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US body should not interfere in Indian affairs: Shankaracharya

US body should not interfere in Indian affairs: Shankaracharya

Author: TN Raghunatha
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: June 13, 2009
URL: http://www.dailypioneer.com/182645/US-body-should-not-interfere-in-Indian-affairs-Shankaracharya.html

Kanchi Shankaracharya Jayendra Saraswati on Friday vehemently opposed the impending visit of United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) to India, by saying that it was nothing but "an intrusive mechanism of a foreign Government to interfere in the internal affairs of this country".

"Though the Indian Government has permitted USCIRF for sending its delegation to this country to hold meetings with our people to ascertain religious freedom in our country, the delegation should actually not be allowed to enter this country on this intrusive mission. We will not allow external interference into our internal affairs," the Shankaracharya said.

The Shankaracharya was interacting with the mediapersons after initiating the inter-faith dialogue with Christian leaders, including a cardinal from Vatican City in Rome, Jean Louis P Tauran and Cardinal Oswald Gracias from Mumbai.

Held at that the Shanmukhananda Hall in central Mumbai, the inter-faith dialogue - aimed at sending a message of peace and harmony to the people - was along the lines of a similar move undertaken by the Pope Benedict XVI to hold talks with the chief of Rabbinate of Israel at Jerusalem on May 12,2009, to bolster religious tolerance between Jews and Catholics.

In a significant statement, the seer from the Kanchi Kamakoti Mutt voiced his opposition to "forceful conversion" by any religion. "It has become easy for the missionaries to convert Hindus. All Hindu organisations and associations should work together to educate Hindus and eradicate conversion activity. We have conveyed this message to Christian leaders in the meeting," the Shankaracharya said.

Echoing the sentiments expressed by the Shankaracharya vis-à-vis "forceful conversion", Mumbai's Cardinal Oswald Gracias said: "We will not encourage any forceful activities. This message will reach all the Christian organisations."

The Shankaracharya also exhorted the Churches and Christian groups to utilise the funds received by them from abroad for social causes and not for religious conversions.

"We know that very large amounts of money come into this country for Churches and Christian groups, ostensibly for charitable work. These funds should be used only for social causes like health, education etc and should not be used for religious conversion. The Christian organisations should also distribute the funds received from abroad among various charitable institutions irrespective of their religious faith," the Shankaracharya said.

The Shankaracharya went on to add: "… the Hindu dharma and the Hindus welcome Christians, Muslims, Parsis and Jews to make this land their home. We expect that these religions will not seek to destroy our faith, religion and wound the religious sensibilities. We encourage all religions to live with mutual respect and harmony and in a shared sense of nationalism which should bind us all as one nation".

The Shankaracharya also advised the churches in India against using Hindu religious words, phrases and symbols like Veda, Agama, Rishi, Ashrama and Om, as an "inculturation" tactic to deceive vulnerable sections of people targeted for religious conversion. He also urged the Indian Government to look into the reported efforts by some churches to script a new bible for new converts by usurping sections of sacred Vedas, Upanishads and Puranas and incorporating them into the Bible.

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