Hindu leader points finger at Pope on conversions
A right-wing Hindu leader has accused Pope John Paul II and Christian missionaries of encouraging religious conversions in order to undermine India's integrity.
The Tablet reports that K.S. Sudarshan, who heads the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the umbrella body of right-wing Hindu groups, alleged that conversion was part of a "foreign conspiracy" to make India a Christian nation.
Sudarshan made the remarks earlier this month at a gathering of Hindu nationalist groups in Ranchi, north-east India, not long after the Pope had appointed Archbishop Telesphore Toppo of Ranchi as one of 31 new cardinals.
Ranchi is the capital of Jharkhand state, where the RSS and other right-wing Hindu groups are particularly active. It is also the nerve centre of the vibrant "tribal" Church in eastern India. Cardinal Toppo is the first tribal prelate from Asia to join the College of Cardinals.
Indian Bishops Conference spokesperson Fr Babu Joseph refuted Sudarshan's allegations, arguing that the Church's actions have been "transparent". He added that "making someone cardinal had nothing to do with conversions".
The spokesman pointed out that the Hindu leader had targeted "the specific location where the Church has helped hundreds of thousands of tribal people to join the mainstream of life and assert their rights socially and politically". He said there was a "clear political agenda", noting that four Indian states were going to the polls next month.
For his part, Cardinal Toppo questioned the Hindu leader's interest in tribal welfare, saying no one had bothered about the tribals until Christian missionaries entered the region some 150 years ago. Referring to Hindu groups, he asked: "Where were they when tribals were naked, hungry and illiterate?"
Bishops defend conversions (The Tablet 22/11/03)
Catholic Bishops Conference of India
Tamil Nadu bishops hear Pope condemn caste system (Catholic Bishops Conference of India 17/11/03)
Indian Archbishop becomes first tribal Cardinal (30/9/03)
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh
K S Sudarshan: Born into RSS (rediff.com)
24 Nov 2003