Anil Bhanot, the general secretary of the Hindu Council UK (HCUK), has written to some of the main Christian leaders in Britain to express his 'growing concern' at divisive elements between religions, urging them to root out and stand against intolerance and religious dogma.
He also calls for an end to what he calls “predatory” missionary activity where followers of one faith seek to convert those of another. He has written separately to The Secretary of State for Community and Local Government, Hazel Blears MP, asking her to consider introducing legislation against “underhand conversion techniques.”
“Religion has become a word more likely to engender disrespect and fear rather than a sense of communion with the Divine,” he says in his discussion paper, The Advancement of Dharma, which argues that all faiths, including the Abrahamic faiths, would benefit from promoting the flexible, Indogenic concept of ‘Dharma’, or ‘righteous duty to oneself, to others and to God’ rather than holding fast to strict, ‘religious’ principles that invariably claim to have exclusive rights on God.
In his paper, Mr Bhanot points out several differences between ‘Religion’ and ‘Dharma,’ highlighting what he believes are the more positive attributes of the former. Dharma, he says, is preferable because among other things it does not seek the monopoly on God; sees a divine spark in everything (not just the human race) and teaches responsibility for personal action rather than advocating absolution through a single act of salvation. It is because Dharma is able to respect differences of opinion, he suggests, that Hinduism is not divided by heated arguments such as those over homosexuality in Christianity and Islam.
“I believe that to seek to convert already God-loving people to another faith is a sin, an evil act…that should be made a crime under international law,” he writes, quoting the words of Mahatma Gandhi that “Religious conversion conducted by missionaries is the deadliest poison that ever sapped the fountain of truth.”
He singles out for particular criticism the activities of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, an organisation active in India which advocates on behalf of persecuted Christians around the world. He says the group “aims to destroy Hinduism and convert the continent to Christianity.”
But Penny Hollings Christian Solidarity Worldwide's campaigns and media manager said: "Christian Solidarity Worldwide is an advocacy organisation, not a missionary organisation. We defend human rights and promote religious liberty for all. We maintain a policy not to evangelise in our work,".
"We regret that Mr Bhanot has elected to criticise CSW in this public manner without raising his concerns with us directly. We would willingly meet Mr. Bhanot to discuss his allegations further."
Bhanot concludes his paper by expressing his belief that if “the predatory elements in all faiths could be weeded out, if ‘the devil’ can be weeded out of the Abrahamic faiths, a great service will be done for all humanity,” and asks that other faith leaders share their suggestions for change with him.
Christian faith leaders to whom Mr Bhanot has sent his paper include the Archbishops of Canterbury and York; the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster; the General Director or the Evangelical Alliance and representatives of the Methodist, Baptist, URC and Free Churches.
The full text of Mr Bhanot’s paper can be downloaded from the ‘reports’ section of the Hindu Council UK website at www.hinducounciluk.org