Episcopal Christians apologise to Hindus for discrimination, proselytisation

published on February 26, 2008
Link- http://www.rediff.com/news/2008/feb/25apology.htm
Author- Arthur J Pais in New York

An unqualified apology from a Christian community to Hindus
worldwide, which also denounced proselytisation by Christian
missionaries, has triggered a debate among pastors across the United

The apology, tendered by Right Reverend
J Jon Bruno, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, is
arguably the first of its kind by a major Christian congregation, and
was issued ‘for centuries-old acts of religious discrimination by
Christians, including attempts to convert them.’
some Episcopal Christians have protested against the apology, made
during an
Indian-style Mass complete with aarti and kirtans, on January 19 in the
presence of over 100 Hindu spiritual leaders and lay people, organisers
of the event insist it was the right step in the right direction.
believe that the world cannot afford for us to repeat the errors of our
past, in which we sought to dominate rather than to serve,’ Bruno, who
owing to a personal emergency could not be present, said in a statement
that was read out by the Right Reverend Chester Talton.
this spirit, and in order to take another step in building trust
between our two great religious traditions, I offer a sincere apology
to the Hindu religious community.’
The apology
was made in a ceremony to mark three years of dialogue between Hindus
and Christians, initiated among others by the Reverend Karen MacQueen,
better known as Mother Karen. She is deeply influenced by Vedanta
philosophy, and
fiercely opposes the conversions-for-kindness methodology.
apology was a small act compared to Pope John Paul II’s unprecedented
apology for the sins of Christians through the ages, made a few years
‘We forgive and we ask forgiveness,’ the
Pope had said during a historic Lenten liturgy in St Peter’s Basilica.
He, along with Vatican officials, pronounced a ‘request for pardon’ for
‘sins against Christian unity, the use of violence in serving the
truth, hostility toward Jews and other religions, the marginalisation
of women, and wrongs – like abortion – against society’s weakest
“In our case, the apology is part of
the dialogue we initiated with a few Hindu leaders three years ago,”
Mother Karen said. “The healing process will continue,” she said but
she wasn’t sure certain Christian denomination will change their
conversion tactics.
The ceremony started with
the Hindu priestess Pravrajika Saradeshaprana blowing into a conch
shell three times, in a call to Hindu and Episcopal religious leaders
to join the ceremony.
The rare joint service
included chants from the Temple Bhajan Band of the International
Society for Krishna Consciousness, and a moving rendition of Bless the
Lord, O My Soul sung by the St John’s choir, the LA Times reported.
newspaper, which gave considerable space to the story, however
erroneously, reported that Hindus had received the Holy Eucharist.
“They ran a correction,” Mother Karen said. But by then many Christians
were upset.
“The fact remains that there were
many Indian Christians who received the Eucharist,” she said. The
newspaper mistook them for the Hindus, she said chuckling.
its correction, the LA Times wrote, ‘Hindu-Episcopal service: An
article in Sunday’s California section about a joint religious service
involving Hindus and Episcopalians said that all those attending the
service at St John’s Cathedral in Los Angeles were invited to Holy
Communion. Although attendees walked toward the Communion table, only
Christians were encouraged to partake of Communion. Out of respect for
Hindu beliefs, the Hindus were invited to take a flower. Also, the
article described Hindus consuming bread during Communion, but some of
those worshippers were Christians wearing traditional Indian dress’.
Bruno’s stand against ‘proselytising’ has meanwhile impressed many
Hindus. Swami Sarvadevananda, of the Vedanta Society of Southern
California, called Bruno’s stance ‘a great and courageous step’ that
binds the two communities.
‘By declaring that
there will be no more proselytising, the bishop has opened a new door
of understanding,’ he told the LA Times. ‘The
modern religious man must expand his understanding and love of
religions and their practices.’
Karen, who has visited India many times since her first sojourn at
Mother Teresa’s hospice in Kolkota, wishes to see Hindu-Christian
dialogue in India. “But it cannot be done effectively when some church
leaders are going around converting people in the name of charitable
work,” she said.
“There are enough Christians
in the world. What we need to see is more Christians leading an
exemplary life and truly loving their fellow man.”
In her
homily ‘A Vision for Inter-Religious Dialogue’ at the church event,
Mother Karen said in both Hinduism and Christianity, devotees believe
that ‘the Divine Presence’ illuminates the whole world.

Karen, who continues to study Hinduism, also said both faiths revere
‘great figures who embody the divine light, who teach the divine

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