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Buddhists are 3rd largest religious group in the Netherlands

Nisnews Bulletin, May 27, 2009

AMSTERDAM, The Netherlands -- Buddhism has expanded in the Netherlands into the third religion after Christianity and Islam. The growth is so strong that as well as Islamisation, it is possible to speak of Buddhisation of the Netherlands, argue researchers Marcel Poorthuis and Theo Salemink in De Volkskrant.

The Netherlands now has an estimated 250,000 Buddhists or people who feel strongly attracted by this religion, largely white Dutch. In 1998, there were only 16,000 including just 4,000 Dutch natives and 12,000 Buddhist immigrants from Asia.

While Islamisation is often seen as a threat by politicians like Geert Wilders, and associated with violence and collectivism, Buddhism in the Netherlands is seen as an individualist faith that stands for non-violence and pacifism. But this idea is doubtful, concludes De Volkskrant.

Poorthuis, a lecturer in inter-religious dialogue, considers it "odd" that "nobody is concerned" about the strong growth of Buddhism. "Buddhism apparently has a much better image than Islam."

Poorthuis and Salemink, both University of Tilburg scholars, argue in a just published book, Lotus in the Low Countries, that Buddhism also has other sides. "For example, the Kamikaze pilots in the Second World War had Buddhist teachers. And the Dalai Lama can also not avoid conflict due to Tibet's difficult political situation, even though the Netherlands wants to make him into an unworldly pacifist," says Poorthuis.

Many Dutch people call themselves Buddhist without knowing exactly what the religion consists of, according to Poorthuis. The teaching is also sometimes commercially misused, as in management courses. "Instead of raising the question of whether the credit crisis was caused by greed, Buddhism has been used to optimise production processes."


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