Catholic priests are stirring up an epidemic of yogaphobia – Andrea R. Jain

Prof Andrea R. Jain“The more legitimate fear should be that yogaphobia has become so ubiquitous that even otherwise innocuous comments by powerful, high-profile people, such as the Pope, can be co-opted and put in service of a conservative agenda. This can prevent experimentation with widely popularized fitness-oriented yoga, even though there are many evidence-based claims regarding its physical and mental health benefits.” – Prof Andrea R. Jain

Fr. Gabriele AmorthWe see yoga practically everywhere we turn, from strip-mall yoga studios to advertisements for the Gap. So it seems reasonable to assume that yoga is nearly universally accepted, if not practised. But a growing number of individuals and institutions oppose yoga, and actively encourage fear of it. 

Yoga is satanic and “leads to evil,” warned Gabriele Amorth, Italian priest and chief exorcist for the Diocese of Rome, reported Vatican Insider in Nov. 2011. Three years later in July 2014, Father Padraig O’Baoill of County Donegal, Ireland, warned his parishioners against “endangering” their souls by practicing yoga, which he called “unsavoury.” Other high-profile opponents of yoga in the US include Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Pat Robertson, television evangelist and founder of the Christian Coalition of America.

It’s what I call the Christian yogaphobic position.

The danger of yoga, according to yogaphobics, is its Hindu essence, thought to be incompatible with Christianity, as I argue in Selling Yoga: From Counterculture to Pop Culture (Oxford, 2014). 

In one of the most high-profile cases of Christian yogaphobia, in Feb. 2013, some parents in Encinitas, California, complained that yoga classes from their kids’ public schools were  promoting Hinduism. Supported by the National Center for Law & Policy, an evangelical Christian civil liberties organization, the parents sued their school district for introducing religion into the curriculum. Although the judge ruled in favor of the school district, the fight continues. 

Pope FrancisEven Pope Francis, idol of the leftist media, has become part of this yogaphobic maelstrom. 

At one Jan. 9, 2015 morning mass in the Santa Marta residence in Vatican City, the Pope spoke of that day’s gospel reading, and mentioned that only the Holy Spirit could open peoples’ hearts and free them to love, no matter how many catechism courses, spirituality courses, zen courses or yoga courses they took. 

It didn’t seem like an intentional dig. The Pope had, after all, listed yoga alongside catechism classes and so did not set it apart as a practice that Catholics should avoid altogether, or as something incompatible with Catholic identity. Rather, he seemed to simply suggest the unique importance of a personal relationship with the Holy Spirit. But one conservative immediately spun the Pope’s words as another contribution to the growing, global yogaphobia movement. 

In a homily on the devil and exorcism delivered on Feb. 8, 2015, in County  Londonderry, Northern Ireland, Father Roland Colhoun warned that yoga leads to the “Kingdom of Darkness” and draws people toward “Satan and the fallen angels.” In a later Feb. 23 interview about his homily with the Derry Journal, Colhoun misquoted the Pope:

Pope Francis said ‘”do not seek spiritual answers in yoga classes.” Yoga is certainly a risk. There’s the spiritual health risk. When you take up those practices from other cultures, which are outside our Christian domain, you don’t know what you are opening yourself up to. 

The “bad spirit,” he added, could be caught in all sorts of ways: 

I’m not saying everyone gets it, or that it happens every time, and people may well be doing yoga harmlessly, but there’s always a risk and that’s why the Pope mentioned it and that’s why we talk about that in terms of the danger of the new age movement and the danger of the occult today. That’s the fear. 

Other contemporary high-profile Catholics have identified yoga as self-destructive activity, and associated it with Satan. In Selling Yoga, for example, I write about a 1989 letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) of the Roman Catholic Church, titled: Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of Christian Meditation.

Pope Benedict XVI: As Cardinal Ratzinger he was the head of the Inquisition.The letter warns of “dangers and errors” in fusing Christian and non-Christian meditative methods. It was written by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, later to be known as Pope Benedict XVI, and approved for publication by then-Pope John Paul II. 

Understandably, the CDF wants to prevent Catholics from undermining Church doctrine, but the letter does more—it incites fear, by judging eastern body practices as not just incompatible with Catholic doctrine, but dangerous. 

The letter warns that unless a person is an advanced religious adept in the Church, no bodily experiences can be legitimately identified as spiritual. It also asks that Christians who have acknowledged the meditative role of body practices avoid the “exaggerations and partiality” of eastern methods. 

Postures and breathing, according to the letter, can become an “idol and thus an obstacle” to experiencing God. It also warns that such body practices “can degenerate into a cult of the body” with severe consequences, including “mental schizophrenia,” “psychic disturbance,” or “moral deviations.”

Fr Roland ColhounThe Christian yogaphobic position leans on the misconception that yoga is definitively Hindu, an idea that ignores yoga’s actual history and lived reality. Selling Yoga cites many scholars who have shown that yoga has always taken a variety of forms in South Asia as Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, and others prescribed them. 

Recent scholarship has also problematized the identification of modern postural yoga, that widely popular physical fitness system, which involves the movement through physical postures and the synchronization of those postures with breathing, as Hindu. In fact, modern postural yoga is a product of a 20th-century response to transnational ideas and movements, including military calisthenics, modern medicine, and the Western European and North American physical culture of gymnasts, bodybuilders, martial experts, and contortionists. 

Nothing like modern postural yoga appeared in the historical record up to that time. 

There is no evidence that yoga will make you convert to Hinduism, self-destruct, have a schizophrenic breakdown, or worship Satan. 

Shiva wearing a yoga bandThe more legitimate fear should be that yogaphobia has become so ubiquitous that even otherwise innocuous comments by powerful, high-profile people, such as the Pope, can be co-opted and put in service of a conservative agenda. This can prevent experimentation with widely popularized fitness-oriented yoga, even though there are many evidence-based claims regarding its physical and mental health benefits. 

And when powerful, charismatic religious leaders are publicly cited insisting upon apparently irreconcilable differences between them (that is, Hindus) and us (that is, Christians), we can also expect real social consequences. – Quartz, 26 March 2015

» Andrea R. Jain is an Assistant Professor, Indiana University—Purdue University Indianapolis, Indianapolis, Indiana.

