Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Interfaith dialogue: in whose interest?


Interfaith dialogue: in whose interest? - I       


B R Haran

18 Jun 2009

"Interfaith Dialogue" refers to interaction between two or more religious traditions, at both individual and institutional levels, leading to understanding of values and respecting them, resulting in prevalence of communal amity. 
The compulsion to participate in interfaith dialogues arises due to two reasons. First, when the 'state' fails to take care of the majority community and panders to the minority communities; second,  when the minority communities, emboldened by the state's pandering, go overboard and interfere with the cultural customs and religious practices of the majority community, resulting in conflict and disorder.

Hindu Dharma and secularism 

Hindus have co-existed with other indigenous creeds (Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs and others) without problems for ages, and the peace and harmony prevailing in this great Hindu land was affected only with the advent of Abrahamic faiths, mainly Islam and Christianity, which oppressed the Hindu majority in various ways.
Despite being at the receiving end for several hundred years, the Hindu majority was magnanimous at the time of independence and addressed minorities with concern while framing the Constitution, and ensured their safety, security and religious freedom. India even refrained from enacting a 'Common Civil Code.' The Hindu majority never treated Christians and Muslims as descendents of 'invaders,' but as fellow citizens.

Sanatana Dharma has been the character and culture of this great nation. Hindu culture treats the world as a divine family - Vasudaiva Kutumbakam - and welcomes outsiders as aspects of divinity - Atithi Devo Bhava!

Such exalted concepts make words like 'secularism' hollow and redundant in the Hindu ethos. Monotheistic religions have no space for non-believers (in Allah or Mohammed or Yahweh or Jesus). Christianity introduced the concept of secularism in western society in order to end sectarian fratricide; as Hindus have no concept or tradition of such murderous sectarianism, secularism in India can at best be a quality of administration by the state.
But the post-independence state has failed to understand this imported notion of secularism, and hence, far from steering clear of all religion, successive governments have failed even to treat all religions equally.

The privileged minorities
Minorities have been given extra privileges by an extra-solicitous Constituent Assembly. Beginning with Article 14, up to Article 30, they have been granted many freedoms, with the Hindu majority getting a raw deal. This has emboldened the minorities to provoke, hurt and disrespect the Hindu majority, while working to achieve their religious objectives. This has naturally resulted in repeated conflicts. 
India has undergone major demographic changes in the 60 years since independence; the ineptness of Congress and other political parties has lost Hindu bhoomi in many states to minorities. All political parties have failed the Hindus, and particularly after the arrival of the foreigner-led UPA at the centre, a Christian agenda is being silently achieved to the detriment of this Hindu nation. Simultaneously, Muslim fundamentalists are being encouraged to wage war (jihad) against the nation. 
India lost huge territory when Pakistan was born, along with the current Bangladesh. Since then, the north-east has been Christianised; Kashmir is in trouble; so is Goa; 50% of Kerala is lost to minorities; large parts of Maharashtra, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh have become Islamic; a large portion of Karnataka, Andhra and Tamil Nadu have become Christianised.

Churches and missionaries of all denominations have become the second largest land owners in the country - next only to the government - and have been building churches and prayer houses anywhere and everywhere, totally disproportionate to their flock. A similar mushrooming of mosques disproportionate to Muslim population is also cause for concern. 

History shows that both Islam and Christianity have been more 'political' in nature rather than 'spiritual;' they have spread worldwide through invasions and persecutions. India has borne the brunt of both Islam and Christianity through jihad and conversions respectively. Both religions have been successful, thanks to an inept political class and immature people who get carried away by 'secular' machinations of the political class and the Machiavellian agenda of the clergy of the Abrahamic faiths.  

The unholy nexus between pseudo-secular politicians and minority community leaders, aided and abetted by foreign-funded media houses, has caused immense damage to the character of this Hindu nation. When things go beyond tolerance, the majority reacts spontaneously, as happened in Gujarat, Orissa, Karnataka and Jammu (Amarnath). After such reactions, the Hindu majority reverts to its usual tolerant self, hoping that the minority with which conflict took place would also settle down, but the 'Marxist-media-minority' nexus plays ugly 'victimhood' games in the international arena, bringing disrepute to the country.  

In between, minority community leaders organize so-called interfaith dialogues to create a false picture of reconciliation, and successfully complete the exercise by forcing their pre-conceived 'resolutions' on the few 'secularised' Hindu leaders, using jugglery of words and making them sign a declaration accepting resolutions advantageous to minorities only. 

