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    » 02/07/2013, 00.00


    The Dalai Lama says no to conversions. Card Gracias: Changing religion is a right

    Nirmala Carvalho

    The Tibetan leader warns against proselytism, the problems that arise between different religious communities and recommends no conversions. The murder of missionary Graham Staines and massacres in Orissa and Karnataka taken as an example of negative fruits of conversions. Jesuit priest: Graham Staines was not proselytizing; Orissa in the fight against Dalits has social roots. Cardinal Gracias freedom to preach, propagate the faith and convert is guaranteed by the Indian Constitution. You can not compromise a principle so fundamental out of fear or for convenience.

    Mumbai (AsiaNews) - Some of the statements of the Dalai Lama against conversions and the work of the missionaries are causing confusion and opposition among many Christians. In an attempt to condemn bad proselytism, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism said he was against conversions and changing from one religion to another. In this way, his position is likely to be seen as support for the policies of the radical Hindu groups and the anti-conversion laws that exist in some Indian states. Card. Oswald Gracias, who personally knows the Dalai Lama, comments to AsiaNews that the freedom to change religion is a fundamental human right and can not be obscured for any convenience.

    On 23 January, the Dalai Lama visited the St Xavier's College in Mumbai, at the invitation of the Dean, Fr. Frazer Mascarenhas. Before students and professors, he gave a speech on "Ethics: educating the heart and mind."

    During his speech, he touched on the issue of conversions. "I do not like conversions," he said, because they have a negative impact [on society]. "The two parties, that of the converted and the community abandoned by him, begin to fight."

    As an example of the negative influence produced by conversions, he cited the violence against the Australian missionary Graham Staines, burnt alive in his car with his two sons, and the violence and destruction still ongoing in Orissa and Karnataka. The Dalai Lama has, however, reiterated that religious freedom - the freedom to practice ones faith - should be guaranteed to all.

    This is not the first time that the Dalai Lama has spoken against conversions. Last November, at Christ University in Bangalore, he repeated a similar concept: on the one hand, he spoke of religious freedom and on the other of the need to avoid conversions: "" Any religion - he said - should be limited to service-oriented interventions, such as providing people education and health care, not indulging in conversions. "

    It is likely that the Buddhist leader just want to warn against a proselytism that manipulates people, promises economic benefits, or leads people to change their religion through threats. But, according to many Catholics in Mumbai, his statments are similar to those of Hindu extremists who, behind the specter of proselytizing, condemn all conversions. Already in several states of India, there are anti-conversion laws that require state verification. But these laws have in fact become a way to curb conversions (usually from Hinduism to Christianity or Islam, the reverse is not a problem).

    These Catholics are saddened that the Dalai Lama has cited as an example of "proselytism" the case of the missionary Graham Staines. It should be noted that the meeting with the Buddhist leader happened on the 14th anniversary of the murder of the Australian missionary, which took place in Manoharpur (Orissa).

    Fr. Errol Fernandez, SJ, dean of econiomics at the College, expressed his doubts: "If he meant to say that the murder of Graham Staines is the result of conversions [proselytizing], it would be too simplistic. Judge Wadhwa who led the committee, appointed by the then Minister LK Advani to investigate the killing of Staines, clearly showed that the missionary was not involved in any proselytizing. "

    Last December, Fr. Fernandez preached a retreat for priests in Kandhamal, Orissa. "Having seen first hand the things in Orissa - he tells AsiaNews - I can say that conversions are only rarely the cause of violence and chaos. The real reasons lie in the fact that the Dalits and other poor social classes are educated to fight for their rights and their freedom from all forms of oppression. This has repercussions on those who want them to remain as they are, the bottom rung of the social economic and religious ladder,. "

    Even Card. Oswald Gracias, president of the Catholic Bishops, has spoken on the issue, noting that "the Christian point of view we can not but proclaim the Good News" and thus do mission.

    "I met the Dalai Lama on several occasions - he tells AsiaNews - and I think he is a sincere person. Perhaps, the Dalai means to say, do not rock the boat, do not create problems for yourselves and for others, but this implies compromising on a very sacred principle and Absolutely, we cannot compromise on a very sacred principle, and we certainly cannot compromise for the sake of convenience"

    "The Constitution - he adds - guarantees every Indian religious freedom, the right to preach, practice and propagate their religion and the right to convert."

    "From the international point of view, religious freedom is a basic human right and it implies the right to decide how people want to express their faith."

    "While I have no doubts about the sincerity of the Dalai Lama .this is something we cannot accept, We differ on this point and it is my concern We differ on this point, we just cannot accept and we cannot compromise on principles for the sake of convenience" .


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    See also

    31/03/2010 INDIA
    Easter baptisms, a right and the life of the Church, Card Gracias says
    The president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India gives AsiaNews his personal Easter reflection. He invites the faithful and the clergy to promote with love and courage the Church’s mission rather than fear conversions.

    10/12/2007 INDIA – TIBET
    Tibetans in exile: India should condemn Chinese occupation
    Protests were carried out yesterday in front of the Indian Parliament to mark International Human Rights Day. Tibetans in exile ask for political refugee status and support for “the only example of democracy in the Chinese area”.

    25/04/2009 TIBET - CHINA - INDIA
    Panchen Lama turns 20. For 14 years, he has been a hostage of the Chinese government
    Tibetans are celebrating the birthday according to Buddhist tradition, praying for his "safety" and wishing him "long life." A minister of the Tibetan government in exile denounces the "violation of religious freedom" by the Beijing authorities. A question that concerns "the entire international community."

    28/11/2012 INDIA - TIBET
    Dalai Lama, "contradictory" on Christianity and conversions, says Christian leader
    During a conference in Bangalore, the leader of Tibetan Buddhism said that religion must focus on "education and providing healthcare". The Dalai Lama criticised proselytising through monetary inducements. For the president of the Global Council of Indian Christians, his words might appear "close" to Hindu nationalist ideology.

    26/04/2007 INDIA - TIBET - CHINA
    The Panchen Lama turns 18: China’s prisoner for 12 years
    Protests in Tibet to mark the 18th birthday of the Panchen Lama. Since 1995, when he was 6 years old, China has held him and his family in £custody” in an unknown location. The entire Tibetan culture is at risk.

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