See also

Dalai Lama: “India has great potential to help the world” – Maria Wirth

Maria Wirth“Christianity and Islam have a terrible historical record, Indian traditions do not. There were many different ways of worship in India yet all lived peacefully together—till the dogmatic religions, Islam and Christianity, arrived on the scene, and Hindus became their victims.” – Maria Wirth

Dalai LamaH.H. the Dalai Lama said during the last Kumbh Mela in Haridwar that “India has great potential to help the world.” He added that already as a youth in Lhasa he was greatly impressed with the richness of Indian thought, and went as far as to say “Everything in my head is from India. I am a son of India.”

In India, however, there are two camps. One agrees with the Dalai Lama. The other does not and even ridicules anyone who claims that India’s heritage has great value.

I belong to those who agree with the Dalai Lama. The reason is simple: It is true. India does have great potential to help the world. There is plenty of evidence. Just read some of the ancient texts, for example the Upanishads. The insights contained therein are mind-boggling. For me, who grew up as a Christian and felt dissatisfied with what I was taught to believe, it was all the more obvious. Christianity is no equal to the Indian tradition.

Here I refer only to the philosophical and religious angle. Yet India’s heritage contains amazing knowledge in all possible fields—from science to music, from architecture to astronomy to medicine and so on. It is a huge treasure, in spite of the fact that a lot of this treasure has been lost or destroyed. Not without reason India is called the cradle of civilization and “Indian wisdom” is proverbial in the West.

Now, since it is clear that the Dalai Lama is right, how can there be people who disagree?

Thomas Babington MacaulayThis is a long story that started in 1835 when a politician called Thomas Macaulay pleaded in the British Parliament to replace the Sanskrit gurukuls in India with English education. He argued that if Britain wants to successfully subdue Indians, they need to be cut off from their culture.

Macauley got his way. From then on, the Indian elite had to send their children to English medium schools, if they wanted them to make it in life. Naturally, the kids didn’t hear much about their own great culture and whatever little they heard, was negative. And since they didn’t learn Sanskrit, they could not check it out for themselves.

Ironically, this happened at a time when the European elite had discovered Sanskrit and India’s wisdom and were stunned by its depth. This discovery contributed to the so-called era of enlightenment in Europe which resulted in a separation between State and Church.

Yet Indian children were taught from mid-19th century onwards, how great and accomplished Britain was. It suited the colonial masters to have “educated natives” who held them and their lifestyle, including their religion, in high esteem. In return, they, especially those who had converted to the western religions, were allowed to feel superior to the ‘superstitious Indian masses’.

Brainwashing works. And Indians proved that it lasts even over several generations. Those who claim that the Dalai Lama is wrong are generally “Macaulay’s children” who feel proud that they are fluent in English and don’t realize that they have been uprooted in the interest of their former masters.

These people never delved into the rich Indian heritage that had impressed the Dalai Lama. Yet in spite of their ignorance, they claim that India has nothing to offer. They don’t really claim it: they shout it, so that any opposition to their view cannot be heard. Of course this is not a healthy state of affairs, but it plays out often on Indian news channels: Macauley’s children (or should I call them ‘anti-Hindu brigade’?) accuse and insinuate about Hinduism what the British convent schools had taught them.

 Baselios Cardinal Cleemis is the current President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India.Missionaries have always maligned Hinduism, but in the recent decades, a new, dangerous insinuation is noisily propagated. Christian leaders support it and the international media eagerly picks it up. It is this:

“Hindus are intolerant of other religions. They hate members of other religions, and now, since there is a BJP government, they show their agenda openly. They want a Hindu India and the obliteration of other religions. The rising incidents of attacks on churches prove it.”

“Who will stop this hate” kept flashing on the screen of a news channel, after a stone had damaged a church window. Such insinuations are unbearably unfair. Hindus (other Indian traditions included) are by far the most tolerant people on earth. There is no other country, where minority Christians, Jews and Muslims are as safe as in India. And yet there seems to be a coordinated effort by Indians and westerners, which is gleefully supported by the media, to paint Hindus as hateful of other religions.

“Attacks on churches have a pattern” they shout, when there is no pattern. After a burglary of Rs 8000 in a Christian school, Macauley’s children demanded a statement from the Prime Minister in spite of the fact that the principal of the school—a nun—and the police had stated that it was theft without any communal angle. When children threw a stone at a church, it made national news for hours, and will probably be eagerly included in international news reports that “incidents of attacks on churches are rising in India”.

In contrast, attacks on temples are not considered newsworthy. In 2014, 206 temples and 3 churches were vandalized. If vandalism of a place of worship is expected to have been committed by culprits from another religion, then the number of attacks on churches should be a multiple of the attacks on temples, because Hindus are the great majority. How come that far more temples were vandalized?

New Delhi TemplesThe point is that the anti-Hindu brigade is not interested in the truth. They want that attacks on churches are rising, at least in the perception of people the world over. They want that ‘Hinduism’ evokes disgust. What could be the reason?

President Obama’s recent remarks may give a hint. At a prayer breakfast in the White House a few days after the Jordanian Air Force pilot was brutally burned alive by ISIS, he tried to give the impression that Islam, Christianity and Hinduism are all in the same boat. They all have committed unspeakable atrocities. “Even Gandhi would be shocked”, he said referring to India.

Now this attempt to draw Hinduism in was blatantly dishonest. While Christianity and Islam indeed have a terrible historical record, Indian traditions do not. There were many different ways of worship in India yet all lived peacefully together—till the dogmatic religions, Islam and Christianity, arrived on the scene, and Hindus became their victims.

Instead of trying to pull Hinduism down to the level of the dogmatic religions in the perception of others, it would be better to find out what makes dogmatic religions prone to violence and eliminate those aspects.

One major aspect is the fact that the dogmatic religions mix up the path with the truth. They claim that only one path is true – their own – and all have to follow this one path, when in reality only one truth is true and paths are many. The Rishis declared “Truth is one; the sages call it by many names”.

Abrahamic ReligionsThe problem with the dogmatic religions is, however, that they don’t enquire into what is really true. They think that truth is the opposite of a lie, and insist that the story they tell about God is true and not a lie. They never deeply reflected on what is really and absolutely true about us and the universe.

