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  • » 04/08/2009, 00.00


    Thousands converting back to Hinduism: truth, or propaganda?

    Nirmala Carvalho

    In Kalyan, in Maharashtra, Hindus are celebrating the "reconversion" of 1,130 families. The guru Narendra Maharaj urges the faithful not to be corrupted by the Christian missionaries, and calls on them to vote for the parties that defend the Hindu community. Bishop Fernandez: Christians must continue to spread the message of love, and the values of the Gospel.

    Mumbai (AsiaNews) - A lavish demonstration to celebrate the return to Hinduism of 1,130 families who had left the traditional religion of India to become Christian. It took place in Kalyan, a city in the district of Thane, in the state of Maharashtra, about fifty kilometers from Mumbai. A similar ceremony had taken place on April 27, 2008, in Borivali in suburban Mumbai, during which the return to Hinduism of 1,793 new converts to Christianity was celebrated.

    Several thousands of Hindu faithful participated in the ceremony in Kalyan, during which the guru Jagadguru Narendra Maharaj warned those present not to let themselves be corrupted by the work of Christian missionaries, and urged spiritual leaders to leave their ashrams, the hermitages of Hindu tradition, in order to oppose conversions. In his speech, the guru also accused politicians of using Hinduism purely for electoral purposes, and urged the faithful to vote for parties that defend the Hindu community.

    Interviewed by AsiaNews, Percival Fernandez, auxiliary bishop of Mumbai, said that he was perplexed by the celebration, which clearly has value only as propaganda, while the origin of the alleged "return converts" is unknown, nor is it known to what Christian confession they are supposed to have belonged before returning to Hinduism.

    "Theologically, can anyone who has received Baptism in the Catholic Church be 'reconverted'?" Bishop Fernandez asks. "The seal we receive in Baptism is permanent and indelible. Isn't it? So reconversion in the theological sense is impossible." In any case, the news of the ceremony in Kalyan brings up the age-old issue of conversions, the object of violence toward Christian individuals and communities in the country. The massacre of Christians in Orissa is justified by fundamentalist groups as a struggle against the alleged "forced conversions" to Christianity. In some states of the Union, there are anti-conversion laws that seek to block conversion from Hinduism to the Christian and Muslim faiths, but not the other way around.

    "Anyway, there is a possibility of some Catholics getting 'reconverted' out of fear and not in reality," the bishop explains, "as in the case of a family in Kandamal whose son is a priest."

    In the face of the repeated accusations of proselytism and forced conversions lodged by the most intransigent wing of the Hindu community, Bishop Fernandez says: "I don't think we should be worried about 'stopping' this claim. We should continue to propagate the message of love and the values of the Gospel, especially by our lives, and no effort on earth can stop us from evangelising through this powerful means."

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    See also

    19/03/2009 INDIA
    Radical Hindu leader killed. Tension in Orissa
    Prabhat Panigrahi had been arrested for involvement in the attacks against Christians. In the district of Kandhamal, there are fears of a new wave of violence. Meanwhile, Christians are being marginalized: they may return to their villages only if they convert to Hinduism.

    28/04/2009 INDIA
    Great interest in India over Malaysian ban on converting children
    The decision of Malaysia, an Islamic majority country, establishes that children are bound to the religion of their parents at the time of marriage, even if later one of the two becomes Muslim.

    08/04/2009 TURKEY
    Easter among the Muslims, in the land of Saint Paul
    The apostolic vicar of Anatolia recounts the meaning of Easter in the year dedicated to St. Paul. The Christian community in Turkey finds itself facing a situation like the one at the beginning of the country's evangelization. The foreign pilgrims, the fraternity between Catholics and Orthodox, amazement over the fascination with Jesus among the Muslims. A request to the Turkish government, for a church in Tarsus.

    06/10/2006 INDIA
    Uttar Pradesh: over 350 Indians of all castes convert to Christianity

    One of them told AsiaNews the decision was freely taken; no force was used. Hindu nationalists are shocked and determined to bring back the new converts to "the true faith". Local Catholics are worried because they fear exacerbation of interfaith conflict.

    22/11/2006 INDIA
    Jammu: Christian convert killed by Islamic militants

    Bashir Ahmad Tantray left  Islam around 10 years ago. Very active in social projects and evangelization, he was murdered by two strangers in broad daylight.

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