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인도교회협의회, 타종교간의 대화 모색 및 광신주의자와의 전쟁

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2000-03-17 00:16
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Build bridges, but fight fanaticism, India's churches told
ENI-00-0083

By Anto Akkara
Ranchi, India 8 March (ENI)--The assembly of the National
Council of Churches in India (NCCI) has ended with a call to the
churches of this multi-faith nation to be more "inclusive" in
their relationships with other religious groups.

"The church is called upon to continually strive for greater
mutual understanding with people of other faiths," said the
official "message" released by the NCCI assembly as it closed in
Ranchi, India, on 6 March. (The assembly is held every four
years.) At the same time, the message urged churches to lobby
against Hindu fanaticism and against moves to strengthen India's
caste system.

In a bid to strengthen ecumenical co-operation as part of these
goals, the NCCI, whose 29 Protestant and Orthodox member churches
account for 10 million Christians, is to seek closer links with
the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India, which represents
India's 16 million Catholics.

"It is pertinent that we live our faith and eliminate all evils,
and work towards an all-inclusive community," declared the
message, which had the unanimous approval of 350 representatives
and leaders from NCCI member churches.

"The approach of the church for the next millennium is to be an
inclusive community," said Vinod Peter, a Church of North India
(CNI) bishop who was elected during the assembly to the post of
NCCI president, which he will hold for four years.

Bishop Peter, who is also moderator of the CNI, told ENI after
his installation as NCCI president on 5 March that "we [the
churches] should be constantly relating with other communities
around us, particularly in the present context". He was referring
to propaganda and violence directed against Christians, largely
by Hindu fundamentalists, some of whom are allegedly linked to
the federal and various state governments.

Christians account for only 2.32 per cent of India's one billion
citizens. India has many different religious communities, but the
biggest are the Hindus - 80 per cent of the population.

Acknowledging that Christians are "relating" with people of
other faiths "individually", 61-year-old Bishop Peter pointed out
to ENI that "at community level and among religious leaders,
there has been very little interaction". As a result religious
groups remained "isolated" from each other, and "steeped in
differences", he said.

Religious communities should undertake dialogue with other
faiths "to understand and find out the commonalties on we which
we can adhere and become friends. This has become a necessity
since fundamentalist forces are becoming more assertive," said
Bishop Peter. "It is not enough that we do the right thing. We
have to be understood rightly."

The NCCI message described recent accusations that churches were
engaging in the "forced and induced conversions" of Hindus, as "a
mere bogey and cover for [Hindu] fundamentalists to prevent and
terrorise the church from serving the poor and upholding their
dignity and human rights".

The attacks on Christians by Hindu fundamentalists make the
present "the finest hour for the church to witness the faith",
according to the message, which will be translated into more than
20 of India's major languages and distributed among NCCI church
congregations.

The message also urged churches "to show greater dedication and
commitment to oppose Hindu fundamentalist moves to restore the
[upper] casteist hegemony" over low castes and the marginalised
people of Indian society.

The outgoing NCCI president, leading Lutheran layman K.
Rajaratnam, warned delegates at the assembly that "we should not
project recent attacks on us [Christians] as mere attacks on a
minority community. These are attacks on the very secular
foundations of the nation by forces opposed to secularism and
social justice."

A resolution adopted at the assembly urged churches "to join
hands" with "human rights groups and secular parties to meet the
challenge posed by Hindu fundamentalists".

To follow up this resolution, the assembly authorised the NCCI
executive to take appropriate measures for "greater
collaboration" with the Roman Catholic Church - India's biggest
church - and with secular groups.

As a first step to ensure "proximity and co-operation" with the
Catholic Church, the NCCI has decided to move the offices of its
general secretary and communication and national affairs
commissions from Nagpur, in central India, to New Delhi, India's
capital, where the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI)
has its headquarters.

The NCCI assembly also decided to explore the possibility of
establishing a "Conference of Bishops and Heads of Churches
(CBHC) for NCCI member churches, on the lines of CBCI, to
facilitate better interaction among church leaders".

"I am a layman. It is a fact that a body of bishops commands
much respect among Christians and to the outside world,"
Rajaratnam said when putting the proposal that was approved by
the assembly. While NCCI would remain the key administrative
body, the CBHC could, according to the resolution, be a forum to
lobby for Christian concerns.