The Points that Pujya Shankaracharya made at the inter-faith dialogue and was made into a press statement.
1.Exactly one month ago to the date, the Pope went to Jerusalem where Jesus was born, for a similar dialogue that the Vatican had undertaken with the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. At the end of that meeting when the Pope and Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzer jointly addressed the Press and Media, the Chief Rabbi thanked the Pope for assuring the Chief Rabbinate that the Catholic Church would desist and cease from all missionary and conversion activities among the Jews. This is construed as endorsed and agreed by the Pope since he was present at the press meet. We need a similar commitment from the Church for Hindus.
2. After such inter-faith meetings, the points agreed have to be faithfully abided. Otherwise there will be no point in holding such meetings. Unless the Church reassures Hindus that it will not conduct itself in a manner that wounds Hindu sensibilities and follows up on those assurances, such inter-faith meetings, no matter how frequently they are held, will be futile and not serve any meaningful cause.
3. In 1999, Pope Johan Paul II had stated that the mission of the Vatican was to plant the Cross in Asia in the third millennium to facilitate the Christianizing of the world, which alone would cause the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. The Pope must tell us the rationale for the First Coming of Jesus Christ when there was no Christianity or the Church to undertake the mission to Christianize the world.
4. We see the USCIRF (US Commission on International Religious Freedom) as an intrusive mechanism of a foreign government to interfere in the internal affairs of this country. The USCIRF, which has been permitted to visit this country to hold meetings with our people to ascertain religious freedom in our country, must no longer be permitted to enter this country on this intrusive mission. We will not allow external interference into our internal affairs.
5. We know that very large amounts of money come into this country for Churches and Christian groups, ostensibly for charitable work. These funds should be used only for social causes like health, education etc and should not be used for religious conversion. During these dialogues, it should be agreed that the funds should be distributed to all Organisations who do charitable work, irrespective of the organisations’ religious faith. A common pool should be created and a Committee formed to distribute and monitor the usage of these funds. 6. It has become easy for the Missionaries to convert Hindus. All Hindu Organisations and Associations should work together to educate Hindus and eradicate the conversion activity.
7. Hindu dharma is by nature diverse and so all different panthas and sampradayas co-exist on this bhumi without seeking to destroy the others. Hindu dharma has nurtured and supported all faiths and religions because that is the way of dharma. We expect that religions which have come into this bhumi from other lands will respect this vital characteristic of Hindu dharma and not do anything to subvert or disturb the sense of nationhood of this country. Hindu dharma and the Hindu people welcome Christians and Muslims, Parsis and Jews to make this land their home. We expect from these religions that they will not seek to destroy our faith, our religion and wound our religious sensibilities. We encourage all religions to live with mutual respect and harmony in a shared sense of nationalism which should bind us all as one nation. Nationalism should come first.
8. We are aware of the propaganda that they [the church] will cure diseases and ailments if the individual converts to their faith. This is illegal as per the DRUGS AND MAGIC REMEDIES ACT 1954 and we call upon the Indian government to take action under the provision of law.
9. Most of the countries in the world (USA, UK, Japan, Middle-east nations, Pakistan, Sri Lanka etc.), adopt national resolutions and statements of intent proclaimed by their governments and their tallest religious bodies, affirming their determination to protect and defend the culture and the religion from which their cultures derive. In India alone we pass resolutions which officially and legally promote an irreligious and unspiritual creed called secularism. Secularism is an administrative quality; it cannot be the soul of this nation. The soul of this nation is religious and spiritual. We call upon our government and other important religious bodies to recognize this truth and affirm their commitment to protect the soul of this nation.
10. The Buddhist Mahasangha and the Joint Committee of Buddhist Organizations have declared their intention to get the Sri Lankan government to pilot and pass a national anti-conversion Bill and make it law. We welcome this move and strongly endorse this measure.
11. The Church in India must stop forthwith the use of Hindu religious words, phrases and symbols like Veda, Agama, Rishi, Ashrama, Om and other such in what is referred to as ‘inculturation’ tactics, but which are only intended to deceive the vulnerable sections of our people who are the intended targets for religious conversion. This is also insulting to and wounding the religious sensitivities of Hindus. Similarly it has been brought to our notice that some churches are scripting a new Bible for the new converts by usurping sections of our sacred Vedas, Upanishads and Puranas and incorporating them into the Bible. This must stop immediately and all such Bibles must be withdrawn from circulation. We urge the Indian government to look into the issue and do the needful.
Mumbai: An inter-faith interaction between Hindu and Catholic religious leaders, held at Mumbai’s Shanmukhananda Hall on Friday, appears to have focused a lot of time on the issue of conversions and the killings at Kandhamal in Orissa last year.
While the Hindu side was represented, among others, by the Sankaracharya of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham, Jayendra Saraswati, and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the Christian side was represented by Mumbai Archbishop Cardinal Oswald Gracias, and Cardinal Jean Louis P Tauran, the Pope’s representative from the Vatican.
