Inter-faith meet reproves conversion, Kandhamal riots

Published Saturday, June 13, 2009  |  

Religious conversion and Kandhamal violence remained the central argument at the 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 praised.