Registered as an organization in 94 countries of the world, the Buddhist group Soka Gakkai is present in most European countries, where it claimed 105,000 members in 2012 (352,000 in the USA), and probably 120,000 members today. But the movement is especially successful in Italy, where its first meetings started in the early 1960s, growing from nearly 32,000 members in 2003, to now more than 75,000 members, reported Italian researcher PierLuigi Zoccatelli at the CESNUR conference in Tallinn, Estonia. Other European countries rank far behind, with more than 15,000 members in France and about 10,000 members in the United Kingdom. On June 27, the Italian Prime Minister has signed an agreement (intesa, the equivalent of a Concordat) with the Italian Soka Gakkai. The agreement allows Soka Gakkai to join the group of denominations enjoying special status, being allowed to appoint chaplains for the armed forces for instance, according to CESNUR director Massimo Introvigne. It also entitles it to receive taxpayers’ money, based on a free choice made by each taxpayer to affect to a religious group or charity from a selected list a set percentage of taxes paid by the said person.
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