Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Religious Intolerance in South Asia

Religious intolerance comes in many forms. We saw it as Mitt Romney ran for president and people worried about having a Mormon for president instead of a “real Christian”. We saw in our eagerness to focus on the more sensational sermons coming out of Obama’s church while ignoring the very conventional messages that expressed the mission and values of that church. We saw it in Ireland and clearly we see it in Israel.

This past month has given us a new area to focus on, India and the Himalaya states. In Nepal the Salesian priest, Father John Prakash was killed. He was assassinated by “Nepal Defense Army”. This is a militant group that is attempted to make Nepal a Hindu State. Until recently the Himalayan Kingdom (just recently a secular republic) was the only Hindu nation in the world.

The priest was killed on the 1st of July. If the goal was to stifle interfaith contact it failed. His memorial service was an interfaith service. He was remembered as a person who was committed to Nepal for the past 10 years. He encouraged everyone to be the best they were. This compassionate man was mourned.

Across the border in neighboring India intolerance was also showing its ugly head. 22 bombs exploded in the city of Ahmadabad. 42 people were killed. Additional bombs were found in the cities of Bangalore and Surat. A militant Islamic group has claimed responsibility for the bombings and carnage.

In the state of Orissa Hindu extremists have again attacked Catholic Indians. This is a reoccurring problem in this area. Since the beginning of the year 95 churches have been destroyed as well as an additional 730 homes. The Catholic Bishops Conference has called on the government to step up its protection of all of its citizens.

So one need not look only to the Middle East or Northern Africa for religious intolerance and escalating violence. The question is what can be done to curb the influence of the few who are willing to kill and terrorize to promote their worldview? Again, dialogue and prayer, active and sustained are needed.

Indian Catholic Mass

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