Vatican asks Hindus to end anti-Christian propaganda

The Vatican on October 19 sent a message to Hindu leaders asking them to resist “hateful propaganda” against Christians and allowing Christians to practice their faith in peace. A principal cause of conflict is the conversion to Christianity of Dalits or “untouchables.” The aggression against Christians stretches across much of India, from the eastern state of Orissa to the southwest state of Kerala.

Christian outreach to untouchables in India is well over one hundred years old. Christianity, like Islam, places no special value on the circumstances of birth. The government of India sets aside certain benefits for Dalits, a form of welfare for a still-despised group. Yet the same government programs deny benefits to Dalits who become Christian or become Moslem, because — the argument goes — their denial of the Hindu caste system means that they no longer consider themselves in the sub-caste (or “casteless”) position of “untouchables.” This does not apply, however, to Dalits who become Buddhists or Sikhs, although those conversions also would mean a rejection of the caste system.

Christianity also grants women a higher status than Hinduism (which historically does not regard a woman as possessing a soul until she marries) or Islam (which creates a distinctly inferior status for women). As a consequence, Christianity has a profound appeal for the most hopeless Indians, “untouchable” women. The message of Christian love finds an eager ear among the “untouchables” of India.

Simon Hawthorne of the Life Association, who has worked for 20 years ago among the Dalits, explains what this means to these “untouchables” of India: “As a Dalit, you start off living life thinking you are not made by God. It’s such an oppressive system and, because of the sheer numbers of people, it’s the biggest human rights issue today. But in the message of Christianity you were made in the image of God. There is nothing more opposite to the message of Christianity than the Hindu caste system.”

The Papal message against anti-Christian violence has grown stronger in recent years. In October 2008, Pope Benedict called on Hindus, in recognition of the message of Gandhi, to refrain from violence against Christians.

Read Full Story: The New American

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