Monday, January 10, 2011

Hyderabad: Christian groups up in arms

Hyderabad: A storm may be brewing what with Christian groups having decided to challenge the Andhra Pradesh government's order 747 that bans propagation of any religion other than Hinduism in Tirupati and other specified temple areas. A case is expected to be filed in the AP High Court shortly on the grounds that provisions of GO 747 are being "misused" and that it is "unconstitutional." The Christian groups would move the court that the GO notified in June this year be struck down as it "supports and promotes Hindutva forces."
Interestingly, the GO was issued by the government led by Y S Rajasekhara Reddy (who is a Christian) after allegations of missionary activities in Tirupati. Whatever be the veracity of these allegations, probably the chief minister being a Christian did not want to be at the centre of a possible controversy that could accuse him of indirectly supporting missionary activities, aver analysts. Hence the ban GO, they reason.
The GO bans propagation of non-Hindu religions around 20 famous temple towns in the state. The GO also prohibits any political or election activity in the area.
The groups planning to go to court claim that the GO is lending itself for easy misuse by extremists. "A 64-year-old in Kanipakam (where there is a Ganesh temple) near Chittoor was arrested and manhandled just because he was a Christian and praying," claims Bangalore-based Sajan George, president, Global Council for Indian Christians, who was in Chittoor last week holding demonstrations against the GO. Chittoor town is 75 km from Tirupati.
Significantly, these groups that represent various Christian denominations, will question how the GO is primarily illegal as it flouts the fundamental right to religion guaranteed in the constitution. "The freedom of religion allows people to 'profess, practise and propagate' their faith, but not convert," notes Bhaskar Benny, president of Christian Front., who says the GO is only introducing "religious apartheid" in the state.
Benny questions that if such a rule is not applicable to other Hindu pilgrim destinations such as Haridwar, why should an exception be made for temple towns in Andhra Pradesh.
Besides, "fundamental rights are supposed to be respected as long as we are citizens of this country," says Rev. Matthews E Thaphapudi, professor of Old Testament, Andhra Christian Theological College, adding that the GO is questioning not only this right but also the constitution.
He further states that the GO is politically motivated and is pandering to people of one particular faith.
What upsets some is another misinterpretation of the GO that along with the ban on preaching, even social work by other faiths is not being allowed in the temple towns listed in the government order (though the GO makes no mention of any such ban).
"As we don't allow Hindus to preach Hinduism, it is fine if they don't allow us to preach near their temples. We have to live in harmony. But, not allowing social work is not right," says T Isaac, chairman of the Canadian Baptist churches of Northern Circar.
(Why do they want to do social work near temples only?They could also do it near church,mosques or else where also.Hindus are not to be mislead about their  intention of conversion by this lame excuse. )


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