Human right is the most important thing

source: Deccan Herald, Sunday, February 20, 2005

INTERVIEW with

Human right is the most important thing

Geevarughese Mar Osthathios, senior bishop of the
Indian Orthodox Church which has a membership of over two million,
was in Bangalore recently. He is a scholar par excellence, and
has written several books. ?The theology of a classless society?
and ?One religion of love? are two of them. The Bishop says he
is ?a Hindu by culture, Christian by faith, Indian by citizenship
and ecumenical by choice?. To him, ?Hinduism is the most tolerant
religion. While we dig deep, there is a quest for spirituality
of love underneath all religions. We must examine the various
scriptures with an open mind.? Excerpts of an interview.

On Religious conversion
Christianity preaches only one God for all people. This God is
Advaitha, Compassionate Allah, Triune God and Sachidananda. He
is the father of all people, therefore, humanity is one family.
Christ brought in the theology of love and so if you are converted
to love, which is infinite, our enemies and friends alike, that
is Christianity. My theology is that humanity at large is one
family. I have the freedom to choose any religion or no religion.
Human right is the most important thing. I can get converted if
I want to. But, you have no right to force it on me. Conversion
by force or coercion has been objected even by Christ himself.
No true Christian will force anybody to convert to Christianity.

On evangelists and foreign faith healers
To be very frank, I am against fundamentalism. All fundamental
preachers are on the side of the Devil. No preacher is supposed
to condemn another religion. A Christian evangelist who comes
to convert one to Christianity, by force or allurements, is wrong.
They are like the Muslim fundamentalists and Hindu fundamentalists.
RSS is fundamentalist. Hinduism is not fundamentalism. Hinduism
is Sanadhana. Any fundamentalist will say that you are wrong and
I am right. But, that is not right. Sanadhana is Christianity
and there is no place for fundamentalism in true Christianity.

Benny Hinn and his claims to heal
Most of these speakers are evil and selfish people. They are after
money. We must not allow them to come to India. Benny Hinn claims
to have a large following. This is only a temporary and emotional
phenomenon. They go to him because of ads which are a brain-washing
business. It is evil. Miracle-based Christianity is a cheating
business. Christ never sold any miracle to convert anybody. I
don?t judge him (Benny Hinn) as a person, I judge his approach.
It is evil.
Dalit Christians? demand for reservation

Economically speaking, the Dalits have a right to demand for reservation.
But in the name of religion, to ask for reservation is not right.
Reservation must be on the basis of economic need. The minority
must have certain privileges. So, minorities have the right to
ask for party reservations but only on economic basis.

A Hindu by culture, Christian by faith, ecumenical by choice and
an Indian by citizenship?
I will agree with all those evaluations about myself. I am an
Indian by birth. I am a Hindu, a Christian and a Muslim together.
Because, I am a humanist and a theologian. God is love- that is
my theology. I am a Christian and also an Indian, I am a philosopher.
Therefore I don?t isolate myself from India, I am part and parcel
of India. My church is an Indian Church. My church is founded
by St Thomas, the Apostle. He had no foreign aid and no foreign
missionary.

Position of women in the Indian Orthodox Church:
Our Church?s constitution says that voting rights are reserved
only for men. That must be changed, I agree. Dignity of man and
woman is equal so are two leaves or two men. Biologically men
and women aren?t equal. Theologically they are equal but not biologically.
Two people are not equal. But any discrimination against women
is wrong.

Is the Indian Church a role model for other religionists?
It is for others to say if we are role models. It is not for us
to claim that we are role models. Let?s leave it to the society
to say if we are role models or not.

NINA? BENJAMIN

in Bangalore

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