Heads of churches, Hindu outfits to meet today

via Courtesy: Pioneer News Service | Kochi published on September 28, 2008

Leaders of the main Christian churches and Hindu Ashrams and organisations would meet in Kochi on Monday for exploring ways for strengthening religious harmony and peace. The Pentecostal Church, a major Christian denomination, has not been invited to the meeting.

The meet assumes special significance as an exercise to re-establish peace in the context of the strained relations between the two sections due to the violent incidents in Orissa and Karnataka. The meeting would take place at Kochi’s Sarovaram Auditorium from 3.00 pm on Monday.

Syro Malankara Church’s Major Archbishop Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil, Latin Catholic Church chief Daniel Acharuparampil, Malankara Catholic Church leader Mar Climmis and others would represent the Christian side in the meeting. A total of twelve personalities would represent the Hindu Ashrams and organisations at the discussions.

Representatives of Chinmaya Mission, Sivagiri Matt and Matha Amritanandamayi Math will be participating in the talks. Delegates from the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Hindu Aikya Vedi and RSS will also take part in the meeting.

The Pentecostal Church has not been invited to the meeting, which is an important matter as there were several complaints against this denomination in Karnataka and Orissa. There were allegations that Christian denominations like the Pentecost had been engaged in large-scale conversion of Hindus into Christianity. Hindu organisations in Karnataka had claimed that even mainstream churches had indicated that they should not be held responsible for the actions of such groups.

The non-participation of the Pentecostal Church in the meeting should also send a clear message to the parties in the ruling LDF and the Opposition UDF alike. In their alleged wish to be seen as friends of the Christians, leaders from both the fronts had participated in a huge road-block organised by the Pentecost followers the other week at Parassala Junction in Thiruvananthapuram district.

Food Minister and senior CPI leader C Divakaran had drawn flak from the Sangh Pariwar organisations for his participation and speech at this Pentecost programme. The deputy Opposition leader in the Assembly, G Karthikeyan of the Congress, CMP’s CP John and other leaders from parties in both the fronts had participated in the road-block stir, organised to protest the violent incidents in Orissa and Karnataka.

The leaders of the Christian churches had last week declared their readiness to sit down with the leaders of Hindu organisations in an effort to alleviate the concerns of the latter about the allegations of conversion exercises by the former. Actually, the move for a conference over the matter had come from the Hindu side when Vishwa Hindu Parishad international working president S Vedantham made a call in Kochi for talks on peaceful religious functions.

The Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council (KCBC) responded to this call positively by saying it was ready for discussions with Hindu organisations if that would help in clearing the misunderstandings about the functioning of the Church.

VHP leader Vedantham had said his outfit was willing to hold talks with Christian organisations if the latter ended their prosleytisation activities. He had said while the VHP did not support the violence that had taken place in Mangalore and other areas of Karnataka in the past few days, it blamed local missionary organisations for provoking the violence. He had demanded a total ban on conversion through legislation. 

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