Team DNA, Sunday, May 21, 2006 00:15 IST
New Delhi: The normally publicity shy Christian community in India are suddenly very much in focus. The controversy over the Da Vinci Code has hardly been resolved, when a fresh one has erupted over Pope Benedict XV1’s remarks on religious conversions in India.
Catholics in the country believe the Pope, as head of the Church was within his rights to make his observations on an issue that is worrying the Christians in the country. Predictably the BJP has reacted sharply to his remarks and condemned it as rank interference in India’s internal issue.
When India’s new ambassador to the Vatican, Amitava Triparthi, presented his credentials, Pope Benedict had raised the question of ban on conversions in some states of the country.
“There are disturbing signs of religious intolerance which have troubled some regions of India, including the reprehensible attempt to legislate clearly discriminatory restrictions on the fundamental right of religious freedom,’’ Western news agencies quoted the Pope as saying.
The government while waiting for the exact read out of the exchange by ambassador Triparthi, issued a short statement on the basis of news reports.
“It is acknowledged universally that India is a secular and democratic country in which adherents of all religious faiths enjoy equal rights. The Constitution of India states that all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practice and propagate religion,’’ foreign ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna said.
While the BJP hit out hard against the Vatican, other political parties were more restrained. BJP spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad said “… the Pope’s statement is rank interference in our internal affairs.”
Without naming the Christian groups and Church, the BJP leader targeted them by pointing out, “any conversion based on fraud, allurement and intimidation is unconstitutional. The anti-conversion laws have been upheld by in Madhya Pradesh and Orissa, so why this apprehension.”
The Pope was trying to reiterate the freedom of conscience guaranteed in the universal declaration of human rights, said Father Babu Joseph, spokesperson for the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI).
“It is true that religious freedom is guaranteed in the Indian constitution. But it is not ensured as it should have been. It is not ensured everywhere in the country,” Joseph added.
Catholics justify Pope’s remarks, BJP angry
The Catholic leader had voiced concerns about ‘religious intolerance’ in India
New Delhi: Pope Benedict XVI’s remarks on “disturbing signs of religious intolerance in India” have put Indian Christians on the defensive. “The pope was trying to reiterate the freedom of conscience guaranteed on the universe declaration of human rights,” said Father Babu Joseph, spokesperson of Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI).
Pope Benedict XVI spoke to New Delhi’s envoy to Vatican Amitava Tripathi about some Indian states banning religious conversion through legislation.
BJP-ruled Rajasthan has recently passed legislation banning religious conversions, but it has been awaiting President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s assent.
“There are disturbing signs of religious intolerance which have troubled some regions of India, including the reprehensible attempt to legislate clearly discriminatory restrictions on the fundamental right of religious freedom,” the pope was quoted as saying.
New Delhi has reacted carefully to the remarks and reiterated its secular and democratic credentials. Said Joseph: “It is true that religious freedom is guaranteed in the Indian constitution, but it is not ensured everywhere in the country without discrimination.”
Party leaders are angry over the pope’s remarks. “If conversion is a right, re-conversion is also is a right. Will he agree to it?” asked Malhotra. “States such as Orissa and Madhya Pradesh made a law to ban conversion during the first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s period.”
Malhotra’s BJP colleague in the Lok Sabha, Uday Singh, said the pope was “well within his right to express concern about the welfare of Christians as the head of the religious group. But when it comes to the law and legislative process in a democratic country, he should have used a little more discretion,” Singh said.
BJP and Hindu groups had severely criticised the pope’s predecessor John Paul II's call for conversion in Asia during his visit to India in 1999.
Christians, Hindus should unite against Jihad: VHP tells Pope
NEW DELHI, MAY 20 (PTI)
The Vishva Hindu Parishad today appealed to Pope Benedict XVI to abandon conversion of Hindus and join hands with it in fighting Jihad.
Even as he took strong exception to the Pope's critical remarks against anti-conversion laws in the country, VHP Supremo Ashok Singhal reminded the head of the Catholic church that both Hindus and Christians faced the "same historical threat of Jihad (Islamic Holy War)." "We appeal to the Pope that both Christians and Hindus are facing the same historical threat to Jihad i.e. terrorism, from the destruction of Kashi, Ayodhya and Somnath temples to the crusades under the Pope to defend Christianity in Europe and now the strikes on World Trade Centre and London to the daily attacks on Hindus in Jammu and Kashmir.
"It is better that without fighting each other, let us fight against Jihad and the Pope should declare that the Church will not convert a single Hindu," he said.
However, Singhal objected to Pope's "interference" in India's religious matters.
"The Right to Uphold Ancestral Faith is fundamental for inter-religious harmony because if everybody accepts right to uphold ancestral faith, nobody will convert people of other faiths. There will not be inter-religious conflict", he said.
The VHP Chief also charged the Pope with "insulting" the Supreme Court saying it has held that nobody had a right to convert.
"Vatican is a state. Can anybody propagate and convert Christians in Vatican? If Pope cannot allow conversion of Christians in Vatican, how can he expect conversion of Hindus in India?", he asked.