Indian Rishis did reflect and came up with deep insights. Truth is the eternal, unchanging, infinite, conscious basis that upholds this ever-changing universe. Names and forms are only fleeting and impermanent appearances on this basis which is among others described as Sat-Chit-Ananda.

The Rishis claim that the goal of life is to discover this truth in us and they show many ways, depending on the tendencies of different persons – bhakti, jnana, karma, yoga, etc. The Hindu tradition is open-minded: If devotion to Krishna helps you, it is fine. If devotion to Jesus helps you, it is also fine.

Will the dogmatic religions correct themselves? Will they agree that truth is one and different paths are possible? It seems so natural and would make such big positive change in the world.

Yet it is not likely that those religions will give up the power that comes with “we alone have the truth” without being pressurized. They keep defending their flawed religion, and one major aspect of this defense is to malign Hindu Dharma. The reason may be that they are aware that if people knew the truth about Hindu Dharma, they would appreciate it as it makes far more sense than the dogmatic religions.

Encyclopedia of HinduismIndians need to ponder how to translate the potential of their tradition to help the world into reality. Mainstream media clearly sides with dogmatic religions and its influence is close to almighty. Yet those religions have serious drawbacks. Their followers are left stranded regarding the meaning of life. Depression is rampant in the Christian West and Muslim youth is horribly misguided to believe that killing unbelievers makes their lives meaningful and will fetch them a reward in afterlife.

If Hindus and Buddhists join together and propagate India’s wisdom, their voice is more likely to be heard. At the same time, they need to expose absurd dogmas and forcefully demand at international forums that nobody can claim without any evidence that non–Christians—and non-Muslims respectively—will burn in hell for all eternity.

If this is not hate speech, what is? If this is not against human rights, what is?

Voltaire said: “Those who can make you believe in absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” The belief in absurdities needs to be stopped. Then atrocities in the name of religion will stop automatically. – Maria Wirth Blog, 1 March 2015

» Maria Wirth is a German psychology major and writer. She lives in  North India and tweets at @mariawirth1.

Irish Catholic priest condemns yoga as ‘work of the devil’ – Steven Alexander

Roland ColhounFr Roland Colhoun made headlines around the world when he said that practising yoga or receiving Indian head massages will lead to the “Kingdom of Darkness.” – Steven Alexander

Hindus are urging Pope Francis to discipline a Catholic priest from Northern Ireland after he suggested yoga was the work of the devil.

Fr Roland Colhoun made headlines around the world when he said that practising yoga or receiving Indian head massages will lead to the “Kingdom of Darkness”.

The priest from the Glendermott parish in Londonderry said yoga had its origins in paganism, and would draw practitioners into the “bad spiritual domain”.

There, he said, lurks “Satan and the Fallen Angels, the Kingdom of Darkness”.

Yesterday, Hindus hit back in the form of Rajan Zed, president of the Universal Society of Hinduism.

Rajan ZedHe said that he would be “urging His Holiness Pope Francis to discipline a Derry Catholic priest who linked yoga to Satan”.

The Hindu spiritual leader also claimed that the Vatican library itself held various yoga-related books, and he would be contacting the Bishop of Derry Bishop, Donal McKeown, to let him know about them [Refer Bishop not commenting on global yoga storm].

In a statement from Nevada in the US, he called for yoga to be introduced in every school.

“Seeing the proven benefits of yoga, it should be introduced in all the schools of the world,” he said. “Incorporating yoga in the lives of the students would be a step in the positive direction.”

He said that the ancient discipline can help users to feel more relaxed, be more flexible, improve posture, breathe deeply and get rid of stress.

Mr Zed said that yoga, “although introduced and nourished by Hinduism”, was a “world heritage and liberation powerhouse to be utilised by all”. 

And he claimed yoga was an “effort to attain perfection, through the control of the different elements of human nature, physical and psychical”.

Fr Calhoun was thrust into the spotlight after he told the Derry Journal that yoga was essentially Satanic.

“Pope Francis said ‘do not seek spiritual answers in yoga classes’. Yoga is certainly a risk. There’s the spiritual health risk,” he said.

“When you take up those practices from other cultures, which are outside our Christian domain, you don’t know what you are opening yourself up to.

Fr. Gabriele Amorth“The bad spirit can be communicated in a variety of ways. I’m not saying everyone gets it, or that it happens every time, and people may well be doing yoga harmlessly. But there’s always a risk and that’s why the Pope mentioned it and that’s why we talk about that in terms of the danger of the new age movement and the danger of the occult today. That’s the fear.”

Fr Colhoun is not alone in the Catholic Church. In 2011, the Vatican’s own chief exorcist, Gabriele Amorth, told The Telegraph that it leads to a belief in Hinduism, and that “all eastern religions are based on false belief in reincarnation.”

And former Pope Benedict XVI, when he leader of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, warned that yoga, Zen, and other transcendental meditation could “degenerate into a cult of the body” that devalues prayer.

Background

In 1989, the Vatican’s doctrinal watchdog warned that Eastern meditation practices such as Zen and yoga can “degenerate into a cult of the body” that debases Christian prayer. Attempts to combine Christian and non-Christian meditation are “not free from dangers and errors,” it said. The 23-page document was signed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI) and approved by Pope John Paul II. – Belfast Telegraph, 23 February 2015

See also

  1. “Yoga and Harry Potter are evil,” says Vatican’s chief exorcist – ANI
  2. Fr. Gabriele Amorth on Yoga: A Passport to Hell? – Virendra Parekh
  3. Chief exorcist says Devil is in the Vatican – Nick Squires
  4. American pastor says yoga is ‘demonic’ – Dean Nelson

Evangelism abetted by Christian principal in a Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam college – IndiaFacts Staff

Dr M. D. Christopher

SVU College of Arts, Tirupati“Until Hindus take back their temples, it is advisable not to donate to Government-controlled temples. If Hindus really wish to donate, then they will be better served by donating it to a Hindu organization which really cares for Hindu causes and the Hindu community.” – IndiaFacts Staff

The Principal of the Sri Venkateshwara Arts College who goes by the name of Dr M. D. Christopher has been accused by the students of college and various student organizations that he is aiding Christian proselytization. If one looks at the happenings at the SV Arts College in the recent months, there is a strong possibility that this allegation is indeed true.

