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July 10, 2000


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E-Mail this column to a friend Varsha Bhosle

Heaven's Gate

October 11, 1999: The VHP and the Bajrang Dal demand an apology from Pope John Paul II for the Inquisition in Goa that was responsible for the massacre of thousands of Hindus 400 years ago. They ask the Pope to declare that salvation is possible by following Hinduism, and they insist that he mustn't encourage proselytisation.

October 14: Archbishop Alan de Lastic fumes that the demand for an apology from the Pope is "distasteful": "How far back in history are they going to go? Will they demand an apology from Greece and Macedonia for the entry of Alexander the Great?"

(August 23, 1997: During a prayer vigil he leads in Paris, the Pope preaches a message of Christian reconciliation -- marked by an apology for the massacre of thousands of Protestants by French Catholics exactly 425 years ago. Referring to the slaughter of August 24, 1572, the Pope says, "Christians did things which the Gospel condemns. Belonging to different religious traditions shouldn't constitute a source of opposition and tension. On the contrary, our common love of Christ pushes us relentlessly to seek the path of unity."

"Unity" is only between sects which believe Christ to be the sole escort to Heaven's Gate. Which is why the torture of Hindus is immaterial to the holy, of any creed. Paul William Roberts, in Empire of the Soul, Some Journeys in India, records: "Children were flogged and slowly dismembered in front of their parents whose eyelids had been sliced off to make sure they missed nothing. Extremities were amputated carefully, so that a person could remain conscious even when all that remained was a torso and a head... Those subjected to diabolical tortures could also be counted in the thousands and the abominations continued until a brief respite in 1774... The evil resumed, continuing, almost incredibly, until June 16, 1812. At that point, British pressure put an end to terror, the presence of British troops stationed in Goa enforcing it.")

November 5, 1999: The Vatican expresses its concern at "Hindu fundamentalism" even as the Pope leaves for India, where the Sangh Parivar persists with its demand for a papal apology. Cardinal Jozef Tomko avers, "Religious fundamentalism which spreads and mingles with nationalism in identifying Indian nationality with the Hindu religion is a phenomenon which is increasingly aggressive and disturbing, a serious threat to the Church and to Catholics." Tomko is the head of the Congregation for Evangelisation. The Indian Press faithfully echoes his nuances with "the alleged massacre of Hindus in Goa during Portuguese rule". Alleged.

November 6: Swami Dayananda Saraswati appeals to the Pope to put a freeze on conversions. He pleads, "Religious conversion destroys centuries-old communities and incites communal violence. In many, religion is woven into the fabric of culture so destruction of a religion amounts to the destruction of a culture. The Mayan, Roman and many other rich cultures are all lost forever and humanity is impoverished for it... Religious freedom does not extend to having a planned programme of conversion."

November 7: The Pope releases in New Delhi's Sacred Heart Cathedral the Asian Synod document, Ecclesia in Asia. The pontiff asserts that the Synod of Bishops is "a call to conversion"; he reiterates his call to "open wide to Christ the doors of Asia"; he declares the goal of the Church "just as in the first millennium the Cross was planted on the soil of Europe, and in the second on that of the Americas and Africa, we can pray that in the Third Christian Millennium a great harvest of faith will be reaped in this vast and vital continent"; he announces that "the heart of the Church in Asia will be restless until the whole of Asia finds its rest in the peace of Christ"; he states that the very purpose of the Church is evangelisation and the Church is "empowered by the Holy Spirit" to carry out the task and hence evangelisation must be an "absolute priority". "The Asia Synod will deal with the challenge for evangelisation posed by the encounter with ancient religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism... the Church must make it clear that Christ is the one mediator between God and man and the sole Redeemer of humanity."

December 18: Pope John Paul II apologises for the "cruel" execution of Jan Hus, a Czech religious reformer who was burned at the stake in 1415. The apology is timed for the visit from the Czech president, Vaclav Havel, who donated the Christmas tree outside St Peter's. One Christian tortured 584 years ago.

February 4, 2000: Parents of nine Dalit children aged between 7 and 10 register a case in Rajgarh, MP, against Father Abraham, on charges of repeatedly assaulting their wards and denying them meals on their refusal to convert to Christianity. There is no campaign to bring the priest to book.

