October 8, 2008 6:25:34 pm
Senior BJP leader L K Advani termed the rape of a nun in Orissa as a ‘shameful crime against humanity’ and denounced violence against Christians in the state and other places for which Sangh Parivar outfits have been accused.
Amid mounting pressure on the government to act against Bajrang Dal for anti-Christian violence in Orissa and some other states, Advani also talked about the need for restoring peace and a sense of security in the state through cooperation between the communities.
After a meeting with a delegation of Christian leaders here, he also favoured immediate initiation of a ‘sustained and sincere’ dialogue between Hindus and Christians on religious conversions.
In a joint statement issued after about two-hour meeting, Advani described the rape of a nun in Orissa as a ‘shameful crime against humanity’.
He condemned the ‘violence and vandalism that marked the attack on churches and innocent Christians in Orissa and elsewhere in the country,’ the statement said.
The Christian leaders, on their part, condemned the ‘heinous’ killing of VHP leader Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati and his four disciples in Kandhmal in Orissa in August.
“In the meeting it was unanimously resolved that all efforts should be made to restore peace, normalcy and a sense of security in strife-torn areas with the co-operation of the governments concerned and leaders of the Hindu and Christian communities,” Advani said after the meeting.
The Christian delegation comprised Archbishop of Orissa Raphael Cheenath, Archbishop of Delhi Vincent Concessao and spokesman of Delhi Catholic Archdiocese Dominic Emmanuel.
Expressing satisfaction at the decisions reached during the meeting, Archbishop Concessao said, “I am happy. This is a very good first step”.
“All participants were unanimous that religious conversions or re-conversions, using coercive, fraudulent and allurement-based means or through denigration of others’ faiths, are condemnable and must be stopped,” Advani said.
The meeting came amid growing pressure on the government to act against Bajrang Dal, with a number of UPA coalition partners demanding a ban on the Hindu outfit.
A meeting, called at the initiative of Chidanand Saraswati of Paramarth Niketan, Rishikesh, was also attended by BJP MP Sushma Swaraj and Rajya Sabha member Chandan Mitra and Advani’s political advisor Sudheendra Kulkarni.
Advani and the Christian leaders decided that the Inter-Faith Dialogue should be held ‘in the spirit of the Inter-Faith Dialogue on Conversions, organised by the Vatican in May 2006’.
Nearly 35 people have died in the violence that followed the brutal murder of Lakshmanananda Saraswati in Kandhmal district of Orissa on August 23.
The Centre has issued warnings to the state government that in case it failed to control the violence, strict action may follow.
Many churches and homes in Kandhmal were destroyed in the vandalism that followed the murder of Saraswati. Several people have reportedly taken shelter in the forests nearby to protect themselves.
Swami Chidanand offered to rebuild one of the destroyed villages in Kandhmal district in co-operation with the local church and the state government.
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