FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Valerie Tarico
Religious Pluralism Group Holds Peaceful Protest March for Indigenous Rights
New York (March 6, 2008)—On April 18th, the Forum for the Protection of Religious Pluralism (FPRP) is organizing a march consisting of minority ethnic religions, which will proceed at 10 a.m. on Friday, April 18 from the United Nations building to the Gandhi statue in Union Square Park. Another demonstration and march will be held outside Yankee Stadium during the Papal address there from 1-4 p.m., on Sunday, April 20. FPRP is holding these events to voice a view of religion and politics that supports the rights of indigenous people. A petition signed by members of all religions and cultures across the World will be submitted to UN Secretary General.
The FPRP events are being held in response to Pope Benedict XVI’s address to the United Nations General Assembly on April 18th as part of his first visit to the United States as leader of the Catholic Church. The United Nations General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples on September 13, 2007, which contains several Articles that acknowledge and support the right of indigenous cultures to practice and sustain their traditional religious beliefs. In contrast, the Catholic Church and other evangelical groups have supported well-funded, international evangelism projects that seek to draw indigenous people away from their traditional beliefs, often by closely linking social services with proselytizing. The Vatican itself has yet to revoke the 13th Century Inter Caetera papal bull known as “The Doctrine of Christian Discovery”, which permitted Christian governments to “capture, vanquish, and subdue the saracens, pagans, and other enemies of Christ,” to “put them into perpetual slavery,” and “to take all their possessions and property.” This doctrine was adopted into U.S. law in the Supreme Court ruling of the 1832 case of Johnson v. M’Intosh, where Chief Justice John Marshall observed that Christian European nations had assumed “ultimate dominion” over the lands of America during their colonization, and that upon Europe’s “discovery” of the Americas the indigenous tribes had lost “their rights to complete sovereignty, as independent nations” and only retained a right of “occupancy” in their lands.
Pope Benedict’s belief in Christianity’s dominion over traditionally non-Christian cultures were reflected in his comments during is visit to Brazil in October 2007, where he said that the genocidal colonization of the indigenous cultures by Spain and Portugal was not a conquest, but rather an “adoption” of the Indians through baptism, “purifying” their cultures in a way for which they were “longing”. Accordingly, “the proclamation of Jesus and of his Gospel did not at any point involve an alienation of the pre-Columbian cultures, nor was it the imposition of a foreign culture.” In addition, Benedict issued a statement in December 2007 that defended the “right and duty” of Catholics to do missionary work aimed at converting people from other religions and other Christian denominations.
According to the events’ organizers, religious exclusivism is at the root of religious injustice and sectarian violence around the world. This includes 9/11, The lost Generations of Native Cultures, Rwanda and other genocides, inquisitions and many other atrocities done in the name of God. “We represent faiths, including several Christian denominations, that do not support proselytization and view the practice of it as a complete contradiction of their beliefs,” says Jonas Trinkunas from the World Congress of Ethnic Religions (WCER), one of the organizations that is sponsoring the event. “When the members of the U.N. say that they support religious freedom and then give privileged treatment to the leader of a religion that regularly endorses deceptive proselytization campaigns at the expense of others, we feel that we are being penalized for remaining true to our faiths. If religious freedom is going to be shared by everyone, this unequal treatment must stop.”
While this event is designed to focus on the rights of minority ethnic religions, other groups are encouraged to participate regardless of their religious or non-religious backgrounds. Religious groups such as Romuva, Druids, Slavics, Greek, and other ethnic religions from Europe, Africa and various parts of the Americas have already confirmed their attendance at the demonstration, and the organizers are hoping that more groups will participate.
“We are not against any religion” says Ved Chaudhary, one of the organizers of the event. “But the religious freedoms of cultures are being abused in many countries and their ancient traditions are being lost at an alarming rate. Mahatma Gandhi called proselytizations conducted by missionaries as the deadliest poison that ever sapped the fountain of truth. We can no longer afford to live in a world in which some religions spend billions of dollars each year to spread intolerance and injustice under the guise of humanitarian aid while ancient traditions disappear as the result. If religious pluralism is to have a future, we must act now.”
Detailed information along with petition can be found at www.protectreligions.org.