May 15: A remote-controlled bomb explodes at the Faizabad district hospital, where Mahant Paramhans, president of the Ram Janmabhoomi Trust, is undergoing treatment. Thirteen people, including the Mahant and his men, are injured. No further "news" is available.

May 20: The historical Shiva temple of Kedar Rudranath in Chamoli district, UP, is plundered and set on fire. The loss of property in the theft and fire is estimated at several lakhs of rupees. The press requires no further investigation.

June 8: Four churches, in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Goa, suffer bomb attacks in an obviously co-ordinated campaign. All fingers point at the Sangh Parivar. The All-India Christian Council... Oops, but you know all about the headlined "hate campaign".

June 24: On the eve of his visit to Italy, Mahatma Vajpayee expresses his deep concern over the attacks on the Christian community: "My government is committed to upholding the law of the land which guarantees equal rights to all our citizens without any discrimination, but no rights to anybody or any organisation belonging to any community to spread ill-will and hatred towards another community."

June 26: Mahatma Vajpayee bows his way to the Pope, the meeting intended as a warning to "belligerent elements" within the Sangh Parivar as well as a signal of reassurance to the West of his government's commitment to secularism.

June 28: In his traditional speech before thousands of people in St Peter's Square, the Pope orders India to put an end to violence against Christians. Reports from India are "alarming" and the attacks against Christians are "the most serious since Indian Independence", he says. Independence...

June 29: France's Socialist Party proposes a bill aiming to limit the spread of what officials call the "mental manipulation of the public" by religious proselytisers. The proposed crime is to "exercise serious and repeated pressure on a person in order to create or exploit a state of dependence". The bill would allow the French government to ban a religious group when two members are found guilty of at least one legal infraction. Missionaries could be imprisoned for up to two years under the proposed law. Justice Minister Elisabeth Guigou calls the bill "a significant advance giving a democratic state the legal tool to efficiently fight groups abusing its core values".

July 3: The Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram accuses missionaries of inciting tribals against registering themselves as Hindus in the ongoing census 2001 operation. It says that personnel attached to Church-run educational, medical and social service institutions are asking the tribals to either declare themselves Christians or "they are asking the tribals to invent names but in no case should they declare themselves Hindus". The VKA is "a front organisation of the RSS"; no further investigation required.

July 8: During a state visit to Rome by China's Prime Minister Zhu Rongji, his foreign ministry spokesperson informs the international press: "Our policy is that China wants to improve relations with the Vatican, but two principles must be followed: The Holy See must break diplomatic relations with Taiwan and recognise the People's Republic of China. The Vatican must avoid interfering in internal Chinese affairs and exploiting religion to interfere in Chinese affairs... The Chinese ecclesiastical situation is based on a compatibility with historical and national conditions. This won't ever change." China does not recognise the authority of Pope John Paul II and has a state-backed Patriotic Catholic Association, which appoints its own bishops. The Vatican claims that eight million Chinese are loyal to the Pope and has criticised the Chinese ordination of bishops.

Dear God, why couldn't you have dropped me into China...? Why do I have to suffer the indignity of sharing the creed of these latter-day Mahatmas? Why do I have to be the native of a spineless country that kowtows to a mere priest as a head of state? Will any country give a state welcome to the shankaracharya to promote conversion to Hinduism? When will the ruling dorks realise that the job of a government is to protect the truth, not "protect the minorities"? When will we shed the shackles of slavery and see the White man as an equal? When will we stop apologising for the sin of being a majority in this country...?

There is no let-up in the Christian proselytising fervour; sarvadharma sambhava remains a Hindu gesture unreciprocated by the Semitic creeds. "Weeds grew while eastern religions like Taoism, Buddhism and Hinduism slept," wrote Ram Swarup; the demography of the Northeast is already altered. Hinduism is NOT just one of the innumerable religions that flourished in India since ancient times -- it is the ethos of this land and entitled to special protection. Why are we afraid to take head-on an organisation that has murdered thousands for holding "wrong" beliefs, burnt people to "save" their souls, and still regards science as an enemy...? God alone knows...

Varsha Bhosle

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