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Christians up in arms over Hindu leader’s Blessed Teresa remarks

RSS chief says late nun's work was a bid to convert the poor
Christians up in arms over Hindu leader’s Blessed Teresa remarks

Nuns belonging to the Catholic order of the Missionaries of Charity prepare to take part in a mass to commemorate the 103rd birth anniversary of Mother Teresa at the Indian Missionaries of Charity house in Kolkata on August 26, 2013 (AFP Photo/Dibyangshu Sarkar)


Published: February 24, 2015 09:31 AM GMT
Updated: April 24, 2015 02:54 PM GMT

Christians across India have expressed outrage over remarks from a Hindu leader suggesting that the main objective of Blessed Teresa’s service to the poor was converting people to Christianity.

Over 150 people cutting across religious lines gathered in Chhattisgarh, western India Tuesday to stage a sit-in to protest against the remarks.

“It is a well-planned strategy against the Christian community. Christians all over the world have an image of service to the poor and this is an attempt to destroy that image,” Arun Pannalal of the Chhattisgarh Christian Forum, which organized the protest, told ucanews.com.

He said, “We are getting strong support. We are soon going to take this protest to the national level.”

Mohan Bhagwat, head of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS- national volunteers corps), said on Monday that: “Mother Teresa’s service would have been good. But it had one objective — to convert the person being served into a Christian”.

“If conversion is done in the name of service, then that service gets devalued,” he added.

However, the Missionaries of Charity congregation, founded by Blessed Teresa, dismissed the Hindu leader’s comments.

“He [Bhagwat] does not know an actual thing about Mother Teresa. The world knows about her work, her service to the poor. He is misinformed and I don’t know what made him say this,” Missionaries of Charity spokeswoman Sunita Kumar told ucanews.com.

She said the congregation is not going to lodge any protest or complaint against anybody, as Blessed Teresa “did not believe in all this”.

“They [MC sisters] have nothing to say. They just want to ignore it since that is what Mother Teresa would have done. They are all very calm and quiet and do not believe in any kind of protest,” she added.

Meanwhile, the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) has lodged a complaint against Bhagwat at RSS headquarters in Nagpur, western India, demanding an immediate apology.

“Bhagwat in his statement is trying to belittle a person who was an icon of hope, [an] icon for the poor and … of everything that is good in the world. He needs to apologize to the whole humanity for the remarks he has made,” said Sajan George, the GCIC president.

Bhagwat has a hidden agenda against the Christian community, he told ucanews.com.

George said that they would start an online campaign and protests across the country if Bhagwat does not apologize for his remarks.

He went on to demand that Prime Minister Narendra Modi condemn the remarks in parliament.

“It is to be seen whether the prime minister endorses the statement since the RSS and government are together,” he added.

The ruling pro-Hindu Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP- National People’s Party) is regarded as an RSS political offshoot.

Bhagwat’s remarks also drew flak from political parties.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal of the Aam Aadmi Party (common man’s party) tweeted that he had worked with Blessed Teresa for a few months in Kolkata.

“She was a noble soul. Please spare her,” he said.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India also expressed "distress" over “such unwarranted controversies”.

"Mother Teresa never had any hidden agenda nor did she ever use her services as a cover up for conversion. She always maintained that her main concern was to ease the suffering of people and to help the poor and the suffering to lead a life of relief and self-respect," the bishops said in a statement, signed by conference deputy secretary general Father Joseph Chinnayyan.

The opposition Congress Party also condemned the statement and called for an apology from Bhagwat, adding that the party would raise the issue in parliament.

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