The Hindu Forum of Europe was launched on Wednesday 13 June in the European Parliament building in Brussels. The ceremony was hosted by British member of the European Parliament Robert Evans who underlined the importance of Hindus in Europe interacting with EU institutions. The newly elected president of the forum, Sudharshan Bhatia, said “Now European legislators and policy makers will have a forum to communicate effectively with a community that has made such a substantial contribution to the European way of life.” Present at the ceremony in Brussels were senior politicians, ambassadors and representatives from other faith communities. Revd Vebjørn Horsfjord, General Secretary of European Council of Religious Leaders, brought greetings from the council and said “The formation of a pan-European Hindu organisation is a valuable contribution towards painting a truer picture of the diversity of religion in this continent.”
The Hindu Forum of Europe (HFE) is the result of a long process of consultations between various national Hindu organisations in Europe. Founding members are Hindu Council of Holland, Hindu Forum of Britain, Hindu Forum of Belgium, Italian Hindu Union and National Council of Hindu Temples UK.
In the opening ceremony representatives from the founding organisations all signed the Hindu Forum of Europe Declaration which outlines the purpose and principles of the new entity:
“We pledge to join hands and work together as the Hindu Forum of Europe to:
- promote our shared values of European citizenship, interfaith friendship and peaceful coexistence.
- provide support to the European governments and citizens in building communities that are cohesive and integrated, and
- preserve European values of Hindu ethos that is rooted in respect for all traditions, cultures, religions and belief.”
Almost half of Europe’s 1.7 million Hindus live in the UK. Other sizable Hindu populations are found in the Netherlands, France and Germany.
ECRL General Secretary Vebjørn Horsfjord’s greeting to the Hindu Forum of Europe may be viewed here:
Greeting on the occasion of the launch of the Hindu Forum of Europe
European Parliament, Brussels, 13 June 2007
By Vebjørn L. Horsfjord on behalf of the European Council of Religious Leaders.
Your Excellencies, Esteemed leaders of many faiths, Distinguished guests,
Allow me to add my voice to the chorus of heartfelt congratulations on the occasion of the launch of the Hindu Forum of Europe. Today is important, of course, for Hindus in Europe, but also for interreligious relations in Europe, and therefore for Europe itself.
Religion and interreligious relations are very much at the top of politicians’ and media’s agenda these days. Often the issues are framed as only a question of Christianity encountering Islam. The formation of a pan-European Hindu organisation is a valuable contribution towards painting a truer picture of the diversity of religion in this continent. Diversity in Europe is greater than people sometimes think; but diversity is a strength and not a threat. A stronger Hindu voice means that some will have to adjust their concepts of dialogue and religion itself, which in itself is a valuable contribution.
The European Council of Religious Leaders, of which I am the General Secretary, belongs to the global network of World Conference of Religions for Peace. The Council brings together 30 senior religious leaders from many different faiths and all corners of Europe to strive together for peace, reconciliation and mutual understanding in Europe and beyond. The Moderator of the Council, Bishop Gunnar Stålsett, has requested me to convey to you his warmest greetings, and I have also been requested to bring a word of congratulations from another of our Executive Committee members, the Archbishop of Brussels, Cardinal Danneels, who unfortunately could not be here.
As we have seen very clearly here this evening, Hinduism at its best is a history of religious tolerance and understanding. It is actually quite striking how many of the earliest examples of interreligious dialogue that were somehow linked to Hinduism and the South Asian subcontinent. Your efforts to establish the Hindu Forum of Europe create hopes for new opportunities for further development of interreligious dialogue in this continent. That is something which Europe of today really needs. Congratulations!