BJP, Church agree to initiate dialogue

via Pioneer News Service | New Delhi published on October 8, 2008

For the first time after the killing of a Hindu saint in Orissa and the subsequent attacks on churches, the BJP and Christian religious leaders came together on Wednesday and agreed on the need to restore peace and normalcy and address the contentious issue of religious conversion through “coercion, fraud and allurement”.  


 
 

 
Both sides felt that a sustained and sincere inter-faith dialogue should be initiated between leaders of the Hindu and Christian communities on all aspects of life, including the issue of religious conversion.
 

 
In a joint statement released here on Wednesday, senior BJP leader LK Advani, Archbishop of Delhi Vincent Concessao, Archbishop of Orissa Raphael Cheenath, Delhi Catholic Archdiocese spokesperson Rev Dr Dominic Emmanuel and Swami Chidanand Saraswati of the Parmarth Niketan (Rishikesh) said, “All efforts should be made to restore peace, normalcy and a sense of security in the strife-torn areas with the cooperation of the Government concerned and leaders of both the communities.”
 

 
At their meeting with Advani at his residence, the Christian leaders agreed that dialogue between the communities should be held in the spirit of the unanimous report of the inter-faith dialogue on conversions, which was organised at the Vatican in May 2006 by the Pontifical Council for inter-faith dialogue and the World Council of Geneva.
 

 
One of the main recommendations of this report reads: “We affirm that while everyone has a right to invite others to an understanding of their faith, it should not be exercised by violating others’ rights and religious sensibilities. At the same time, all should heal themselves from the obsession of converting others.”
 

 
“A particular reform that we would commend to practitioners and establishments of all faiths is to ensure that conversion by ‘unethical’ means is discouraged and rejected by one and all. There should be transparency in the practice of inviting others to one’s faith,” the report states.
 

 
Advani strongly reiterated his condemnation of the violence and vandalism that marked the attacks on churches and innocent Christians in Orissa and elsewhere in the country in the aftermath of the heinous killing of Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati in Kandhamal district in August this year. He also described the rape of a nun in Orissa as a “shameful crime against humanity”.
 

 
Swami Chidanand Saraswati also offered to rebuild one of the destroyed villages in Kandhamal district of Orissa in cooperation with the local church and the State Government.
 

 
BJP leader Sushma Swaraj, Rajya Sabha member Chandan Mitra, Sadhvi Bhagwati of Parmarth Niketan and Sudheendra Kulkarni were present at the meeting, which lasted more than two hours.
 

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