History of the demand for recognition of Buddhism in Belgium
In 2023, Buddhism is about to become the eighth philosophical conception recognized in Belgium, according to information from the cabinet of Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne. The process began in 2006 when the Belgian Buddhist Union applied for recognition. Indeed, despite several attempts and a bill drafted during the previous legislature, it did not succeed due to the fall of the government of the time.
The Vivaldi government agreement and non-denominational status
The decision to include this recognition in thegovernment agreement concluded by the Vivaldi marks an important turning point. Buddhism asked to be registered as a non-denominational philosophical community, because it does not have a god like other recognized religions. This means that it will be considered on an equal footing with the six official cults and organized secularism, recognized since 2002.
Consequences of the official recognition of Buddhism in Belgium
Equitable treatment of recognized religions and philosophical conceptions
Once the text is adopted, Buddhism will benefit from the same treatment as other recognized religions and philosophical conceptions. This involves in particular:
- The payment by the Federal State of about twenty advisers;
- The financing, by the provinces and the Brussels Region, of local establishments;
- The possibility of having counsel in prisons, in the army or in airports;
- Broadcasting of a licensed program on public channels.
Role of the Belgian Buddhist Union as official interlocutor of the government
The Belgian Buddhist Union, founded in 1997 and representing 35 Buddhist associations, will also become the government's official interlocutor for the management of the organisation. In Belgium, it is estimated that approximately 150 people are followers of Buddhism.
The remaining steps before the official recognition of Buddhism in Belgium
Validation of the text by the Council of State and the consultation committee
Despite the significant progress represented by the agreement on the text, it still has to go through several stages before being definitively validated. In particular, it will have to be submitted to the Council of State and discussed in the consultation committee.
Parliament's vote and envisaged deadline
Finally, the text will have to be voted on by Parliament. Carlo Luyckx, president of the UBB, hopes that this will happen " ideally before the parliamentary holidays“. If this is the case, Buddhism would then become the eighth recognized philosophical conception in Belgium, alongside the Catholic, Jewish, Anglican, Protestant-Evangelical, Islamic, Orthodox and secular religions.