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RE: Rakshas observations of Islam and Christianity.

Reader comment on item: Reflections on the Revolution in France*
in response to reader comment: I'm still not totally convinced.

Submitted by seekeroftruth (Italy), Nov 13, 2005 at 04:55

While not wanting to divert attention from the recent violence in France, and while certainly not wanting to start a religious debate here, I felt some kind of response was necessary to Rakshas' comments. Rakshas seems to laud Hinduism as a sort of "tolerant" religion, while criticizing both Islam and Christianity. Well, I don't want to bad-mouth Hinduism, or any religion, but the entire truth should be told, even in this matter!

First of all, even if we reject Church tradition which attributes the founding of the first Christian communities in India to the Apostle St. Thomas, there is ample evidence to show that the Christian faith DID NOT begin with British imperialists as Rakshas supposes. As far back as at least the fifth/sixth centuries after the birth of Christianity, the first Christian missionary activities were undertaken by the Nestorian Christians from modern-day Iraq and Syria. In fact, these Nestorians even had communities in China; the so-called "Nestorian Stone" in China dates back to the seventh century. By that time, there already were Christian communities in India.

Concerning Rakshas' observations on Muslims and Christians owing allegiance to outside authorities, hence the Hindu government's need to crack down on evangelism and/or missionary work in India: we need to realize that only Roman Catholic Christians owe allegiance to an outside authority, the Pope. This is certainly NOT true of Protestant and Orthodox Christians, both of whom want to establish national and regional churches with national and regional church leaders. This has always been true of Orthodoxy, at least, and of most Protestant groups.

While it's very true that Islam, as early as the 700s, started conquering parts of India, forcibly converting people to their faith, in time the Islamic Moghul rulers showed tolerance to their Hindu subjects. However, many Indians did choose to convert, and still do, as many also still choose to convert to Chrisitianity because of the oppresive Caste system still to be seen in India today. Although not always "practicing what they preach," Muslims and Christians have tried over the centuries to lessen some of the harshest aspects of the caste system by preaching the universal brotherhood of all Muslims or Christians. Truth be told, Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated by a HINDU FANATIC simply because he tried to change the caste syste with regard to the "Dalit," or Untouchables. Even recently, the leader of the Dalits has encouraged his people to find another religion, other than Hinduism, where they can be respected as human beings. So, many have opted for Islam and Christianity, but at least 1,000,000 have converted to Buddhism. Since the Indian constitution guartees religious freedom for all, isn't the crackdown on the part of the Hindu government just a little intolerant, not to mention contradictory of what India stands for? Since Buddhism began in India and even grew and prospered there for some 2-3 centuries, doesn't the current government show just a little bit of intolerance toward a "home-grown" religion?

One other point concerning Hinduism's "tolerance." Let's not forget how widows threw themselves upon their husband's burning funeral pyres as well as the bloody rituals of the Kali worshippers in times past. Christianity's influence, while not always beneficial, did try to abolish, or at least allieviate, the harshest aspects of these practices. Unfortunately, we can't have it both ways: if we want to be known as a modern "tolerant," open society, we have to have religious freedom for all within the rule of law and constitutional precedent FOR EVERYBODY! Otherwise, we not only are self-contradictory, but INTOLERANT as well, no matter what our official documents may say.
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