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Attacks on churches decried

Special Correspondent

Hindu-Christian meet takes stand against ‘compulsory conversions’

— Photo: Thulasi Kakkat

FOR MUTUAL RESPECT: Church leaders and representatives of Hindu organisations take part in talks held under the initiative of the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council in Kochi on Monday.

KOCHI: The first summit of Hindu-Christian religious leaders in Kerala, held in the background of the recent attacks on Christians and churches in some States, resolved to work for mutual respect of each others’ religious beliefs and places of worship.

The summit, held at the initiative of the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council (KCBC) and attended by top leaders of the churches and Hindu religious organisations, condemned the attacks. It also took a stand against ‘compulsory conversions’ while at the same time stressing the individual’s right to convert out of deep conviction and faith.

The leaders urged the public to be vigilant against political parties’ efforts to take advantage of religious sentiments and to instigate communal passions.

On the Christian side, heads of the three Catholic Rites were among those attended the summit, while on the Hindu side, heads of five maths and eight leaders of Sangh Parivar organisations attended. Hindu Aikya Vedi general secretary Kummanam Rajasekharan and Caridnal Varkey Vithayathil, who is also president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, were present at the talks.

At a media briefing held at end of the nearly three and a half hours of talks, Major Archbishop Baselios Cleemis of the Malankara Catholic Church and Swamy Chidanandapuri, head of Advaithashram at Kulathoor, pointed out that today’s was the beginning of a dialogue process and that in the next phase leaders of other denominations and communities would also be included.

Swamy Chidanandapuri criticised political leaders for trying to take advantage of the Nedumbassery church attacks even before a scientific investigation was on.

“What the politicians did was irresponsible and ignominious,” he said. The attack on the two churches was a premeditated one, the swamy said.

He said the summit opposed exploitation of the poverty and ignorance of people to induce them to covert to other religions.

Archbishop Cleemis said the summit had taken a stand against compulsory conversions, but at the same time, the freedom of individuals to convert out of deep conviction would be respected.

He said the attacks on the churches should be seen as isolated incidents. “An attack on a person bearing a Christian name need not be construed as an attack on the entire Christian community,” he said.

The summiteers included: Swamy Vivikthanandan Saraswathi of Chinmaya Mission, Swamy Jnanamritanadapuri of the Amritananadamayi Math, Swamy Rithambaranandaa of the Sivagiri Madhom, Archbishop Daniel Acharuparambil, Paulose Mar Pakomios of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church and Joseph Mar Gregorios of the Jacobite Syrian Christian Church.

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