Evangelist literature is being distributed to students in the college campus. The manner in which the evangelist books are distributed is quite alarming and would not have been possible without the helping hand of the college administration. The students of the hostel are specially targeted for this soul harvest. Evangelical books and other literature arrived in a postal package and were addressed to each student by his name and they were in fact delivered to his room in the hostel. The students say that such distribution of books has happened many times over.

Students allege that complaints about this missionary activity to the Principal  and TTD officials have fallen on deaf ears. The students of the college directly point fingers at the Principal. The Principal has appointed to his staff a person named Rajkumar. Rajkumar is alleged to have given out the names and addresses of the students to the missionary organization distributing the literature. In spite of repeated complaints, no action was taken by the Principal. The Principal is also accused of appointing non-Hindu staff. A complete report (from TV9 Telugu) on this incident can be found here.

SVU College of Arts, TirupatiVandalism at Sri Venkateshwara Arts College

The walls of SV Arts College were painted with portraits of freedom fighters, poets and kings a couple of years back for the World Telugu Conference. The students and the local community over there were maintaining it well and keeping a watch to ensure that there were no posters/bills pasted on them.

However, a couple of days ago, miscreants disfigured these portraits by placing a Christian cross mark on the faces of the luminaries. Even the much celebrated Sri Krishnadeva Raya of the Vijayanagar empire was not spared from this crude expression of superiority of faith.

The College already facing the brunt of missionaries boiled again with student and religious organizations taking up protests. Whether this was done by mischief mongers or by Christians will perhaps be revealed in an investigation but the blame again has to be placed primarily on the shoulders of the college Principal and TTD for not keeping such vandalism in check especially when this very College with same Principal has been in the eye of storm for the past few months for missionary activities. The complete report (from NTV) on the vandalism at SV Arts College can be viewed here.

YSR taking communion from a Christian priest.TTD: Trojan Horse and a symbol of secular Government tyranny

During the YSR and Kiran Kumar Reddy-led Congress rule in Andhra, the state witnessed evangelism on a massive scale. The TTD too was not spared. There were reports in the Telugu media about the employment of Christians in TTD. Due to public outrage, a Government order was also issued directing the TTD to have only Hindus on its payroll. Swami Paripoornananda of Sri Peetam, Kakinanda had to protest again as the order was never implemented.

A Christian pastor was recently apprehended by the police after making a video of him along with his comrades visiting Tirumala and calling the Hindus as devil worshippers. The TTD staff have repeatedly failed miserably to stop such incidents. On many occasions, missionaries used to distribute evangelist material openly but the TTD was utterly inefficient in stopping this vulturesque preying on Hindus.

First, the TTD should not have hired a Christian principal or any staff it a college run by it. After reports and strong evidence of support for evangelism by this Principal, it should have dismissed the Principal. On the contrary it asked the police to lathi-charge the protesting students.

The reason for this incapacity of the TTD is because it is subject to political influence and appointment of people to positions including the Endowment / Executive Officer are appointed by the ruling party. How can the Hindu community be served if the administration is not seen as a service of the Divine but as a career option?

Many Hindus are not aware of the fact that several prominent temples including TTD which gets thousands of crores as revenue are taken over by various state governments and the most of the revenue goes to the state treasurer. This is the reason one sees many hundis placed all over precincts of Government controlled temples. Many mindless rituals are done just to extract money from the devotees worldwide. The TTD has become a master at selling tickets to various redundant rituals and utsavams.

This Government control of temples is a throwback to the colonial past where the Christian British and Muslims Kingdoms used to take over the revenue generated from temples as tax. It was also a mechanism to hurt the Hindus in terms of demography. Donations made by devotees which would have gone to the development of the poorest of the community went to a foreign colonizer. At the same time, the British government planted several Christian missions across the country which targeted the same poorer section of the Hindu demographic that would have gained benefits from the donations made to temples.

State Institute of Temple AdministrationNearly seven decades after Independence, the pattern has not changed. Secular state governments have taken over several Hindu temples, the Community’s money is looted by the government—money, which is supposed to protect the right to practice and propagate the Hinduism, one of the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution. Hindus live in an independent and secular country but their fundamental right to freedom is severely curtailed. How is the Hindu community supposed to take care of its poorest when the community’s hard earned money is taken away from it?

The Christian community which has a huge proselytizing mission with massive funds backing it, has extensively benefited in Andhra and elsewhere as they have targeted the poor amongst the Hindus for conversions. They have gained massively in demographics due to this tyranny perpetrated on the Hindus. A foreign religion is being given such massive advantage over a native religion which swears by nationalism and deep-rooted philosophical and spiritual traditions spanning thousands of years. How long will it be before India becomes another Philippines or a South Korea, nothing more than a Christian outpost of the West.

Imagine the number of schools, colleges, hospitals and other institutions Hindus could have built and sustained and how it would have changed the lives of poor Hindus. The secular state governments and the central government have become the biggest roadblocks to the prosperity and safety of Hindus.

Swami Dayananda SaraswatiThe long-term goal for Hindus should be to free Hindu Temples from Government control. There are several organizations working across the country towards this goal.

The Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha already has filed a case in the Supreme Court. In a seminar on temples, I had once heard from Swami Dayananda Saraswati that none of the state governments from the south had answered the questions put forth by HDAS in the honorable Supreme Court. Given the rate at which the judiciary functions, one should expect that Hindus are in a for a long grind and by that time, severe damage would have been done.

It would be better to lobby with a supposedly pro-Hindu central government to remove the Hindu Endowments Act completely from the Constitution. Please contact the various BJP Members of Parliament and Members of Legislative Assembly and ask them to remove this draconian act that is killing the Hindu community.

Narendra Modi & Rajnath SinghThe silence of the Narendra Modi Government in this regard is disheartening. The Government is aware of the problem, it is also aware of the fact that it is the Hindus that voted them to power. It’s been nine months since the NDA came into power and yet it has not taken any concrete steps to provide equality to Hindus. Hindus need to make their collective voices heard and bring pressure on the Modi Government. If it fails to act despite this, the BJP should be shown its place in the sun.

