The Conversion Agenda

"Freedom to convert" is counterproductive as a generalized doctrine. It fails to come to terms with the complex interrelationships between self and society that make the concept of individual choice meaningful. Hence, religious conversion undermines, and in extremes would dissolve, that individual autonomy and human freedom.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Russian Church responds to allegations of persecution of Hindus

In response to growing criticism for its treatment of Hindus in Russia, the Russian Orthodox Church have issued a statement to the BBC claiming that Hindus in Russia were free to practice and worship as they want, but that "No Church would stand by while their congregation were converted."

The statement has been severely criticised by leaders of the Defend Russian Hindus Campaign, who pointed out that Hindus in Russia comprise only about 0.1% of the country’s population and pose no threat to anybody.

"Just last month, 250 demonstrators led by the Russian Orthodox Church had tried to stop a Hindu festival in South Russia asking all Hindus to ‘drown in the sea’ or stop following the Hindu tradition," explained Ramesh Kallidai of the Hindu Forum of Britain. "Archbishop Nikon of the Russian Orthodox Church had written to the Mayor of Moscow to stop the building of a Hindu temple because he considered Lord Krishna an ‘evil demon’. After continuing to harass Hindus and trying to stop them building a place of worship, how can the Orthodox Church claim that Hindus are ‘free’ to worship as they please? Something is seriously wrong with their understanding of the notion of freedom."

Meanwhile Britain expressed support for the Defend Russian Hindus Campaign. Foreign Minister Douglas Alexander acknowledged that Hindus in Russia face difficulties in practising their faith freely and are unable even to establish a permanent place of worship in Moscow. He further assured that the UK will discuss the issue at an EU summit, which is part of the ongoing dialogue with Russia. Alexander’s statement was issued in response to a written question by Conservative MP, James Clappison.

Earlier, a multi-party Early Day Motion led by Labour MP Ashok Kumar expressed Parliamentary support for the Defend Russian Hindus campaign. London Mayor Ken Livingstone also expressed concern at the harassment of Russian Hindus, and has already discussed the matter with the Mayor of Moscow during the latter's January visit to London.

The Defend Russian Hindus Campaign includes Hindu organisations from the UK, America, Canada, Africa, India and Australia. The campaign was launched on 18th January by parliamentarians Ashok Kumar MP, James Clappison MP and Lord Dholakia to highlight the plight of Russian Hindus.

Analysts have commented that Britain’s support for Russian Hindus was in stark contrast to the non-committal stance of the Indian government, reflecting the Indian government’s long-standing phobia of being seen to be championing Hindu causes.

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