11/30/2004, 00.00
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Dialogue and prayers against violence, says Orissa Archbishop

by Santosh Digal

Bhubaneswar (AsiaNews) – Catholics must learn "to respect and be tolerant as well as maintain good relations" with people of other religions, this according to Mgr Raphael Cheenath, Archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, in Orissa, an Indian state where Christians have been victims of persecution and violence by Hindu fundamentalist groups.

Priests, and men and women religious, he said, must "preach the message of love, peace and mutual acceptance to all concerned and organise activities for that purpose."

The Archbishop's urging is being made in a state where Christian Churches have for many years been targets in a campaign of intimidation and violent attacks by Hindu fundamentalist groups like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP or World Hindu Council) and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS or National Volunteer Corps).

In the last few years, many Christians have been murdered in Orissa, hundreds of Tribal converts to Christianity forcibly reconverted to Hinduism and many churches destroyed.

Archbishop Cheenath is however urging clergymen in his diocese to speak with and meet people of other religions, to spend time with them.

"Priests," he said, "must be concerned about the salvation of non-Christians as well because Jesus came to save everyone".

"Prayers for non-Christians should be included in the liturgy," he stressed, adding that "priests should never speak against other religions in their sermons". Instead, "an atmosphere of dialogue should be created in every parish—only the spirit of friendship can spread the Gospel in India's multicultural and multi-religious society".



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