There have been continued efforts since 1994 to encourage inter-faith dialogue and coordinate religious leadership in Mauritius. In the context of the International Year of Family, the Minister of Women’s Rights, Child Development and Family Welfare was the first to convene the religious leaders of Mauritius to set up a committee to reflect and advise the Ministry for a better quality of the life for Mauritian citizens. From 1996 to 1999 the former President of the Republic, Mr. Cassam Uteem, continued the work by establishing the “President’s Advisory Council”.
The Council of Religions was formally established in 2001, in the wake of the World Peace Summit convened in 2000 under the auspices of the United Nations to foster peace and support inter-religious dialogue.
Five religions, namely the Baha’i Faith, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and Islam form the nucleus of the Council and support a vision to channel the power of religions, foster peace and bring about a better life in Mauritius. The intention of such cooperation among the religious and spiritual communities across Mauritius is to work together on an interfaith basis with effective guidance for shared understanding. The aim of such action is to develop understanding among believers of all the faith communities in Mauritius of their shared core values and to combat prejudices of all sorts, particularly through targeting the youth.
Common human national objectives have helped the Council of Religions in Mauritius become a living inter-religious group, and a rather strong community. The bonds that unite members of this inter- religious community go further than mutual respect and tolerance.
In view of this goal and in recognition of the invaluable contributions from faith-based initiatives to health promotion and to HIV/ AIDS responses globally, an advocacy meeting with UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, was organised in January 2005, in Mauritius. The Secretary General appealed to the members of the Council to work in partnership with other stakeholders in the fight against HIV/ AIDS, and to particularly address the issue of stigma and discrimination in Mauritius.
The Council of Religions and the Office of the UN Resident Coordinator in Mauritius then held a seminar to mark ‘World Religion Day’ in January 2006 in the presence of 100 religious leaders of various faiths and intra-religious denominations.
From then on, the Council of Religions and the United Nations have worked on a common Action Plan against HIV and AIDS from September 2006 to December 2009. Father Philippe Goupille, President of the Council of Religions explained that this plan aims mainly at “forging compassion in the face of HIV and AIDS suffering, and to create an environment where stigma and discrimination no longer flourish and where kindness is extended to marginalized groups in our society”.
Several attempts were made to co-ordinate religious leadership as a driving force for building tolerance, fostering peace and encouraging inter-faith dialogue among all the religions in Mauritius.
In the context of the International Year of Family Mrs. Sheila Bappoo, the then Minister of Women’s Rights, Child Development and Family Welfare was the first to convene the religious leaders to set up a committee to reflect and advise the Ministry on the quality of life of the Mauritian citizen.
About 30 persons from a cross-section of the diverse active population of the Mauritian society participated in several meetings organized under the aegis of this Ministry (JAN 1994 - OCT 1995)
In December, a new government was elected and the successor of the Minister decided to stop the functioning of the committee.
The former President of the Republic, Mr.Cassam Uteem, decided to continue the work of the dying committee by establishing the “President’s Advisory Council”. The Council managed to function with an office space at the President’s office for almost four years (1996- 1999).
In August, approximately one thousand of the world’s pre-eminent religious leaders gathered for the World Peace Summit at the UN head quarter, where the Declaration for World Peace was signed. To answer this international initiative, the religious leaders of Mauritius formed “The Council of Religions” as a counterpart at national level to “The International Advisory Council of Religious and Spiritual Leaders.”
On World Religion Day -WRD, The “Council of Religions” COR was officially established. Representatives of the five major religions in Mauritius, namely; Bahá’í, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, and Muslim, formed the nucleus of the council and support a vision to channel the power of religions to bring about a better life in Mauritius.
In January, this commitment was further strengthened after the advocacy meeting with UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, in Mauritius. In acknowledgment of the added value that religious leaders could bring to the national response the Secretary General appealed to the members of the council to work in partnership with other stakeholders in the fight against HIV/ AIDS, and to particularly address the issue of stigma and discrimination.
In June, CoR was registered under the provisions of the Registration of Associations Act, No. 9352.
September 2006 – December 2009: CoR/UNDP (HIV Action plan)
In April, CoR was accredited as an NGO with CSR number N/1117
In September, the Council of Religions has been approved as a ‘Charitable institution’ for the purposes of the Income Tax Act 1995 with MRA.