Winds of change for Iskcon France
By Srinath das
From India to Ireland, Scotland to South Africa, America to Australia, Moscow to Mauritius, ISKCON (popularly known as the Hare Krishna Movement) is accepted as a bona fide religious organization around the world and is recognized among learned academics (e.g. University of Cambridge, England). In France however, the influential anti-cult bureau (funded by the French government) has successfully introduced laws and policies constricting the activities of minority religious organizations and in 1989, has unfairly and unlawfully branded the Hare Krishna movement a dangerous cult, thereby creating unfounded fears in the public against us and curtailing our efforts to serve French society.
But there are winds of change – “Paris is Europe’s largest city, the world’s number one tourist destination, metropolis of culture, architectural wonders, night life, tree lined avenues, monuments, cafes, education, museums, revolutions. I thought people don’t like us here. Who said that – it’s fantastic…. ” – Janananda Gosvami.
Two communication teams have been created in Paris & New Mayapur and they have met with the government representative for observing the cult issue and dealings with religious minorities. She has spoken positively on the Hare Krishna movement on French TV channel 2 and some more meetings will take place with her and the communication team.
Establishing Krishna Consciousness in Paris had not been easy due to discrimination for many years but there are positive signs now due to a number of auspicious things:
* The devotees have acquired a fully owned property for the new Temple in Paris.
* The French authorities will not allow us to open the temple unless our visitors have some space to park their vehicles. We have found such a car park, close to the temple and we are negotiating with the owner in order to get it.
* One devotee has been kind enough to buy a 50 square meter storefront for a preaching center on Rue de Pontoise, near one of the most famous restaurant in Paris – La Tour D’Argent and near to the Notre Dame Cathedral.
* Better relationships with the government representatives.
* The new President of France, Mr.Nicolas Sarkozy is establishing better relationship with religious minorities and also with other faith organizations like Hinduism.
* Devotees have attended some Interfaith meetings regularly, particularly in New Mayapur area.
* Harinam in the Paris Metro is going on everyday and is known as the Metro Yoga ( http://metroyoga.fr ). People appreciate it so much that they often clap hands after the performance.
* The magazine ‘Bhakti’ is coming up again in french. The first special issue is titled – Le Rem de la Violence (Remedy for Violence).
* On the new year’s eve more than a thousand people followed the devotees chanting on the world’s most glamorous street – the Champs-Elysees.
“If anyone wants to really experience bliss – or as close to it as you can imagine – then take a break in Paris and go on Harinam. Notre Dame, Eiffel Tower. It’s terrific – the place is crawling with thousands and thousands of tourists and locals and they really love the devotees, at least when they are dancing and chanting”. – Janananda Gosvami.
For pictures and videos – http://krishnaparis.com
– Srinath das
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