Church leaders and BJP’s LK Advani have condemned forced conversions and reconversions, which have been at the centre of the debate following communal violence in Kandhamal district of Orissa.
A delegation led by Archbishop of Orissa Raphael Cheenath and his Delhi counterpart Vincent Concessao called on the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate on Wednesday to discuss the situation in Kandhamal.
The joint statement assumes significance as “Christian conversions” have been identified by the Sangh Parivar as the root of its strife with missionaries.
Advani’s stand against reconversions — seen as desirable by his parent organisation Rashtirya Swayamsewak Sangh — can be seen as an attempt to shun the hardliner tag for a more moderate and acceptable image for a potential prime minister of a multi-religious country. This is also an attempt to stake claim to former PM A.B. Vajpayee’s legacy. Immediately after the its was founded in 1980, Vajpayee had sought to distance the BJP away from the RSS-Jan Sangh’s hardline legacy by claiming Gandhian socialism as its ideological vision.
The statement also called for immediate efforts to restore peace in Kandhamal and justice for the riot-hit. A call was given for a dialogue between Hindu and Christian leaders “on all aspects of life, including the issue of religious conversions”.