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.
Elsanousi is National Community Outreach Director of the Islamic Society of North America. He says "allowing people the freedom of worship is respectful and strengthens the relationship."
That trend may continue as the Muslim population across the U.S. continues to grow. Mosque construction is at an all-time high. As of September, there were 1,897 mosques in the United States, a 57 percent increase since 2000.
McFarland says the groups run the risk of creating something called “Chrislam” - a combination of the two faiths that essentially ignores the big white elephant in the room: the exclusive claims of both Christianity and Islam.