Roman Catholics vs. other denominations 

The Vatican is very clever in conducting such farcical exercises. The prime objective of the Vatican is Christianisation of the whole world. The same was pronounced by Pope John Paul II when he gave a "catholic" call for evangelization of Asia, particularly India, during his visit to the country in November 1999. He had the audacity to give such a call standing on Indian soil, that too, as India's state guest! The Vatican has a history of achieving its objectives by creating divisions among local people leading to conflicts, and later through a healing touch by rehabilitation, education and healthcare. 

While other Christian denominations are aggressive and overt in their evangelical activities, Roman Catholics are covert and subtle. The Catholic leadership doesn't restrain the other denominations from indulging in aggressive evangelization, purely for the reason that this differentiation helps them to create concepts like "ethical" and "unethical" conversions, or "forced" and "unforced" (voluntary) conversions. 
The Catholic leadership always blames other denominations for "unethical" and "forced" conversions during these so-called interfaith dialogues, in order to convince leaders of other faiths to accept the dangerous concept of "ethical" conversions. It achieved success in one such farcical dialogue at the Vatican in May 2006, where leaders whose names have not been made public in India, went ahead and signed a declaration accepting the resolutions prepared by the Vatican and the World Council of Churches!

There is another motive behind the Vatican's interfaith dialogues. That is to indirectly put pressure and restrictions on other denominations which poach its targeted community for harvesting.
In this fight for "harvest" between various denominations, one question arises - what is the need for Hindus to agree for such dialogues and why should they participate? Hindus don't indulge in blasphemy of other faiths, gods, and scriptures; they don't indulge in conversion activities; they don't interfere in other religious traditions; they don't meddle with other faiths. On the contrary, Hindus have been amicable to others and they have been tolerating the propaganda (however provocative) of other religions.

Dhimmitude and disunity 

How are they reciprocated? By hacking bodies (jihad) and harvesting souls (conversions)! Much of the so-called tolerance is simply dhimmitude, the result of being beaten up or beaten down for ages. Dhimmitude resulted from Nehruvian secularism and impacted Hindus so much that they cannot see the monster standing gleefully before their eyes; they are still in deep slumber. 

Some religious leaders are averse to identifying themselves and their 'teachings' as 'Hindu;' they are more interested in marketing their wares in a global market, than in spreading dharma among the masses in the remotest hamlets. Some Hindu leaders are so magnanimous (naïve?) that they preach "all faiths are the same"! Faiths and custom-oriented traditional mathams have lost out to personality-oriented and business-oriented 'cults.'


Interfaith dialogue: in whose interest? - II   


B R Haran

19 Jun 2009

Inculturation techniques

When the hosts are divided, the guest will enjoy! As Hindus stand divided, the Church and Missionaries are deep into an activity called "Inculturation." This is nothing but copying our traditional practices like wearing saffron robes, rudraksha and tulsi malas, pilgrimage by padayatra, astotra and sahasranama archana for Jesus, composing songs on Jesus and Mary on the tune of our devotional hymns, calling Mary as Mariamman, planting crosses and constructing prayer houses and churches (unauthorized) on hills and creating a 'girivalam' path around them and so on more. This is outrageous and provocative, and must be stopped at once. 
An organization called "
" in Tiruchi indulges in such blatant inculturation techniques and has already spread its wings to famous temple towns like Tiruvannamalai to wreak havoc among millions of Hindu devotees. It allegedly interferes with the affairs of Sri Ramana Ashram as well. Such organizations are tacitly supported by church and missionaries. The Hindu scriptures have been distorted to suit biblical messages and such distortions have been distributed through brochures, pamphlets and leaflets. As Hindus were unable to get their act together, the Churches started reaping heavy harvests.

Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha and Vatican's disregard

It was under these circumstances that the Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha was formed, thanks to a few noble souls who felt the need for united action and understood the imminent danger facing the nation. The HDAS came into being in 2002 as the apex body to provide leadership and a collective voice for Hindus; at present more than 130 swamis (sampradaya heads) across the country are members.  

The first interfaith meeting organised jointly by the Vatican and the World Council of Churches took place in May 2006. The Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha posted its decisions on its website, but remained remarkably coy about whether or not it participated in the deliberations officially on behalf of the HDAS or not. BJP leader L K Advani's prime acolyte Sudheendra Kulkarni later went on record to say he was there, but nothing more could be gleaned about whom he represented at the gathering. 


