Hindu Vivek Kendra
Vandalism and apology

The history of Christianity is full of instances of vandalism committed in the name of the religion. Sir Vidiadhar Naipaul and Shri Sumit Paul, above, has given a rationale for this happening - namely an attempt to erase one's past. There was a physical vandalism in teems of destroying indigenous places of worship, killing those who come in the way, etc, to terrorise the people to do the bidding of their new masters. There was also psychological vandalism in terms of destroying the culture of the converted people, perverting the true meaning of the civilisational idioms and symbols, distorting the history of the land, etc.

The relationship between Jews and Christianity has been one of continual animosity. The primary reason has been the propaganda that it was due to the Jews that Christ was nailed to the cross. Christ's teachings were supposed to have weakened Judaism and so he became the 'enemy' of the Jews. There have been numerous cases of discrimination against the Jews in various countries. The climax was the German Holocaust. The silence of Vatican in not condemning the atrocities at the time they were perpetuated has been a major bone of contention.

In the recent past, various Popes and other members of the Roman Catholic hierarchy have offered apologies of different levels of contrition. The Vatican has come out with a document on the subject, and the French Archbishop Oliver de Berranger said, "We beg God's pardon and we ask the Jewish people to hear our words of repentance." (Newsweek, October 13, 1997.)

Similarly, in January 1995, the German Roman Catholic bishops have accepted that the Catholics share responsibility for the Nazi holocaust, since they failed to act against Nazism. In what is said to be an unusually blunt confession of guilt, the bishops said, "The denial and guilt that was prevalent in those days also came from the church. During the period of the Third Reich, Christians did not carry out the required resistance to racist anti-Semitism." As per a leading Catholic theologian, Shri Johann-Baptist Metz, there was a "a new quality" in the statement, and predicted that it would inspire "Christian moral courage." (Stephen Kinzer, "German church admits to holocaust guilt", The Times of India, Jan 30, 1995.)

The indigenous people of South America have started to voice their protests against the atrocities of the past. Such action has forced the Roman Catholic Church to acknowledge the wilful destruction that took place in the name of Christianity, and has sought an apology form the people. During his visit to the continent in October 1992, Pope John Paul II called upon the Indians of the Dominican Republic "to forgive those who, for 500 years, brought pain and suffering" to the Indian peoples. (CIMI - Indianist missionary Council, Brasilia, October 15, 1992.)

During a visit to Slovakia in Eastern Europe in July 1995, the Pope visited Presov, where there is a monument to 24 Calvinists, who were beheaded in 1687 for refusing to convert to Roman Catholicism' In atoning the Roman Catholic Church's action to condemn them to death, the Pope's official spokesman said that the visit was meant to 'render justice and heal old wounds'. (The Times of India, Editorial, July 15, 1997.)

However, when it comes to the Hindus, the sentiments shown is exactly the opposite. In a letter dated June 10, 1994, to both the Roman Catholic Archbishops of Delhi and Mumbai, the President of the VHP, Shri Vishnu Hari Dalmia, wrote: "It will be in the fitness of things if the Church in India recognises its unsavoury role in the past and while admitting the same, assures the population of India that it will desist from such prejudicial activities in all parts of the country. Such a proclamation from the Church will not only pave the way for amity between these two great religions, but will also set an example for other religionists to emulate."

A reminder was sent on August 5 to both the persons. The secretary of the Archbishop of Mumbai merely acknowledged the receipt of the letter. The Archbishop of Delhi was in a combative mood that often reflects the thinking of the hierarchy in India. He wrote in a letter dated October 3, "I don't think any useful purpose will be served by going backwards into the past and especially trying to point out mistakes committed by various communities and members of the various religions who are living together in harmony in India. Our country has the unique record of harbouring the world's greatest religions whose followers, by and large, live together in peace, in tolerance. We Indians should do our best to preserve this heritage which in my belief is a great gift of God."

On October 14, Shri Dalmia wrote: "In recognising the past, the intention is to inform the present generation of the history as it is. It will also be a beacon for the manner of the interaction for nowadays. Just like the Germans and the others of today are not being blamed for the crimes of the Nazis, the apology that has been tendered is a clear indication that they do not associate with the philosophy of the Nazis. This is the way for living together in harmony in India. I would very much like to have your views on the points that I have raised."

This is where the correspondence rests - that is, there is no need to engage in a sincere dialogue. Subsequently the VHP pointed out the hypocrisy of the Roman Catholic Church in apologising to the Jews and the South American Indians, while refusing to even consider a similar act towards the Hindus. The office of the Archbishop of Mumbai said, "It is categorically denied that prejudicial activities were resorted by Roman Catholic missionaries in the centuries gone by nor has Dalmia made mention of a single such instance." (The Indian Express, April 24, 1996, "Negation of history is the best way to frustrate a dialogue")

Contents Page           Back to Home