Belgium officially recognises Buddhism as a non-denominational religion

Buddhism has now been officially recognised as a non-denominational religion in Belgium. The Federal Cabinet has approved a bill regarding the official recognition of the Buddhist faith that was drafted by the Federal Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne (Flemish liberal). In future the Buddhist faith in Belgium will be eligible for financial support from the Federal Government.

The Buddhist Union of Belgium is the representative body of Belgium's Buddhist community and will be the official interlocutor. The recognition entitles the Buddhist community to federal funding. This will allow it to professionalise its organisational structure, pay the wages and pensions of Buddhist consultants, deputy consultants, delegates and chaplains and cover the operating costs of the organisation’s federal secretariat.

In a statement Mr Van Quickenborne said "They deserve this recognition that they have been waiting for for a long time."

The recoginition entitles the Buddhist community to teach its faith in state schools. However, it has yet to set up an accredited body that can appoint teachers and carry out inspections of their work. Furthermore, teachers also still need to be trained.

The first Buddhist centers in Belgium were set up in the 1960s. Since then, the number of people that follow the faith here has grown considerably. The Buddhist Union of Belgium was founded in 1997 and unites most of the Buddhist organisations that are active here. It is estimated that there are about 150,000 followers of Buddhism in Belgium.

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