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Hindu statesman Rajan Zed has asked Belgium to recognize Hinduism.

Belgian government reportedly accords recognized status to Catholicism, Protestantism (including Pentecostals and evangelicals), Anglicanism, Orthodox (Greek and Russian) Christianity, secular humanist groups, Islam, and Judaism. Representative bodies for these religious groups receive subsidies from the federal, regional, and local governments. In 2010, government paid about $127 million to recognized religious groups.

Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, said that there was need to reform the way religious groups were recognized and financed in Belgium. Hinduism was the oldest and third largest religion of the world with about one billion adherents and a rich philosophical thought. What else Belgium wanted to fulfill its criteria of recognizing Hinduism? All it needed to do was to open a standard book on world religions and most of its doubts would be cleared.

As religious or “moral” instruction was reportedly mandatory in public schools and teachers were provided for recognized religious groups only, it was hindering Hindu children from learning about their own religion, Rajan Zed argued.

Zed urged leaders and organizations of various religions active in Belgium to push for recognition of Hinduism as “we were all co-travelers looking for the truth and headed in the same direction”.

According to recently issued “International Religious Freedom Report 2010” on Belgium by US Department of State: “…conditions in Belgium were not optimal for groups regarded as “sects” or “cults”…government officials continued to have the authority to monitor religious groups…reports of societal abuses and discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice continued… sectarian organizations can be investigated… Jewish and Muslim groups reported incidents of discrimination, as did religious groups that had not been accorded official recognition by the government…227 complaints of religious discrimination were received in 2008…”

According to reports, about 60 percent of Belgium’s population identifies itself as Roman Catholic, four percent as Muslim, two percent as Protestant, one percent as Jewish, two percent as belonging to other religious groups, and 31 percent as nonbelievers. There are about 7,000 Hindus.

Belgium, which hosts European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organization, is known for its chocolate, beer, waffles, Bruges, cartographer Gerardus Mercator, Big Bang theorist Georges Lemaître, painter Jan van Eyck, poet Emile Verhaeren, etc.