Talks between Church, Hindus embarrass CPM

via Pioneer News Service | Kochi published on September 30, 2008

The CPI(M) is embarrassed by the initiative taken by the leaders of mainstream Christian denominations and Sangh Pariwar organisations and Hindu ashrams for sorting out the differences among them. Top leaders of the Marxist party are viewing the move by the two sides to hold a series of talks on outstanding issues with disbelief as it had never expected this to happen, particularly in the context of the incidents in Orissa and Karnataka. The leaders of the Church and the Hindu organisations held a meeting within a week of CPI(M) State secretary Pinarayi Vijayan’s allegation that the recent attack on two churches near the Kochi international airport could have been an extension of the happenings in Karnataka and Orissa.

At a function in Angamaly on Tuesday, Pinarayi Vijayan went to his displeasure at the development, saying some Christian priests were out to “whitewash the Sangh Pariwar”. He said an attempt at this was made at the meeting on Monday, adding that this was a dangerous trend. He also said that the presence of RSS representatives at the meeting was very mysterious.

If the meeting itself was a cause of embarrassment for the CPI(M), its outcome was even more disheartening for the party because it had ended in a positive note and with a resolution to carry the exercise forward. Both the sides decided to work together and condemned the violence in the name of religion.

Cardinal Mar Varkey Vithayathil, Archbishop of the most powerful Syro Malabar Church in the State and chairman of the national Bishop’s panel CBCI, even said that the attacks on the Kerala churches could have been intended to create a rift between the Hindus and Christians of Kerala. “There seems to be some hidden intentions behind the attacks on these churches. These could be political or religious,” he said.

The process of Hindu-Christian discussions had started just when the CPI(M) was trying to use the attacks against churches and believers in Orissa and Karnataka as a great occasion for re-establishing its relationship with the Christians which had been damaged by persistent moves by the LDF Government and the Marxist party against the Church. The strategy was found necessary in the context of the upcoming Lok Sabha polls but the new-found feeling of bon-homie between Christians and Hindus has caused despair among the communists.

A CPI(M) functionary close to Pinarayi admitted that the party had never thought the Church and the Hindu outfit leaders to talk to each other with open hearts, particularly in the present context of the incidents in Orissa. He said the enthusiasm aired by the Church leaders after Monday’s meeting had surprised the party.

However, he was convinced that this bon-homie would not last long as the CPI(M) expected the Hindu organisations, especially, the VHP and RSS, to turn against the Christians in ‘no time’. “Such a peace between them is possible, The Christians might really wish for that peace but the Hindu organisations can never come to terms with it,”he said.

Fourteen heads of the Hindu organisations, including Devanand Saraswathi, Vivekananda Saraswathi of Chinmaya Mission, Jnanaamrithanandapuri of Amritananthamayi Matt and Kummanan Rajasekharan of Hindu Aikya Vedi and nine Church leaders including Cardinal Varkey Vithayethil and Archbishop Daniel Acharuparambil of the Latin Catholic Church.

The Church and Hindu leaders who attended the meeting opined in unison that religious conversions through enticement and force were wrong. Swami Chithananthapuri said, “The culprits behind such attacks (as in Orissa) should be brought to book instead of getting into conclusion that people belonging to a particular religion were behind the attacks.” Leaders from both sides said the talks on Monday were just a stepping stone towards more such interactions between the religious heads of both communities.

“The aim of the meeting was peace and communal harmony. We have decided that forced conversion is certainly not acceptable and there should be no attack on places of worship,” said Major Archbishop Baselios Mar Cleemis of the Malankara Church after the meeting.

In an indirect reference to organisations like the Left parties, the meeting warned that none should fall into the hands of vested interest that could use the opportunity of discord between the Christian and Hindu communities for political gains. Hindu Aikya Vedi leader Kummanam Rajasekharan, after the meeting, said that there was no doubt that the discussions were successful.

“The basic issue that has been identified as the reason for a discontentment rose because of inflammatory notices issued and forced conversions. A two-member committee with Archbishop Cleemis and Swami Chidananda Puri of the Aadwaita Ashram will now take the discussions forward and once a consensus is reached, a second meeting would be held,” said Kummanam. 

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