Wonder whether it would have come so easily had it not been for the assertive Hindu groups protesting and retaliating. The least that such protests have done is to develop a public awareness on ‘fraudulent conversion’.

No reason to lower the guards, though.

 

Church to preachers: Be more sensitive

 

CITHARA PAUL

 

New Delhi, Dec. 28: The Indian Church has asked all Christian groups to guard against aggressive evangelism or denigration of other religions in an effort to become “more sensitive” towards local cultures.

The decision came at this month’s meeting of the Christian United Forum, which includes Baptists, Catholics, Lutherans, Seventh-day Adventists and Pentecostal groups among its members.

The resolution adopted at the meeting also asks the clergy and lay people to follow a simple lifestyle and try to be as environment-friendly as possible.

Aggressive evangelism by certain Christian groups has been earning the Church bad publicity by creating a perception that Christians are out to degrade and defame other religions, the resolution says. The “impression” that Christian groups are receiving money for every act of conversion does not help either, it adds.

The meeting, however, denied that Christians received money for conversions, or that they carried out “forcible conversions” — as alleged by the Sangh parivar, which wants a ban on conversions.

The conference has appealed to all Christian denominations to refrain, especially during preaching, from badmouthing other religious communities, their deities or the traditions they hold sacred since this violates Christ’s teaching of love, harmony and peace.

The resolution says the beauty of Christianity is tarnished when Christians denigrate others. “We have to work positively to build a harmonious relationship with people of all religions and cultures,’’ it says.

The Church leaders took the view that aggressive evangelism and attempts to denigrate other religions were partly responsible for the September 2008 communal riots in Karnataka. The National Commission for Minorities had given a similar report after the violence.

The Christian groups have also decided to set up a committee to formulate measures to end interdenominational conversions — known as “sheep stealing” — and strengthen Christian unity. They have stressed the need to have more co-ordination and dialogues among themselves.

The Church has also decided on a code of conduct for priests and seminary students, encouraging them to lead simple and austere lives. “It is time for introspection,” the resolution says.

Under the code, priests and seminarians are not expected to use expensive consumer goods but to eat and dress simply. The code asks the priests to turn down offers of luxuries.

While travelling, they should not choose high-end facilities but travel with the common people.

“The Church wants to curb lavishness of all kinds and set a model of austere and simple life,’’ said Fr Paul Thelakkat of the Catholic Bishops Council of India.

Priests have been asked to create a platform in every parish for interaction with lay people.

The laity should be educated on the importance of the environment and encouraged to turn parishes “as green as possible’’ and use solar power whenever possible.

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