Worldwide Activities of Krishna Consciousness
West Indies Delegate Visit ISKCON Juhu
Mumbai: On January 13, famous West Indian cricketer Brian Lara and the honorable Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, accompanied by foreign minister, Surujrattan Rambachan and ministers of her cabinet, visited ISKCON Juhu. His Holiness Gopala Krishna Gosvami Maharaja met with her and presented her with a copy of Bhagavad-gita As It Is and Krishna book. The Prime Minister commented, “I am very pleased to see Their Lordships Sri Sri Radha Rasavihari and the beauty of this temple.” She also invited Maharaja to Trinidad and Tobago.
Bhaktivedanta Research Center Expands
Kolkata, WB: The library catalog of the Bhaktivedanta Research Centre (BRC) in Kolkata, India which opened in June 2009 and aims to be an easily accessible resource of all Gaudiya Vaishnava literature has expanded from 3,500 titles in October 2010 to 15,000 works today.
Appreciation from the President of India
New Delhi: His Holiness Gopala Krishna Goswami, Bhakti Vijnana Goswami Gosvami and Vrajendra Nandana Dasa met the President of India, Her Excellency Srimati Pratibha Devisingh Patil, on February 28 at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. Gopala Krishna Goswami thanked the President for being appreciative of ISKCON’s efforts to propagate Krishna consciousness in Russia and all over the world, and for officially releasing a message detailing this.
ISKCON Television to Produce a Biopic on Tukarama
ISKCON devotees Nrsiàhananda Dasa (Director of ISKCON Television), Yadubara Dasa and Janardradhi Dasa along with Professor Vishwanath Karad, President and UNESCO Chair Holder for Human Rights, Democracy, and Tolerance, will produce a new biopic on the life of Tukarama, a great saint who appeared in Maharashtra in the 16th century. Saint Tukarama was inspired by Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu to preach the glories of chanting the holy names of Krishna in pure devotion.
A Royal Meeting
London, UK: On February 15, Sutapa Dasa from UK’s Bhaktivedanta Manor met with Her Majesty, the Queen and the Archbishop of Canterbury. A multi-faith reception was held at Lambeth Palace. The event was attended by representatives of various religions and communities.
Hungary: On February 27, 2012, the Hungarian Parliament voted on the amendment to the new religious law, adding 18 religious organizations to the list of fully recognized churches in Hungary. Among others, the new list includes well-established Christian groups (such as the Methodists, Anglicans, Adventists, Mormons), the Jehovah Witnesses, representatives of other Eastern world religions (two Muslim groups, five Buddhist communities and the Hungarian Society for Krishna Consciousness).
As ISKCON News reported earlier, in July 2011, the Hungarian Parliament introduced a new religious law, which except for 14 religious organizations stripped over 300 religious groups of their previously acquired status, requiring them to re-register under stringent new conditions. The automatically-accepted 14 only included major Christian and Jewish groups but none of the smaller Protestant churches or representatives of Eastern world religions.
The law received a great deal of criticism both nationally and internationally from many religious and human rights organizations; from the European Union, the European Council, the US State Department, and other countries’ diplomats.
Since ISKCON Hungary was among those slated to lose their status, as well as its 270 hectares of land at the New Vraja Dhama farm as of January 1, 2012, Indian diplomats, dozens of scholars of Hinduism, international Hindu organizations, as well as over fifty thousand individuals, expressed their concerns to the Government of Hungary, asking Prime Minister Viktor Orban to protect ISKCON’s land and provide fully recognized status to the representatives of Hinduism in Hungary. To protect their lands, sacred cows, families and basic human rights, on December 12, 2011, the Hungarian Krishna devotees protested with cows from the Krishna Valley farm in front of the Parliament building, which drew extensive national and international media attention.
On December 19, 2011, Hungary’s Constitutional Court annulled the law, since it did not meet some formal technical requirements. However, a few days later it was voted in again, with no major changes to the previous version. But it prolonged the church status of ISKCON and 81 other religious organizations until the end of February 2012, by which date they needed to present documents proving that they met all the requirements. If they did so, with the Parliament’s approval, they would be allowed to continue to exist as fully recognized churches without interruption. These requirements were: to have a bona fide theology, to have existed in Hungary for at least 20 years, or have international importance. Out of the 82 organizations, 32 met these requirements; and on the 27th of February, the 2/3 government majority in the Parliament gave recognition to 18 of them, including the Hungarian Society for Krishna Consciousness.
Although the remaining religious organizations have the right to re-apply for church status in 2013, the Parliament did not provide any reason why the remaining 24 organizations meeting the formal requirements would not get recognized.
According to the recent press release of the Hungarian Society for Krishna Consciousness, it is “a great relief” that after many months of uncertainty, finally, the group can concentrate on actual service to society, which is to provide spiritual education and to care for the needy. In the meantime, members have also expressed their concern for the rights of those religious organizations that were denied approval without explanation.
Sivarama Swami, the spiritual leader of ISKCON Hungary, expresses his heartfelt gratitude to all those organizations and individuals who helped the Hungarian devotees during these difficult times.