Many times, Hindus complain that Hindu organisations could have better spokespersons to represent them in the media. However, the travesty is that people donate to a government controlled temple like the TTD in crores but not to a Hindu organization that could protect our Dharma. That should tell us something.

In the end, until Hindus take back their temples, it is advisable not to donate to Government-controlled temples. If Hindus really wish to donate, then they will be better served by donating it to a Hindu organization which really cares for Hindu causes and the community.

Tirumala Tirupathi DevasthanamsThe road ahead

The TTD has taken a token action of ordering an investigation and a criminal case has been registered. But that by itself does not guarantee that such incidents will not recur in the future. Readers are requested to call up the official TTD numbers or email them to immediately dismiss the college principal on the grounds that he happens to be a Christian. Please ask the TTD to remove any non-Hindus from its payroll be it from colleges or from temple administration and all institutions run by it. To get a swift response from the TTD, readers should contact the Executive Officer(EO).

E-mail Ids:

Executive Officer: eo@tirumala.org

Joint Executive Officer, Tirumala: jeotml@tirumala.org

Joint Executive Officer, Tirupati: jeotpt@tirumala.org

Chief Vigilance & Security Officer: cvso@tirumala.org

Public Relations Officer: pro@tirumala.org

Phone Numbers of TTD Officials:

Executive Officer: 0877-2264160(c), 4977(o), 4393(o)

JEO Tirupati: 0877-2264877(c), 4231(o)

PA to the Executive Officer: 0877-2264545

Public Relations Officer: 0877-2264392

Central Reception Officer: 0877-2263922

Chief Accounts Officer: 0877-2264752,4213

Chief Vigilance & Security: 0877-2264390

Devasthanam Law officer: 0877-2264317

Dev. Educational Officer: 0877-2264396

Dharma Prachara Parishad: 0877-2264490,92,93,94

Overseas Temple: 0877-2277718

Complaints/Suggestions: 18004254141

Article Source: IndiaFacts, 22 February 2015

 

Religious Freedom: Whose freedom is it? – Virendra Parekh

Virendra Parekh“The Church claims the right to freedom of religion, by which it means its own right to convert others, and never the other way round (recall its strong condemnation of Ghar Wapsi). Christian evangelical efforts in the world today constitute nothing less than an open declaration of war on other religions. What it forgets is that if missionaries have a right to preach the Gospel, ancient societies professing pacifist non-proselytising religions have a right to defend themselves.” – Virendra Parekh

Narendra ModiThanks, but no thanks. That would be the reaction of discerning missionaries to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s much awaited intervention in the ongoing discourse on tolerance and religious freedom. He has obliged them at last, but with a twist which negates much of the favour.

On the face of it, it would be a matter of immense satisfaction to the Church that the political head of a non-Christian secular country attended a purely religious function (organised by the Church to celebrate the sainthood of Kuriakose Elias Chavara and Mother Euphrasia) and spoke of ‘tolerance’, ‘freedom of faith’ and ‘the individual’s right to adopt the religion of his choice’.

The satisfaction was heightened by the context. Having availed of India’s hospitality for two days, the US President Barack Obama thought it fit and necessary to harangue us heathens on virtues of tolerance and religious freedom. “India will succeed so long as it is not splintered on religious lines,” he intoned in Delhi.

The hypocrisy of this moral grandstanding was astounding. Obama’s remarks were made shortly before he flew to Saudi Arabia, a country which openly denies religious freedom in theory and practice. Pakistan routinely and systematically persecutes its Hindu and Christian minorities, but remains Obama’s frontline ally in the so-called war on terror and receives guns and dollars in large quantities. Yet “Nowhere is it more important to uphold religious freedom than in India.” Back home in Washington he bemoaned the “acts of intolerance that would have shocked Gandhiji.”

Obama also has a Christian agenda for South AsiaThe hand of the missionary network behind the remark was too obvious to be ignored. It was no coincidence that the US Commission for International Religious Freedom, which was instrumental in the blacklisting of Mr. Narendra Modi after the 2002 Gujarat violence and believes that religious freedom in India is comparable to that in Afghanistan and Turkey, welcomed the President’s remarks. As pointed out by Vamadeva Shasta [see comment below], Obama, like Bill Clinton before him, is connected to Southern Baptist groups who have global missionary networks, but would not mention this in public or condemn the bigotry of Southern Baptists, who would not accept the Hindu, Buddhist or Sikh paths as valid.

An editorial in The New York Times asked the prime minister to break his ‘deafening’ silence on religious intolerance.

And now Narendra Modi has spoken what was expected of him, but with important improvisation. For the missionaries, it is bad enough that he wants every Indian (and not just Hindus) to have equal respect for all religions. He appealed to ‘ALL’ religious groups (and not just Hindus) to act with restraint, mutual respect, and tolerance in the true spirit of this ancient nation.

He went on to say “My government will ensure that there is complete freedom of faith and that everyone has the undeniable right to retain or adopt the religion of his or her choice without coercion or undue influence.” This reference to the right to adopt a religion of one’s choice is no doubt a big (and reckless) concession to the Abrahamic creeds. But there is a double qualification here. The right to retain one’s ancestral faith precedes the one to choose another; secondly, the change of religion has to be made ‘without coercion or undue influence’, if at all. The standard Hindu position is that we should stick to the tradition we are born into, while respecting and learning from other traditions. Modi went as close to that as possible under the Constitution.

But Hindu intellectuals and organisations need to go further.

They should ask bishops and maulavis whether they are prepared to extend the same tolerance to Hinduism and Hindus that they routinely expect from others as a matter of right. If they are, they should stop conversions and jihadi terrorism. If they are not, how can they expect tolerance from the Hindus?

