THE Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and Belief held a meeting of religious leaders on June 6, 2007, at the House of Lords, hosted by Lord Daniel Brennan QC, in order to ascertain the difficulties faced by the various religions in implementation of Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This states: ?Every one has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion which included the freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion and belief in teaching, practice, worship or observance.?
Every religious leader was given five minutes to give his response to the above Article 18 and give details of any legislative hurdles faced in its implementation.
Suraj Sehgal, director of Hindu Council, UK, gave his response in the following terms:
Proselytisation: The right to freedom to change religion and to freely practice it both in teaching and observance has been grossly abused by aggressive proselytisation through fraud, force and deception. Article 18 should be amended to ban such conversions and the government should legislate against it. The predatory religions seek the destruction of others? faiths and cultures, others? way of life, by sending missionaries whose religious freedom is enshrined in their mission to convert other God-loving people into their own religious clubs, thereby seeking the destruction of other religions. Everyone has the right to convert through their own heart'spersuasion but missionary conversion activity is a form of violence on the society it converts as it seeks to destroy their original way of life. History bears witness to it. When will the UN protect religionists like the Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs?
Political rights: Any human right cannot be safeguarded or practiced without legislative force or backing. All religions have been represented in the House of Lords, but the Hindu religion has been ignored. To this effect Hindus have been facing enormous problems in practicing their religion in this country. This should be rectified. In order to safeguard the minority religious and other rights there should proportional representation by reservation of seats in the House of Commons for all minorities.
Language equality: The languages of other religions have been included in the British curriculum, but Hindi and Sanskrit?the Hindu languages?have been ignored.
Blasphemy laws: The blasphemy laws of this country do not include Hinduism which is the third largest religion in the world, with over one billion practitioners. All attacks on our temples have been either ignored or very lightly dealt with. We understand that this law is not enforceable against the human rights laws but our point is that Hindus do not have adequate protection under any legal instrument for the safety of their temples.