The Hindu tragedy is that some globe-trotting swamis with western bhaktas have grabbed a media profile while yielding to the devious tactics of Vatican and the World Council of Churches, encouraging them to pursue their evangelical activities unfettered. The Roman Catholic Church came out with a most outrageous 'New Community Bible' christened as the "Indian Bible," which included sacred verses from the Ithihasas, Gita, Vedas and Upanishads. 

This Hybrid Bible depicted Virgin Mary barefoot, wearing a sari and sporting a bindi on her forehead, a naked baby Jesus on one shoulder, standing beside Joseph clad in loincloth and turban. It was released in June 2008 and a print run of 30,000 copies sold out in a week in Mumbai; many shops limited distribution to three copies per person. Some famous bookshops in Delhi reported that even "Hindus" bought copies of the Indian Bible!  

The hybrid Bible was reportedly conceived in the 1980s. The Indian Catholic clergy deputed over 20 experts on Christianity and Indian Religions to devise a commentary that would help Indian converts – the end product was the so-called "Indian Bible"! The Catholic Bishops Conference of India approved it and Vatican blessed the initiative.
This goes to show the weight given by Vatican and the Catholic community to resolutions of even the highly tilted interfaith conference held at the Vatican in May 2006. This reinforces the view that interfaith dialogue is a farce aimed at only deceiving Hindus.  

Exactly parallel to the launch of the Indian Bible by the Mumbai Catholic Diocese, the Madras Catholic Diocese inaugurated a Tamil film project on the mythical St. Thomas. The aim was to establish as historical fact the mythology of the arrival of St. Thomas's on the shores of Madras, his supposed acquaintance with the Tamil weaver-saint Thiruvalluvar in Mylapore, and finally his death at the hands of a Tamil Brahmin. Ironically, the present Pope Benedict XVI has categorically refuted the story of St. Thomas's travel to South India. Despite this refutation, the Vatican extended its blessings for the movie project, another instance of the hypocrisy and duplicity of the Church.

GFCH vs. Islam and Christianity    
Just six months before the launch of the Indian Bible and inauguration of the St. Thomas film, the Global Foundation for Civilisational Harmony (GFCH) India, was launched in Delhi on 22 January 2008. The function was attended by religious leaders of all faiths, viz. the Dalai Lama, Swami Dayanand Saraswati, Sri Sri Ravishankar, Baba Ramdev, Akal Takht chief Jathedar Joginder Singh Vedanti, Swami Nityanand, Swami Mitrananda, Jain Muni Sumermal, Mumbai Archbishop Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Dar-ul-Uloom Deoband chief Maulana Mohammad Ali Madani, Rabbi Ezekiel Issac Malekar and Swami Prajnan Mitranand. Dr APJ Abdul Kalam delivered the presidential address. 
The point being made here is that right after attending the launch of GFCH and supporting its initiatives, Mumbai Cardinal Oswald Gracias went ahead and launched the strange hybrid beast called "Indian Bible," thus making a mockery of civilisational harmony!  He had the temerity to say, "
I am sure this Bible, made in India and for Indians, will bring the word of God closer to millions of our people, not only Christians."

Despite this, many Hindu organisations don't realise the threat Christianity poses to the dharma. The GFCH went on to conduct a "Hindu Spiritual and Service Fair" in February 2009, during the inauguration of which some revered heads spoke about "common" traits and the 'oneness' of all faiths! The GFCH announced intention of conducting such spiritual and service fairs exclusively for Islam and Christianity as well.  

The GFCH took the initiative to work with Dar-ul-Uloom Deoband to hold rallies against terrorism and promote religious harmony in different parts of India. The GFCH believed its initiative resulted in
issuing a 'Fatwa' against terrorism and describing such violent activities as Un-Islamic. The fatwa was followed by a series of bomb blasts in Jaipur on 13 May 2008, resulting in the death of 63 innocent persons and injuries to over 200, including women and children.  

An anti-terrorism global peace conference, organised in New Delhi on 31 May 2008, had the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind and several other Muslim bodies issue a "
fatwa" against terrorism. As per GFCH, the conference adopted a seven-point declaration condemning the propaganda that "regards terrorism as synonymous with jihad." "There is a world of difference between terrorism and jihad. Jihad is constructive and terrorism is destructive. Jihad is for the establishment of peace… terrorism is the gravest crime as held by Koran and Islam
," the declaration said 

Again this fatwa was followed by serial blasts on 25 July 2008 in Bangalore (2 killed, 25 injured), serial blasts in Ahmedabad on 26 July 2008 (56 killed, over 200 injured), blasts on 13 September 2008 in New Delhi (30 killed, over 100 injured), blasts on 27 September 2008 in Delhi (3 dead, 23 injured) and the Mumbai terror attack for three days between 26 to 29 November 2009, which took the lives of 173 innocent people and injured over 300 persons.

