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January 19 2000

Two Hindu nationalist groups have resolved to oppose conversions to Christianity in India and say that Pope John Paul II´s call for a "harvest of faith" in Asia is "unfair."

Christian and Islamic mission activities are "more dangerous than terrorism," said H.V. Seshadri, general secretary of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS, national volunteer corps) at a Jan. 7-9 RSS meeting in Ahmedabad, commercial capital of the western state of Gujarat.

Criticizing the pope for statements made during his Nov. 5-8 visit to India, the Hindu leader said the pontiff was unfair when he asked for the spread of Christianity in India.

The pope´s call to Christians "to reap a harvest of faith in Asia in the third millenium" was uncalled for, said Praveen Togadia, general secretary of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP, world Hindu council).

Togadia was briefing media about the VHP board of trustees Jan. 7-9 annual national convention in Kanniyakumari town in the southernmost tip of India.

He told media that the VHP passed a resolution calling the pope´s visit to India "an open cultural war against the non-proselytizing civilization of the country." It also resolved to oppose missioners´ attempts to convert, he said.

Seshadri urged 26,000 RSS volunteers, who wear a uniform of khaki shorts and white shirts, to free Hinduism from the "clutches of foreign religions."

"Christianization and Islamization" are "killing the culture," Seshadri said. He urged his people to "put an end to conversions" and reconvert those who have left Hinduism for Christianity.

"No conversion will be allowed and no effort should be spared to bring back to the parent fold all those who have been weaned away," Seshadri expressed the resolve. "Returning home is not conversion," he added.

"Every Indian household is disappointed at his (pope´s) objective," said Seshadri. "Why force someone to become a Christian?" he asked.

During his November 1999 visit to New Delhi, Pope John Paul promulgated "Church in Asia" (Ecclesia in Asia), the final document of the Synod for Asia. It reiterated the Church´s mission of evangelization in the region.

Togadia said the Church is "deliberately destroying" Hindu Scriptures and teachings to undermine the faith of Hindus. Such a move, he claimed, had become "a threat to national security, sovereignty and integrity."

The RSS and its affiliates say that Christian missioners "allure" and "force" tribals and the poor to convert by offering them material benefits.

Hindu leaders maintain that the more than 100 attacks against Christians in the past year, the majority of them in Gujarat, were a "natural reaction" of tribals against missionary activities among them.

Christians blame Hindu groups for engineering assaults which, they say are aimed at ending Christian educational and welfare programs among the poor.

They allege that upper-caste Hindus fear that education would upset the centuries-old caste system, which exploited low castes and confined them to subservient social roles.

Participants in the RSS meeting stressed that they are a social organization for community building and the protection of Hindu culture. Each Gujarat village will have a unit of the organization by 2005, the assembly resolved.

RSS leader Gordhanbhai Zadaphiya told UCA News that the gathering was an annual, "routine exercise."