Ram SwarupFor Abrahamic religions, religious tolerance and freedom of religion is a one-way street. According to World Christian Encyclopedia tolerance means that Christians should “show genuine religious tolerance to at other expressions of faith in Christ.” But so far as other, non-Christian religions are concerned, religious toleration “does not deny their convictions about Christ and his church or abandon proclamation, evangelism or conversion”. The Christians retain their right to “believe other religions false and inadequate” and to “attempt to win (adherents) to faith and Jesus Christ.” (The World Christian Encyclopaedia by David B Barrett OUP 1982 reviewed by Ram Swarup in The Times of India, July 14, 1985)

This view of religious tolerance and freedom of religion is implicitly accepted by the modern West in its dealings with other, especially eastern traditions. But they run into a big problem: How to sound liberal without ceasing to be. You scratch them a little and the old theology of Christian superiority shines forth undiminished.

In the last hundred years, western scholars have developed a new intellectual apparatus to attack non-Christian religions and gods. The language of this attack is not theological but psychological. Brazen attempts to subvert and destroy other traditions are paraded as right of the individual to practice a religion of his choice.

This touching concern for individual rights is a cloak for theological arrogance. In Christian theology, a pagan is more than just a nasty physical fact; essentially, he is a lost soul needing to be saved by Jesus and his Church missionaries. Thanks to the powerful Eleanor Roosevelt with the Spanish version of the Universal Declaration of Human Rightsmissionary lobby in the UN, its Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 states that every individual has a right to embrace the religion or belief of his choice. This has been interpreted as the right of the Church to seek converts among the world’s peoples without hindrance by whatever means and regardless of the consequences to the man and society. It has opened the doors for questionable proselytisation and conversion tactics with lethal consequences to native traditions across the world. The missionary apparatus is a real threat to the genuine freedom of faith.

The Church claims the right to freedom of religion, by which it means its own right to convert others, and never the other way round (recall its strong condemnation of Ghar Wapasi). Christian evangelical efforts in the world today constitute nothing less than an open declaration of war on other religions. What it forgets is that if missionaries have a right to preach the Gospel, ancient societies professing pacifist non-proselytising religions have a right to defend themselves.

Hindu organizations should work for a new and equitable definition of freedom of religion to end this theological warfare and bring peace among religions. The UN must recognize explicitly that countries, cultures and peoples of tolerant philosophies and religions who believe in live and let live too have a right of protection against aggressive, systematic proselytizing. The new charter will assert that an individual’s right to religious freedom includes the right to practice his faith in peace free from uninvited attacks upon his faith and family, and not to be forced to compromise his faith as price of accepting help in times of societal or personal upheaval.

M. K. GandhiThis is the view that Narendra Modi should articulate next time when he holds forth on freedom of religion. Most of the non-Christian world, targeted by the Church, will endorse this view. He could also share with his buddy Barack a few things Gandhiji said about the missionary activity and conversions.

In a note to a missionary, Dr. Thornton, Gandhiji wrote, “if the missionary friends will forget their mission viz. of proselytising Indians and of bringing Christ to them, they will do wonderfully good work. Your duty is done with the ulterior motive of proselytising. When I go to your institutions, I do not feel I am going to an Indian institution. This is what worries me.”

Gandhiji’s advice to the missionaries was five-fold. First, stop conversions altogether as “it is the deadliest poison that ever sapped the fountain of truth.” Second, if you must convert, direct your efforts to those who are in a position to assess these matters properly. Do not target the poor, the illiterate or the destitute. Third, even for that effort, it would be better for non-Indian missionaries to return to their countries and attend to problems there. Those problems are large enough to engage all the missionaries that can be made available there. Fourth, in doing any kind of work among people, compliment the faith of the people, do not undermine it. Do not denationalise them. Finally, instead of living the life of the Church, live the life of Jesus, of piety, of the Sermon on the Mount. Let that life, that example, persuade people to embrace Christianity if they will, not this salesmanship.

Like the Mahatma, many modern Hindus have wondered why the Church cannot emulate the example of the Ramakrishna Mission and make the tribal understand his own religion better. What is the need for introducing him to Christ, the Bible and Christianity when his own objects of devotion, veneration and spirituality can serve him equally well?

Like communists, the Church too has contributed a lot to the corruption of language, loading innocuous phrases with self-serving but sinister meanings and connotations. It is time to undo the damage not just to the language but also to the thought. That will be the beginning of real tolerance and freedom.

» Virendra Parekh and is a Senior Journalist in Mumbai, writing in English and Gujarati on nationalist, economic and political themes and issues. He is the Executive Editor of Corporate India.

Narendra Modi addressing at the National Celebration of the Elevation to Sainthood of Kuriakose Elias Chavara and Mother Euphrasia, in New Delhi on 17 Feb 2015_

Aggressive evangelism makes ‘ghar wapsi’ pale in comparison – Pawan Deshpande

Pawan Deshpande“The Christian percentage of the Indian populace has grown by a staggering 150 per cent. In other words, India now has more Christians than any First World country aside from the United States and Russia according to Pew Research’s Religion & Public Life Project.” – Pawan Deshpande

Ghar Wapsi event in AgraOver the past month, Indian media has tirelessly covered and attacked the RSS for its plans to convert several thousand Christians and Muslims to Hinduism. The press hubbub was largely stirred up by parties in the Opposition such as the defeated Indian National Congress, West Bengal’s All India Trinamool Congress, and the Marxist parties, which criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi, though these reconversions were not sanctioned by a government entity. The media glare and politicisation of the events eventually put so much pressure on the RSS that it shelved its plans temporarily.

All along, the media and the Indian Left have thoroughly scrutinised the RSS for its self-proclaimed delusional ambitions to rid the nation of Christians as proclaimed by RSS pracharak Rajeshwar Singh, “Ek din in girijagharo ki deewarein bhi gir jayengi aur hamara desh sirf hinduon ka hoga” (One day these churches will crumble and our country will belong to the Hindus alone). But the dialogue on this drive has completely ignored the unbridled conversion of Hindus to Christianity in the past few decades.

Quantifying the enormous scale of conversions to Christianity in India is difficult because the means of doing so have been secretive, as the media has largely failed to cover this issue, and because the previous government took steps to conceal India’s current religious demography.