The unabated and continuous terror attacks, despite the so-called fatwas by Islamic organizations, expose the 'drama' played by Deoband and others. The fatwas were a response to silence criticism that Muslim clerics remain silent spectators of Islamic terrorism. It seems the Shia concept of "taqiyaa" (lying for the sake of the faith) was utilized to whitewash the concept of 'jihad' and issue a 'fatwa' condemning it. Clearly and unfortunately, the GFCH was unequal to the political skills of Deoband Dar-ul-Uloom.

A truly significant interfaith dialogue: in whose interest? - III


20 June 2009


The interfaith dialogue, Mumbai


As the despicable actions of different Christian denominations continued unabatedly, including alleged complicity in the murder of Hindu saints in Orissa and the blasphemous distortions of Hindu sacred scriptures in Karnataka, the majority community spontaneously reacted with a vengeance as the acts went beyond the limits of tolerance. As expected, the Church played victim and projected Hindus as communal marauders.


The UPA government and the 'secular' media also projected the Hindu majority in a bad light, and the Prime Minister shocked the nation by slavishly assuring the French President instead of telling him not to interfere in India's internal affairs. The secular brigade's act of internationalising India's domestic issues resulted in the proposed visit of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) to Gujarat and Orissa.


However, the Church realised its nefarious activities could have dangerous repercussions and resorted to its trusted method of "interfaith dialogue" to mollify the majority community. An interfaith dialogue was organised in Mumbai on 12-13 June, and the Vatican sent Cardinal Jean-Louis Pierre Tauran, head of the Pontifical Council for Interfaith Dialogue.


Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Indian Bible fame played a pivotal role in arranging this conference and Pedro Lopez Quintana, Vatican envoy to India, Archbishop Felix Machado of Nashik, Bishop Thomas Dabre of Pune, and Bishop Raphy Manjaly of Varanasi, also attended. The Catholic leaders had invited His Holiness Kanchi Sankaracharya Sri Jayendra Saraswati, Sri Sri Ravishankar, Swami Vageeshananda (Ramakrishna Mission), Dadi Janakiji (Prajapati Brahma Kumaris), Swami Nirmalananda Nath (Karnataka), and Swami Chidananda Saraswati (Divine Life Society, Uttaranchal).


Lessons for the Church


The presence of Advani acolyte Sudheendra Kulkarni (who also mysteriously appeared at the May 2006 interfaith dialogue in Italy) at the invitation of Cardinal Oswald Gracias, and the conspicuous absence of some prominent personalities, suggested careful vetting and screening of invitees. Nonetheless, the leadership of Kanchi Acharya was the most significant aspect of this meeting, as he not only had the stature but also the knowledge and understanding of issues involved, along with the required solutions. He also has the capacity to articulate convincingly to arrive at an amicable solution.


As the deliberations centered round communal conflicts, the cause of conflict was examined - conversions. His Holiness Sankaracharya opened the proceedings by bringing out the fact that during Pope Benedict XVI's recent visit to Jerusalem and interfaith dialogue with Jewish religious leaders, the Pope gave an undertaking that, "henceforth it would desist from all missionary and conversion activities" among the Jews. Swami Jayendra Saraswati demanded a similar pact with the Hindu community in India.


The Acharya underscored the importance of faithful adherence to points agreed at the meeting; else failure would result in the futility of such meetings. He reiterated that the Church must reassure the Hindus that it would not hurt their sentiments and wound their sensibilities. Quoting Pope John Paul II's call for planting the Cross in Asia to cause the Second Coming of Jesus, he demanded that the Vatican to explain the rationale for the first coming of Jesus Christ when there was no Christianity or Church to undertake the mission of christianising the world.


Kanchi Acharya strongly condemned the proposed visit of the USCIRF and said that Hindus would not permit such interference in the internal affairs of India. He demanded the setting up of a common pool to collect all foreign funds received by the Church, in order to distribute the same among all social welfare organisations, irrespective of religious affiliation. Calling upon all Hindu organisations to work together to eradicate the menace of conversion, he advised Indians to live with mutual respect and harmony in a shared sense of nationalism which should bind all as one nation, irrespective of religious affiliation.


