Christians Hurt by Swami Agnivesh’s Letter to Pope Benedict XVI

November 4, 2011 by  
Filed under Christian, Church, India, newsletter-india

Swami Agnivesh

Swami Agnivesh

India, November 04, 2011: The Christian community is saddened to read reported comments made by Swami Agnivesh in a letter to Pope Benedict XVI, in response to his Diwali greetings. The Swami and he says others like Pandit NK Sharma, a leading disciple of Swami Swaroopanand and Shankacharya of Puri took exception to the pontiff advocating freedom of religion. Swami Agnivesh has suggested that the pope calls for a moratorium on the religious conversion of “unlettered tribals” and children who cannot make an “informed choice”, drawing the pope’s attention to such cases in Orissa and the tribal belt. The Mumbai based community NGO, The Catholic-Christian Secular Forum (CSF), general secretary, Joseph Dias reacts as below:

” Swami Agnivesh’s letter has particularly hurt us, since he has been striving to maintain the secular fabric of the nation and stridently opposing the Hindutva stance of right wing fanatics. Swami Agnivesh implies that Christians are undertaking such activities, which is far away from the truth. Christians believe, conversion is no conversion, if it is not done freely from one’s conscience. In a country where Christians are a microscopic minority of 2 per cent and declining, as per official census figures, conversion by force or fraud is hardly possible. There is freedom of faith in so-called “Christian” countries, where all faiths thrive, with little restrictions.

We are also grieved at Swami Agnivesh’s reported statement that India has ” suffered a great deal at the hands of persons and organisations who have insisted that the only way people can be saved is for them to give up their own faiths and adopt the faith that is being proffered to them by missionaries and mullahs “. He is also reported to have said that ” We also want to bring together other religious leaders in demanding that the Pope to issue a statement towards stopping collective conversions in countries like India “. The CSF is against any conversion by inducement and condemns conversion by fraud, as those undertaking it are not Christians and give the community a bad name.

Indian Christians are battling serious impediments not just to freedom of religion, but also grave violations of basic fundamental and human rights. In many states there are anti-conversion laws, besides other relevant legal sections used to implicate and harass Christians in false cases. The situation is worse in states where the BJP is in power, either on its own or as a coalition partner. Such a letter by Swami Agnivesh is bound to give impetus to the persecution campaigns of the Hindutva and castetist forces, making the situation worse for the community.

Swami Agnivesh ignores the fact that Christianity is believed to be in India since the times of the first apostles of Christ, Thomas and Bartholomew, besides the British, Portuguese and others professing the Christian faith ruled India for centuries and thereafter the Christian community for the last over 6 decades has been serving the country without any discrimination. Yet there has been no increase in the Indian Christian population. Indian Christians suffer from governmental apathy and neglect, targetted by fundamentalist elements and find themselves alienated from the national mainstream, as a result of their docile and peaceful nature, as demanded by their faith.

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