09/10/2014, 00.00
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Card Gracias: conversions are worrisome, require more dialogue

by card. Oswald Gracias
The archbishop of Mumbai speaks about new cases of people returning to Hinduism in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. "Everyone should enjoy freedom of conscience and religion;" however, "it is urgent to examine these cases to see if they are really episodes of conversion/reconversion or fabrications instigated by ideological groups who seek to sow divisions" for political reasons. For him, dialogue is the only path to build peace and tolerance.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - Recent cases of conversion are cause for concern and pastoral introspection, and represent a renewed call for dialogue in our nation.

Everyone should enjoy freedom of conscience, but these two incidents - one in Jaunpur and the other in Aligarh, both in Uttar Pradesh - took place so close to each other. That is disturbing.

Such events call for introspection. We have to analyse our pastoral mission, and question its adequacy as well as our spiritual preparation.

Obviously, it is urgent to examine these cases to see if they are really episodes of conversion/reconversion or fabrications instigated by ideological groups who seek to sow divisions.

Given the fact that Uttar Pradesh state has experienced several problems involving religious communities, it would not be a bad idea to check whether any interests are behind these situations, whether some people are using such provocative acts that cause mistrust and hostility for their own political advantage.

We ask the government and police for an answer; they are better placed to understand what happened.

Although we accuse no one of what happened, we must be vigilant, given the geographical and temporal proximity of these "re conversions". Such events make us reflect. They worry us and require appropriate measures.

By its very nature, Hinduism is tolerant of other religions. It embraces the great reality of our nation. Similarly, international law recognises and protects freedom of religion and freedom of conscience.

On 10 December 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights without any contrary vote. The latter recognises that the whole of humanity has certain inalienable rights that are the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.

Such sporadic episodes remind us of the urgency of interreligious dialogue in our multi-religious nation. Through dialogue, fear, hostility and suspicion may give way to friendship, or at least tolerance.

During his visit to Korea, Pope Francis talked about the importance of interfaith dialogue and stressed that dialogue has its deep roots in our religion, which has always sought to welcome and include others.

It is our responsibility as religious leaders to work to promote religious tolerance, and build peace and a harmonious coexistence.

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