He called for the immediate stoppage of all devious 'inculturation' methods being adopted by various Christian denominations and the practice of preaching that conversion to Christianity would cure all diseases, which is violative of the DRUGS AND MAGIC REMEDIES ACT, 1954. He welcomed the proposed anti-conversion law in Sri Lanka, mooted by the Joint Council of Buddhist Organisations, and strongly endorsed it as an essential measure.


Emphasising Sanatana Dharma, he said the soul of India  is religious and spiritual, and urged the government to declare India a "Spiritual" country, not a "Secular" country, as secularism is an administrative quality and cannot be the soul of the nation. Kanchi Peiryavaa also condemned the usurping of Hindu scriptures for incorporating them in the so-called 'Indian Bible' and demanded immediate withdrawal of copies of the book; he demanded that government do the needful.  


Cardinal lies       


During the press conference at the end of the meeting, Cardinal Oswald Gracious, the brain behind the "Indian Bible," denied any knowledge about it! Shri P. Deivamuthu, Editor of the Mumbai-based monthly magazine "Hindu Voice," expressed shock:

"I attended the Press Conference, held today (12th June 2009) at 3.30 p.m. at the Shanmukhananda Hall, King Circle, Mumbai, addressed by Kanchi Shankaracharya Swamiji and the Archbishop of Mumbai, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, subsequent to the Inter-Religious Dialogue held at the same venue.


After their Press Briefing, when question time arrived, I put a question to Cardinal Oswald Gracias: 'In the Indian Community Bible released by Mumbai Catholic Church, you have included hundreds of verses from Vedas and Upanishads. Does this not amount to stealing the intellectual property of Hindus?' The answer given by the Cardinal was 'I am not aware of this.'"


Having himself released the Book - The New Community Bible - the Cardinal had the temerity to say he was not aware of it, in the presence of 30-odd journalists and photographers. If this is not a blatant lie, what is it?


My subsequent question was: 'Does that mean that Bible was written by human beings, and has nothing to do with Jesus Christ?' His answer was: 'It was spoken by the God and written by people.'"


Nevertheless, it remains undeniable that the Catholic leaders were taken aback by Kanchi Acharya's élan and subtle and strong articulation. They promptly put the blame for conversions on other Christian denominations and joined the Acharya in condemning conversions by force and allurement. They agreed to bring the Protestants and other denominations for any future dialogue.


It is learnt that the Church leaders are now awaiting the verdict of the USCIRF, which may visit India in coming weeks, unless advised otherwise by the UPA. They are keen that USCIRF help their 'cause.' Controversial characters like Orissa Archbishop Raphael Cheenath also pinned his hopes on the visit, saying it could be pivotal in restricting 'violence' and ensuring 'protection' of minorities.

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Future course of action


The just concluded Hindu-Catholic dialogue is truly significant in the sense that this is the first time the Hindu side has been categorical, authoritative, and to the point, and the Catholic Church has been shown its place in a religiously diplomatic manner.


It now depends on the Church to make the meeting meaningful by abiding with the agreements. Unfortunately, the track record of the Church is not encouraging. And when the political class, particularly the UPA regime and 'secular' media are hand in glove with the Church, nothing constructive can be expected in future. Anyway, the onus lies squarely on the Church and one can only hope it realises the importance of communal amity and acts accordingly.


All Hindu religious, cultural and service organisations also have a huge responsibility to work towards a Hindu renaissance. Sadly, the Hindu community remains content in caste, linguistic and sectarian grooves, ceding ground to other faiths in the public domain.


Hindus need to channel the energies of their respective caste, sampradaya, language group, to a pan-India Hindu cause, to protect the Hindu bhoomi as the only motherland.


Conversion is the 'root cause' of all problems; it shatters peace and harmony. Christians of all denominations must be made to respect the Constitution and stop 'conversions' and other evangelical activities with immediate effect. They must also be prohibited from constructing new Churches and Prayer Houses, which have already far exceeded the flock, much like the disproportionate assets of politicians! Their evangelical congregations must be allowed only in their own premises and not in public places. The masses must be made aware of the covert means of conversion and a strict vigil maintained on the activities of dubious organizations. 


Nepal, once a Hindu kingdom, is fast becoming a Christian nation because of losing its 'soul.' Sri Lanka, however, has realized the Christian threat and readied itself to deal with it. India must act like Sri Lanka. The Kanchi Acharya has paved the way and it is the duty of other Hindu organisations to follow suit.




PS: This column was written and edited before the denial of VISA for USCIRF

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