FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Valerie Tarico
Pope Visit to U.S. Prompts Peaceful Protest March for Protection of Religions from Exclusivism
NEW YORK (March 7, 2008)— On April 18th, Pope Benedict XVI will address the United Nations General Assembly as part of his first visit to the United States as leader of the Catholic Church. In response to this event, the Forum for the Protection of Religious Pluralism (FPRP) (http://protectreligions.org) is organizing a peaceful march, which will start at 10 a.m. on Friday, April 18 in front of United Nations building. FPRP is holding this event to voice another view of religion, international politics, and civil rights.
FPRP is devoted to raising public awareness of religions that have been victimized by aggressive proselytization campaigns that are grounded in religious exclusivism, which is there is only one way to God and all other ways are wrong and even evil that needs to be destroyed. Catholic, Evangelical and Pentecostal Christians looking to increase their numbers at any cost have had tremendous success in recruiting new converts by closely linking social services with deceptive and exploitative proselytizing. For example, schools have been built by evangelicals in other countries to provide an education to the poor, but the schools have also sought to persuade the children that their parents’ spiritual beliefs are wrong and that Christianity is the only true religion. During natural calamities (tsunamis, earthquakes etc), services to the distressed are attached to proselytization campaigns. Weaker sections of the societies are targeted creating hatred, disharmony and tearing apart communities that lived together for thousands of years. These campaigns are funded through a combination of donations from churchgoers and government support, are still being conducted around the world with little interference. Such acts of intolerance violate the religious freedoms of many ancient traditions, and the FPRP is holding its events to bring attention to the injustices faced by them.
According to the events’ organizers, religious exclusivism is at the root of religious injustice and sectarian violence around the world. This includes 9/11, Rwanda and other genocides, stolen generations of native cultures, suppression of women, gays as well as many lesser known violations committed in the name of God. In Bangalore suburb, new Christian converts from slum areas who were told by missionaries that their old neighbors worship demons put crosses at every street corner of the community of non-Christians and replaced their street names with Christian saints names. Residents live in fear as hostilities mount.
“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 Buddhists, Druids, Greek, Hindus, Romuva, Slavics, Wiccan, 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. Union of Slavic Communities, Hindu Collective Initiative of North America and several other organizations are supporting the event.
“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.”
FPRP plan to submit a petition signed by members of all religious groups to UN Secretary General calling for more active role by UN in protecting all the World religions and cultures.