lautoka, to be undertaken with the Lautoka Branch, TISIS as a suitable monument to mark the occasion. The Sangam asks any individuals or organizations who are interested in this project and would like to contribute funds or relevant materials for the proposed museum to e-mail "source" above.

Indian Goddesses Bound for Danish Museum

Posted on 2002/11/1 8:45:02 ( 1019 reads )

Source: New India Press

KOLKATA, INDIA, October 24, 2002: Clay images of two Indian Goddesses, Durga and Kali, selected for their mystical qualities and considered representative of Hinduism, will find a permanent place in the Danish National Museum in Copenhagen, Denmark. Shyamal Kanti Chakraborty, curator of Kolkata's Indian Museum, said the Danish foreign ministry had written to him about Copenhagen's desire to promote understanding of Indian art, culture and religion. "The Indian Goddesses will first be showcased in an exhibition at the Danish National Museum under the Images of Asia section. Thereafter the deities will find place in a permanent gallery of the museum," Chakraborty said. Also on display will be various materials and ingredients used in the worship of the two Goddesses and the musical instruments played while conducting the rituals. The worship of Durga over a four day period in autumn constitutes the Bengalis' biggest festival of Durga Puja. Two Danish officials were in Kolkata during Durga Puja celebrations last week studying the religious rites, while taking copious notes for illustrations to accompany the clay images of the Goddesses. The Danish museum will not only exhibit the images of Durga and Kali, but also models of the various stages of making of the icons.

Orissa Tribals Seek Voice at Climate Meet

Posted on 2002/10/31 14:49:19 ( 939 reads )

Source: NDTV

Bhutan, Land of the "Gross National Happiness" Indicator

Posted on 2002/10/31 8:49:02 ( 967 reads )


BHUTAN, October 28,2002: Nestled in the mighty Himalayas, Bhutan, The Land Of Thunder Dragon, is the last remaining Himalayan kingdom -- an oasis of innocence in our world, where compassion and wisdom are the benchmark against which all things are measured.Bhutan is the only place in the world where the official government policy is Gross National Happiness (GNH). Hard to believe, but true. The aspiration towards enlightenment, and belief in the innate goodness of human beings, is widely shared by the people of Bhutan, the majority of whom practice Mahayana Buddhism. In spite of life's suffering and hardships, the Bhutanese devotion to the teachings of loving-kindness remains ever present. In this 21st century, many parts of Bhutan lack technology and electricity and there are many villages that are still without schools. AMICUS, "friend" in Latin, hopes to be one of many bridges linking Bhutan with the world at large in a way that benefits everyone. Schools, community centers, libraries, nunneries are being build while educational scholarships and preservation of Bhutan's historic and cultural monuments are all made possible. Amicus foundation ("source" above) is also playing a part to maintain the profound and beautiful qualities of Bhutanese culture, keeping the villages in tact with its integrity and spiritual values and helping Bhutan to make a smooth transition into the modern world while retaining its spiritual and cultural heritage.

Supreme Court: Minority-run Religious Institutions in India Subject to Government Oversight if Aided with Government Funds

Posted on 2002/10/31 8:48:02 ( 992 reads )


NEW DELHI, INDIA, October 31, 2002: In a landmark judgement, the Supreme Court on Thursday said the minority community (meaning Christians and Muslims) had an unfettered right to establish and administer educational institutions based on religion but if they received aid from the state they would be subject to government rules and regulations. One regulation is that any such institution accepting government funds cannot deny admission to students from other communities on the basis of religion, caste, race or language. The court also upheld the government's right to interfere in the management of a minority institution if the administration failed to be "transparent" or if merit was not given due primacy in the admission of students. The Supreme Court, while upholding the minority community's right to establish and administer educational institutions, said the same right was available to the majority community. Answering the question on the meaning of "minority," it said the states had been reorganized on the basis of language and hence the question of religious and linguistic minority had to be considered on state-wise basis. The court held that even an unaided minority-run school could be required to admit a certain percentage of students from other communities, the percentage being set by the local state government for the institution. HPI adds: This ruling does not impact the system in India that Hindu-run educational institutions aided by the government are not allowed to teach Hindu religion, while minority-run schools aided by the government are allowed to teach their religion.

Hundreds Embrace Buddhism in Ahmedabad

Posted on 2002/10/31 8:47:02 ( 1049 reads )


AHMEDABAD, INDIA, October 31, 2002: Nearly a thousand Dalits ("untouchables") in Ahmedabad reportedly embraced Buddhism on Sunday while followers of Babasaheb Ambedkar chanted during the ceremony. A delegation of 20 monks and nuns from Bodh Gaya, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam initiated them into the religion. Bhante Mahanama from Bodh Gaya, presided over the ceremony. He claimed that in all, over 1,000 persons, mainly Dalits, embraced Buddhism during their three-day tour. Later reports disputed that number. When asked as to how did they convince people to change their religion, he said, "We did not ask them to accept Buddhism. They had interest in Buddhism and they wanted to get converted. So we gave them diksha, initiation. It was Ambedkar (Dalit leader who wrote India's constitution and converted to Buddhism) who had shown them the way." Ahmedabad-based Bhante Harshabodhi coordinated the program that has been called the biggest-ever conversion program in the city.

Muslims Unveil Media Guide

Posted on 2002/10/31 8:46:02 ( 1008 reads )


OTTAWA, CANADA, October 31, 2002: The Canadian office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations has released a guide on Islam for journalists, according to this report from Religion News Service. "A Journalist's Guide to Islam," heralded as the first of its kind, is intended to provide "ready and accurate information in areas that media professionals might encounter during the course of preparing a story about Islam and Muslims," the organization says. Hindus can request a copy of it by e-mailing "source" above. It could serve as an outline for a similar media guide about Hinduism. The guide's sections include, Some Quick Facts About Islam, Practical Tips for Reporting on Islam, The World of Islam, History, Five Pillars of Faith, Branches, Celebrations, etc., a list of media contacts across Canada and a glossary of terms.

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