BJP, RSS rubbish Pope’s remarks on religious intolerance

via Daily News & Alalysis published on May 20, 2006

NEW DELHI: Taking strong exception to certain reported comments by Pope Benedict XVI on alleged religious intolerance in India, BJP and RSS on Saturday said his remarks were irrelevant and exposed “ignorance” about Indian traditions and laws.


“The Pope’s remark on religious freedom is not relevant to India. There is much more freedom here than in many countries. Freedom of religion does not mean conversions by coercion and allurements,” BJP Spokesman Prakash Javadekar told reporters here.

“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).


“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 without discrimination. Oppressive forces are there,” said Joseph.


 Asserting that state Assemblies had the power to enact such legislations, he said, “such laws are not against conversion by conviction but if people convert en masse, motives have to be there”.


In a hard-hitting response to the Pope’s remarks, RSS National Executive Member Ram Madhav told PTI over phone from Leh, “the Pope is ignorant of Indian traditions and laws. Religious freedom does not include freedom to convert people of other religions using force, fraud or allurements. Missionaries in India have converted their religion into a commodity and are indulging in its shameless marketing.”


Slamming the Pope’s reported remarks as “crass interference in the domestic affairs of India”, he said, “before preaching to the Indian Government, let the Pope allow religious freedom in Vatican city. People living in glass houses better not attempt to throw stones at others”.


In a strong message, Pope Benedict XVI, who took over the reins of one billion plus Roman Catholics in the world 13 months ago, spoke to New Delhi’s envoy to Vatican Amitava Tripathi about some Indian states banning religious conversion through legislation.


Reacting to the Pope’s comments, the Government had said it was “acknowledged universally” that India is secular and all religious faiths enjoy equal rights.


Joseph said the pope was trying to the draw the attention of the Indian government to the issues that have been disturbing the Christian community.


BJP-ruled Rajasthan has recently passed legislation banning religious conversions, but it has been awaiting President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s assent.


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