Thursday, June 08, 2006

Benediction for Bangladesh, indictment for India!

Benediction for Bangladesh, indictment for India!

By Balbir K. Punj

Last November Pope had praised Bangladesh for its ‘religious harmony’. According to a UNB syndicated news published in The Independent (November 24, 2005) of Dhaka, Pope gulped Bangladesh’s Foreign Minister M. Morshed Khan’s story.

The Catholic Church in India and its bishops have never distanced themselves from the breast-beating, Bible-thumping “born-again” fanatic fringe of Christians.

In the inter-religious consultations held at Lariano (Italy) between May 12 and 16, 2006 Pope Benedict XVI adopted a doubled standard. He openly condemned the Danish cartoons on Prophet Mohammed and stressed upon the principle of reciprocity with Islamic world. It meant that Christians, native or professional immigrants, in Islamic lands were accorded same kind of tolerance as Muslims are being offered in Europe. In case of India, however, he condemned ‘the Hindu nationalists’ (meaning the BJP and the Sangh Parivar) for legislating anti-conversion laws. He also distinctly told India’s new emissary to the Vatican Amitava Tripathi-‘ The disturbing signs of religious intolerance which have troubled some regions of the nation, including the reprehensible attempt to legislate clearly discriminatory restrictions on the fundamental right of religious freedom, must be firmly rejected”. In case of Islam, Pope’s while soliciting tolerance, meant allowing Christians to build new Churches and uphold their religious traditions in peace. It never meant revoking Islam’s capital punishment of apostasy to facilitate willing Muslims to convert Christianity. Last March, an Afghan, Abdul Rehman, had to flee to Italy after Muslims clerics bayed for his blood for alleged conversion to Christianity. You must be thinking that Pope Benedict XVI criticized the practice of capital punishment for an apostate, in-built in Islam, like he criticized India’s anti-conversion laws. He did nothing of that sort. He appealed to the Afghan Prime Minister Hamid Karzai and the United Nations to find a country to grant him asylum. Last November Pope had praised Bangladesh for its ‘religious harmony’. According to a UNB syndicated news published The Independent (November 24, 2005) of Dhaka, Pope gulped Bangladesh’s foreign Minister M. Morshed Khan’s story hook, line and sinker that Hindus, Christians, and Buddhists live in harmony along side Muslim majority in Dhaka. Perhaps Pope should have enlightened himself more by consulting Bangladesh’s Hindu-Buddhist-Christian Unity Council about the type of ‘harmony’ exists in Bangladesh. It is a common knowledge that Bangladesh is slated to become the next Afghanistan where no non-Muslim is safe. Father Joseph Gomez, when he came to New Delhi in January, 2005, was a despondent figure. ‘What can Christians do’ he told, ‘when day and night you have nothing but Allah and Allah’. One has to see to believe it the kind of seamless unity that exists between Bangladesh Hindu-Buddhist-Christian Unity Council. It is because everyone knows how oppressive Islam is, and there is no evangelization involved. Should it not surprise Pope, that in Bangladesh that gets his praise, no minority group can float separate organization. They have to represent themselves through one umbrella organization. But in India Christians, who officially form a little more than two percent, have floated hundreds of organizations. There is no seamless unity between Christians and Muslims. But on the other hand Hindus and Christians are on good terms, and cases of Hindu-Christian riots are virtually unknown. So why is Bangladesh ‘in prayers of Pope’ and India in his bad-book. Christians, like any other religious community, have complete religious freedom. But they are not content with it. They want right to harvest soul, and they expect ‘heathen’ Hindus to willfully convert. It’s anybody’s guess that Pope is being guided by the evangelization lobby. Bangalore based P.N. Benjamin is a Syrian Christian who established the Bangalore Initiative for Religious Dialogue in 2001 to bring forth a dialogue between Hindus and Christians. He has done well to remind the Pope that anti-conversion laws have nothing to do with ‘Hindu nationalist’ governments. They were legislated long ago by ‘secular’ Congress in Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Arunachal Pradesh. The Rajasthan government has done nothing out of place. Disturbed, he asks, “Christian evangelists who denigrate Hindu gods and abuse Hindu rituals as barbaric are the root cause of tension between Christian and Hindu communities. But, the Catholic Church in India and its bishops have never distanced themselves from the breast-beating, Bible-thumping “born-again” fanatic fringe of Christians, spewing venom against Hindus and their gods in their campaigns and crusades to “harvest the Hindu souls”. Why? (Change of Faith without Push or Pull Factor- Vijaya Times, Bangalore, May 23, 2006) What is the situation of Christians in Christ-nativity town of Bethlehem that is now Muslim majority? Justice Reid Wiener, a resident scholar at Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs, authored recently a book Human Rights of Christians in Palestinian Society, opines that in within fifteen more years, Bethlehem, would be a Christian theme-park with Christian legacy but no real Christian. But in India nothing has ever threatened the mortal safety or religious freedom of Christians. India has had a Christian presence since 52 CE, far older than in Europe, let alone two Americas. To instruct Hindus on ‘religious freedom’ is like carrying coal to New Castle. The government of India has communicated its displeasure to the Vatican. I don’t think there is a need to lose sleep over Pope Benedict XVI’s comments. We have war at hand with Maoists, Hindus converting to godless philosophy of Marxism and waging war upon other Hindus. We also have to tackle the Jihad, which will become more acute with burgeoning Muslim demography and their increasing religious assertion. The anti-Bush and anti-Cartoon protests by Muslims in India were more ferocious than in many Muslim countries. Doctor Praveen Togadiya, at India Today conclave, has spoken of a Civilizational Alliance between Hindu, Buddhist, Christian and Jewish community to meet the monster of Jihad. VHP’s Ashok Singhal, who spends more than fair share of time to combat Church’s evangelization agenda, has sanely advised that Hindu and Christian world jointly fight Jihad. All these nuisance of evangelization is bound to happen because it is not a Hindu state. Its state policies are not directed by the native ethos of this land. Is it not surprising that evangelization has increased, instead of decreasing, since after independence? Late Pope John Paul II in November, 1999, from New Delhi, had openly called for evangelization of Asia in third millennium like Europe in the first and two Americans in the second. I wish Pope Benedict XVI, who is not cast in mould of the last Pope, concentrate more on re-evangelization of Europe. Christianity’s biggest battle will be in Europe, demographically threatened by Islam, rather than in India where Christians had always been a part of the mosaic.


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