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  • » 01/23/2007, 00.00

    INDIA

    Indian Church: rather than worship the sun, the government should deal with more pressing problems

    Nirmala Carvalho

    The archbishop of Bhopal talks to AsiaNews about the state government’s proposal to organise a mass sun worshipping ceremony. In his view there are more important issues that require attention. The Muslin community protests against what it considers an un-Islamic and unconstitutional proposal.

    Bhopal (AsiaNews) – The proposal by the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh to have schools salute the Sun in a modern form of Sun worship is “disturbing to non Hindu communities, because ‘worship’ is a loaded term and [therefore] inappropriate, especially because the government has other more pressing issues to deal with,” Mgr Pascal Topno, archbishop of Bhopal, told AsiaNews. He was referring to Surya Namaskar or ‘Salute to the Sun,’ a ceremony the state government wants performed in all state school this coming January 25, ostensibly to promote the practice of yoga among the population.

    Surya Namaskar is a modern form of sun worship, and one of the first lessons of yoga. The name comes from Sanskrit and means “prostrating oneself before the luminous disc”.

    The government wants the ceremony to be followed by a yoga programme and has called on all students to follow the teachings of guru Baba Ramdev. Audio and video links will thus be set up to connect all educational institutions.

    Local districts have also been asked to organise parallel events where volunteers will demonstrate Surya Namaskar and guide students who want to participate.

    According to Indranil Dani, principal secretary for education, the programme is “compulsory only for public schools even though the government does encourage private schools to participate.”

    L. S. Baghel, commissioner for school education, agrees. “The government can’t force students to attend it. The idea is only to inspire the young generation to know more about yoga and its health benefits,” he said.

    But Archbishop Topno is less enthusiastic about the idea. “We have no problems with yoga. It is taught in our school,” he said. “The issue is the idea of ‘worship’ in ‘Surya Namaskar.’ The term is loaded and too much importance is attached to it when in fact there are other more pressing issues that the government should deal with.”

    What is more, the ceremony is scheduled to take place on Republic Day. “We are proud to be Indians and proud of our constitution that guarantees us freedom of speech and freedom to choose,” the prelate said, “but we are disturbed by the fact that instead of focusing on this we should be polarised by such an issue”.

    The local Muslim community has reacted differently. The Jamiat Ulma Hind, a Muslim organisation in the state capital, has decided to file a complaint against the state government after the chief minister refused to listen to their appeal.

    According to a group representative, “to force Muslim children to worship the sun is unconstitutional and against Islam.”

    Many Muslims have also announced that they won’t send their children to school if the authorities do not cancel the ceremony.

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    See also

    04/08/2005 INDIA
    Praying and fasting to counter anti-Christian violence
    Praying is the best weapon against rising persecution in Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh, says the Archbishop of Bhopal. Catholic Tribals attend the prayer meeting in great numbers.

    26/07/2005 INDIA
    Hindu extremists slander the Church but send their children to Church-run schools
    False charges of "forced conversions" are levelled at a Catholic priest. For the local bishop, this is a plot by Hindu extremists, backed by the state government that provides the legal instruments. Behind it, there is an attempt by extremists to get free access to high-status Catholic schools.

    04/02/2009 INDIA
    Hindu fundamentalists vandalise Catholic school in Bophal
    Violence is triggered by trumpeted up charges against the school principal.

    25/07/2007 INDIA
    Andhra Pradesh: new law to ban non-Hindus from many cities
    A new state law bans non-Hindus from propagating their religion in cities with holy Hindu temples. In many areas violence and threats are proffered for the mere physical presence of Christians. The archbishop of Hyderabad warns that there is a real possibility that the faithful may be chased out of these cities.

    19/01/2016 17:52:00 INDIA
    Madhya Pradesh: 12 people arrested for forced conversions to Christianity, but none is Christian

    All those detained were taking part in a private dinner to mark a Hindu harvest festival. Police took the accused, including a blind married couple, to a police station. They were released the next day on bail. For the archbishop of Bhopal, “Sangh Parivar activists have taken advantage of” the state’s anti-conversion law, “making false and baseless allegations.”





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