Every decade, the Government of India conducts a national census inquiring the populace about many details such as their age, household conditions, access to utilities, literacy level, ownership of vehicles, children and many other aspects of their lives. Among these questions is a question about their religious affiliation. The last official Indian census to publish statistics about the nation’s religious demography was in 2001. At that time, 2.34 per cent of the nation’s population were reported to be Christians; 14 years have passed since the survey, and many Christians and Hindus alike estimate that this percentage has greatly increased in the intervening years.

The problem is that there are no official numbers to verify these claims. Though the census was re-conducted in 2011, the government, in an unprecedented manner, deliberately chose not to publish the census data for this question without any explanation. Why would the government hide this information? Some credible observers presume that the numbers would be hard to swallow for India’s Hindu majority—it’s quite possible that Hindus may now consist of less than 80 per cent of the population in part due to a slightly higher Muslim fertility rate—“not too large to swamp India’s Hindu majority in the foreseeable future,” the linked analysis says—in conjunction with conversions of Hindus to Christianity, the rate of which is unknown.

YSR taking communion from a Christian priest.Fearing a political backlash from Hindu voters in the 2014 elections, the then ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, known for cashing in on classic vote-bank politics and crude minorityism, likely felt that the truth of India’s religious demography was best kept secret.

With no official census figures, the next best source of data to ascertain the current Christian percentage of India is Christian missionary organisations. One of the most well regarded missionary almanacs for missionaries, Operation World—launched as a reference book and prayer guide by Patrick Johnstone and continued by Jason Mandryk and regarded by most evangelicals as the definitive volume of prayer information about the world—published that as of 2010, 5.84 per cent of India was Christian equating to 71 million adherents.

Unlike the previous government of India, evangelicals are quite proud of this as stated by Dick McClain, president and CEO of The Mission Society: “With more than 71 million claiming Christianity, India is now the eighth largest Christian nation in the world.”

If true, then, in less than a decade, the Christian percentage of the Indian populace has grown by a staggering 150 per cent. In other words, India now has more Christians than any First World country aside from the United States and Russia according to Pew Research’s Religion & Public Life Project.

India’s Muslim population as a percentage has largely grown as a result of a higher fertility rate and by undocumented cross-national immigration from Bangladesh. On the other hand, India’s Christian population has had trouble sustaining its numbers through reproduction alone. At times, the Christian fertility rate in India has plunged so much that in 2009, the churches in Mizoram and Kerala incentivized their communities to have at least four children per family. If India’s Christian population cannot grow by virtue of fertility rates, has there been massive immigration of Christians to India? No. But read on.

In 2001, according to official census data, three states in the northeast of India, namely Mizoram, Nagaland and Meghalaya, were majority Christian. It is unknown which other states are now Christian majority, and whether Christians grew at the expense of Hindus alone, though that is very likely as Muslims and followers of other faiths are rarely reported to embrace Christianity.

In 2014, a blog post in The New York Times speculated that another north-eastern Indian state, Arunachal Pradesh, was likely home to a Christian majority, having gone from 1 per cent Christian population in the 1971 census to a 18.7 per cent in 2001. The report estimated that hundreds of thousands of inhabitants in the state had adopted Christianity in the past decade allured by promises of faith healers, and benefits administered through Christian institutions such as free healthcare and education. But Arunachal Pradesh, with a total statewide headcount of 1.2 million, alone cannot explain the large growth in India’s Christian population.

Christian Money Though an official headcount for India’s Christian percentage is unobtainable at this time, the 2010 Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) of the Indian government does offer clues on how well funded—and large scale—missionary organisations are. The FCRA was created for the Indian government to ensure that funding of Indian NGOs from foreign entities is ethical and used for good ends. For example, the act seeks to filter out funding to NGOs that indulge in activities to manipulate the country’s political system, corrupt the government, or work against nation’s interests, such as engaging in religious conversion through inducement or force.

Though well-intentioned, the FCRA does not really do its job as revealed in their annual report. Missionary organisations that engage in predatory proselytising, including conditioning of aid distributions, compose the majority of the list of the largest recipients and donors out of all NGOs in India. According to the 2011-2012 report, seven of the top 15 Indian foreign-funded NGOs are missionary Christian organisations that received a total of Rs 879 crore that year:

– World Vision Of India
– Believers Church India
– Indian Society Of Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter Day Saints
– Caruna Bal Vikas
– Gospel For Asia
– Compassion East India
– Missionaries of Charity

On the other side of the money trail, seven missionary Christian organisations are in the top 15 list having provided a total of Rs 512 crore:

– Compassion International
– The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints
– Kindernothilfe
– General Conference of Seventh Day Adventists
– WORT & TAT Allgemeine Missions Geselischaft
– Christian Foundation for Children and Aging
– Evangelischer Entwicklungsdienst

The top 15 is followed by a long trail of other churches and ministries infusing billions of dollars of funds for converting Indians to Christianity.

World Vision missionary in UttarakhandThe Conversion Wars

Taking a chapter from the playbook of Christian missionaries, the modus operandi that the RSS has adopted for reconversions has been through economic enticements rather than genuine spiritual attraction. For example, Sufia Begum, a 76-year-old former Muslim who converted to Hinduism, explained her true reason for the change of faith, “The RSS people assured us that they will provide us better place to live, better food and schooling for my grandsons. I don’t mind change of religion, as religion doesn’t give us food to eat.”

Similarly, in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami, aid workers from Gospel For Asia and the Believers Church, transported hundreds of villagers of Akkaraipettai in Tamil Nadu, India, to a location six miles away. Away from the oversight of government officials, the aid workers distributed disaster relief supplies such as sleeping mats, plates, saris, 55-pound bags of rice and a book of Biblical verses that condemned alcohol and abortion. The missionaries also established an orphanage housing 108 primarily Hindu children, again outside of government oversight, and taught the orphans to recite Christian prayers six times per day.

To better protect the vulnerable victims of these conversion wars, several Indian states have proposed or even passed “Anti-Conversion Laws”. Rather than preventing conversion of faith outright, these laws typically require an individual to register with the government when they seek to change religions, enabling the government to ensure that the conversion is not being made under duress or through enticements. These laws extend the common concept of religious freedom to also encompass the right to freedom from religious intrusion and exploitation.