According to sources, the Vatican representative wanted to know why Christians were facing violence when India was supposed to be a tolerant country. The Sankaracharya reportedly sought an assurance that conversion activities would be stopped, and referred to the assurances sought by Jewish rabbis last month from the Pope. The Vatican did not comment on the aspect of stopping conversions, but pointed out that there were many Protestant groups doing conversions, and the Catholic Church had no control over that.
The Sankaracharya, who spoke softly in Hindi, said the meeting can be considered useful if the points agreed are faithfully followed. “Unless the church reassures Hindus that it will not conduct itself in a manner that wounds Hindu sensibilities and follows up on those assurances, such inter-faith meetings, no matter how frequently held, will be futile and not serve any meaningful cause,” he added.
“Although conversion is a personal choice, I want to endorse that there will be no forced conversions. It has no meaning, and is considered invalid. The Catholic Church is totally against forced conversions. The Vatican documents are clear about that,” said Cardinal Gracias.
At an impromptu news briefing after the dialogue, it was announced that the two religious groups would work together, where possible, in charity and social work.
The Sankaracharya noted that “very large amounts of money come into this country for churches and Christian groups, ostensibly for charity work. These funds should be used only for social causes like health and education. Similarly, Hindu temples and Hindus will share their resources,” he said.
The Sankaracharya said he wanted India to be a spiritual country. “We should take moral lessons from each religion and educate our children.” To which Cardinal Gracias responded: “Our country is spiritual and we must continue to deepen the spirituality of our people. Moral lessons should be included in the school syllabus, to help make better human beings,” said Cardinal Gracias.
Among the other Hindu leaders who attended the dialogue were Swami Chidananda Saraswati of Uttaranchal, Swami Vishveshwarananda Giri Maharaj of Mumbai, Swami Nikhileshwarananda of Vadodara, the Prajapita of Brahmakumaris from Rajasthan, and Chaturvedi Swami of Chennai.
The Catholic side was represented, apart from Cardinal Gracias and Cardinal Tauran, by Archbishop Quintana of the Vatican Nunciature in Delhi, Cardinal Topno of Ranchi, Archbishop Gali Bali of Guntur, Archbishop Felix Machado of Nashik, and Bishop Thomas Dabre of Pune.
Cardinal Tauran had this to say: “India is a cradle of many religions. What impresses me is that Indians are open minded and tolerant with positive values. We know this inter-faith meeting will have a positive outcome. It gives an orientation and a beginning of something.”
The Sankaracharya also said that there should be no interference from the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) in the internal affairs of the country, including the attacks on Christians in Kandhamal and Gujarat.
“We see the USCIRF as an intrusive mechanism of a foreign government to interfere in the internal affairs of this country. The USCIRF, which has been permitted to hold meetings with our people to ascertain religious freedom in our country, must no longer be permitted to enter this country on this intrusive mission. We will not allow external interference in our internal affairs,” the Sankaracharya asserted.
Inter-faith meet condemns conversion, Kandhamal riots; seeks peace and harmony
By: Babu Thomas Saturday, 13 June 2009, 15:19 (IST)
Cardinal Jean Louis P Tauran, the Pope’s representative from the Vatican. Religious conversion and Kandhamal violence remained the central argument at an inter-faith dialogue between Hindu and Catholic leaders in Mumbai.
Among noted personalities from the Hindu faith were Sankaracharya of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham, Jayendra Saraswati, and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. Mumbai Archbishop Cardinal Oswald Gracias, and Cardinal Jean Louis P Tauran, the Pope’s representative from the Vatican, represented the Catholics.
The two-day meet at Mumbai’s Shanmukhananda Hall was organised in the wake of recent violence on Christians and the still-paralyzing consequences of the Kandhamal carnage.
The Hindu pontiff, Jayendra Saraswati, pointed ‘conversion’ as the chief reason for the growing violence on minorities. He sought an assurance from the Catholic Church to halt such activities, which the latter has refuted and blamed on Protestants.
“Although conversion is a personal choice, I want to endorse that there will be no forced conversions. It has no meaning, and is considered invalid. The Catholic Church is totally against forced conversions. The Vatican documents are clear about that,” media quoted Cardinal Gracias saying.
At a press conference, religious leaders from both the sides condemned the violence on Christians and even agreed to jointly associate in social work and charity.
A press statement released by Sankaracharya urged churches and Christian groups to use charity funds for social causes like health and education. The Hindu seer apart from conversions also disapproved foreign funds used for running educational and charity projects.
Furthermore, he also objected to the visit of U.S Commission on Religious Freedom to India. “We will not allow external interference in our internal affairs,” he commented.
A senior BJP member and adviser to Mr. LK Advani, Sudheendra Kulkarni, was also present at the meeting. Such events will “pave way for greater understanding,” he said.
The Vatican representative Cardinal Tauran expressed much hope in the inter-faith meeting, which he said, will have a positive outcome.
“India is a cradle of many religions. I am also very impressed that Indians are open minded and tolerant with positive values,” he praise