While many Hindu organisations support such legislation, many Christian organisations which benefit from such unethical practices have protested against these laws, claiming that they impinge on one’s freedom to adopt a new faith. Under pressure from evangelical Christian groups, such laws have drawn scrutiny from governmental bodies outside of India such as the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).

Shuddhi YagnaGhar Wapsi: Just a Finger in the Dyke

The RSS, Indian leftist parties and the Indian press are all guilty of portraying the ghar wapsi event as the harbinger of the eradication of minorities in India as evidenced by rhetorical statements by Rajeshwar Singh, the RSS organiser of the recent ghar wapsi, such as “Just wait and watch. 31 December 2021 is the last for Christianity and Islam in this country”.

Rather than using ghar wapsi as yet another obvious opportunity to criticise the RSS and the Modi government, the event should instead be used to force a larger, urgent and direly needed discussion regarding the ethics and practice of predatory proselytization that continues to endanger India’s religious harmony and pluralistic ethos. – Swaraja, 14 January 2015

» Pawan Deshpande is on the Executive Council of the Hindu American Foundation, and a CEO of a software company based in Boston, Massachusetts.

Missionary Target
Missionary Target Window

See also

Philippines: Asia’s most Catholic nation purges street children for Pope’s visit – Charlie Campbell

Pope Francis Manila

Charlie Campbell“Children are summarily kept for anything up to three months without charge, with little ones sharing cells with young adults. Many fall prey to serious sexual and physical abuse: Kids just eight-years-old are often tormented into performing sex acts on the older detainees.” – Charlie Campbell

Manila street girl chained to pole.Pope Francis took the helm of the Catholic Church last year, vowing to refashion the institution “for the poor.” Yet during his recent five-day visit to the Philippines, where he presided over Mass for more than six million rapturous worshippers, it appeared many of the nation’s most impoverished were cruelly banished from view.

As the Pontiff touched down in Asia’s most Catholic nation, reports emerged that street children had been rounded up and caged in order to sanitize Manila’s streets. Local authorities vehemently denied this was a case, pointing out that the accompanying photographs of an emaciated toddler and young girl handcuffed to a metal pole had in fact been taken months earlier.

However, rumors continued to swirl as more anecdotal evidence arrived. So was the Philippine capital purged of unsightly urchins? In a word, yes, although only a small fraction of this was anything new.

According to local activists, street children are constantly being rounded up across this sprawling metropolis of 12 million. This is generally for vagrancy and petty crime — they are often scapegoats for the deeds committed by organized gangs — and, although numbers are hard to pin down, the Pope’s visit seemed to herald a slight uptick.

Street child in a Manila prison.“There’s definitely been a ramp up,” Catherine Scerri, deputy director of the Bahay Tuluyan NGO that helps street children, tells TIME. “They were definitely told not to be visible, and many of them felt that if they didn’t move they would be taken forcibly.”

Those detained end up a various municipal detention centers sprinkled all over Metro Manila, says Father Shay Cullen, the Nobel Peace Prize-nominated founder of the Preda Foundation NGO. These local adult jails each adjoin euphemistically named “children’s homes,” which, like the adult facility, has bars on the windows.

Children are summarily kept for anything up to three months without charge, with little ones sharing cells with young adults. Many fall prey to serious sexual and physical abuse: Kids just eight-years-old are often tormented into performing sex acts on the older detainees, says Cullen. (Amnesty International documented such abuses in a December report.)

“They are locked up in a dungeon,” says Cullen, explaining that some 20,000 children see the inside of a jail cell annually across the Philippines. “We keep asking why they put these little kids in with the older guys.”

Nevertheless, Philippines Welfare Secretary Corazon Juliano-Soliman explicitly denies that homeless children were rounded up for the Papal visit, highlighting that they were, in fact, central to the 78-year-old Pontiff’s reception. Some 400 homeless kids — albeit in bright, new threads — sang at a special event (and posed awkward theological questions.) 

Street children in a Manila prison.Any children detained, explains Juliano-Soliman, were “abandoned, physically or mentally challenged or found to be vagrant or in trouble with the law, and we are taking care of them.” Father Cullen’s allegations, Juliano-Soliman suggests, are a sympathy ploy to win donations “One can’t help but think it’s a good fundraising action,” she says wryly.

However, Juliano-Soliman did confirm that 100 homeless families — comprising 490 parents and children — were taken off the street of Roxas Boulevard, the palm-fringed thoroughfare arcing Manila Bay along which Pope Francis traveled several times, and taken about an hour and a half’s drive away to the plush Chateau Royal Batangas resort. Room rates there range from $90 to $500 per night.

This sojourn lasted from Jan. 14, the day before Pope Francis’s visit, until Jan. 19, the day he left. It was organized by the Department of Social Welfare’s Modified Conditional Cash Transfer program, which provides grants to aid “families with special needs.”

Juliano-Soliman says this was done so that families would “not be vulnerable to the influx of people coming to witness the Pope.” Pressed to clarify, she expressed fears that the destitute “could be seen as not having a positive influence in the crowd” and could be “used by people who do not have good intentions.”

For Scerri, though, this reasoning doesn’t cut it: “It’s very difficult to believe that children and families who have lived on the streets for most of their lives need to be protected Protest against incarcerated children in Manilafrom what was a very joyous, very happy, very peaceful celebration.”

In fact, families involved were only told two days prior that they were to make the trip to Chateau Royal Batangas. “Many felt that if they didn’t participate that they would be rounded up,” says Scerri, adding that those who returned to their usual digs by Malate Catholic Church found large signs had been painted in the interim that prohibited sleeping rough.

Ultimately, whether jailed or stashed in a resort, “there’s nothing new,” says Father Cullen. “Every time dignitaries come it’s a common phenomenon for more children to be locked up.”

So where did Manila’s street children go? The truth is that most people didn’t really care, just as long as they did. Time, 21 January 2010

See also: Children caged to keep the streets clean for the Pope: Police round up orphans and chain them in filth during pontiff’s visit to Philippines.

» Charlie Campbell is TIME Associate Editor based in Hong Kong. His focus is Southeast Asia.

Pope Francis in the Philippines 2015

And the Lord did protect the Holy Father from the temptation of Manila street children with the help of a Catholic police force who locked them up with adult offenders!
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