Thursday, September 16, 2010

Press Release

Bangalore Initiative for Religious Dialogue (BIRD)
Apt. 501, Indira Residency, 167 Hennur Road, Kalyan Nagar, Bangalore 560 043
Tel. 080 25435716, Mob. 097311 82308 e-mail:


Dr. Stanley Samartha Memorial Lecture

The Bangalore Initiative for Religious Dialogue (BIRD) is a low-key organisation of theologically and socially interested people, which has attempted to be a forum for people of different religions to talk things over in times of strife and peace over the last decade.

The BIRD has an annual lecture series named after its inspiration, the late Dr Stanley Samartha, an ordained priest of the Church of South India and theology teacher from Karnataka (born in Karkala), who lived his Christian faith and practice in harmony with his Hindu tradition and culture during his ministry.

Samartha was the first director of the Inter-Faith Dialogue Program of the World Council of Churches in Geneva (1970-81). Earlier he was the Principal of the Karnataka Theological College, Mangalore and also the Serampore College, West Bengal. He was a professor at the United Theological College, Bangalore in 1960s.

Samartha is known as a the “Christian prophet of religious pluralism”, who famously declared himself "a Hindu by culture, Christian by faith, Indian by citizenship and ecumenical by choice".

I am happy to inform you that the 9th Rev. Dr.Stanley Samartha Memorial lecture organized by the Bangalore Initiative for Religious Dialogue (BIRD) will be delivered by Sir Mark Tully on 7th October 5 pm. at the Rotary House of Friendship, Lavelle Road, Bangalore.

Sir Mark Tully, KBE is the former Chief of Bureau, BBC, New Delhi. He worked for BBC for a period of 30 years before resigning in July 1994.He held the position of Chief of Bureau, BBC, Delhi for 20 years. Since 1994 he has been working as a freelance journalist and broadcaster based in New Delhi

The lecture last year was delivered by Arun Shourie on ‘Rethinking Religions’. In years before that, we have had M.J.Akbar, Justice K.T.Thomas, Metropolitan Philipose Mar Chrysotom of Mar Thoma Church, Dr. Hans Ucko of World Council of Churches, Dr. M.V. Nadkarni, Dr. C.T.Kurien and Francois Gautier.

BIRD is entirely dependent on small contributions from people of diverse faiths who are strongly convinced about the dire need to preserve inter-faith amity in the true and abiding traditions of India, which is a living symbol of religious diversity and inclusiveness.

Apt. No. 501, Indira Residency,
167 Hennur Road
Kalyan Nagar
Bangalore 560 043
Mobile: 09731182308
Res. 090 25435716

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Methodist Church land dispute- a rejoinder to CSF


Your call to protest against the BJP MLA and his ‘hoodlums’ for usurping the Methodist Church land in Belgaum reminds me of what Jesus tells us: “Do not look for the mote in the eyes of your neighbor when we may have a pillar stuck in our sclera”.

Following are a couple of instances in which the Judases of the Christian community sold/usurped the Church land for just thirty pieces of silver.

1. 15 acres of Bangalore YMCA land has been sold to a Hindu real estate developer for Rs. 9 crores. Transparency International Karnataka Chapter headed by Justice M.F. Saldanha discovered that the land was worth a minimum of Rs. Rs. 32 crore. Who pocketed the kick-back. Those involved in it are all Christians – including a former Catholic Christian minister/MLA. Mind you, YMCA is a Protestant, evangelical organisation where the Catholics should not have a say at all.
2. The plan to sell about 7 acres of land of Vishranthi Nilayam belonging to the Order of Sisters (nuns) of the Church of South India in the heart of Bangalore City – just a kilometer away from Raj Bhavan Bangalore and in the neigbhourhood of Malayala Manorama- The Hindu- Indian Express- Coffee Board – Police Commissioner’s HQ – was foiled for the time being by the timely intervention and protests of 33 elderly nuns in April this year. Don’t you want to know who were behind this move? They were two respectable Christian leaders and friends of CSF! The land were to be sold to a Muslim land developer!!! The same vultures are still eyeing the property.
3. The 150-year old CLS Press ( Methodist Press) on Dickenson Road was usurped by a Christian Congress leader, former minister and today sitting MLA. He built a huge shopping center, that encroached upon about 80 feet into the adjacent property where stands the British Methodist Bishop’s House which is today occupied by Mr. John Zac, Bishop Cotton Boys’ School Principal. It belongs to CSI. No one protested. This property known as 4 M.G. Road has been eyed by several land developers many of whom are Muslims. However, it cannot be alienated because there’s an undertaking by the diocese in the High Court of Karnataka that the land can be used ONLY for educational purposes.
4. The same Congress leader and family have cornered the priceless Bangalore Tract & Book Society property adjacent to the Bible Society – Karnataka Auxillary. The place where Bibles were sold since 1912 has been converted into lounge bar and dance hall for the rich and powerul. No Christian leader protested.
5. In 1990s, the CSI Karnataka Central diocese entered into an agreement to lease out the East Parade Church property for 99 years to a German Bank( Deutche Bank) or to be precise a Muslim builder. But, sustained public protests, write-ups in news papers, and a petition signed by almost 2,000 members of the East parade Church Malayalam Congregation and general public forced the diocese to beat a hasty retreat. The ‘reigning’ moderator of the Church of South India was the vice president of the diocese, And fortunately, I led the campaign against commercialisation of East Parade Church.
6. It is to my credit – sorry for patting on my own shoulders – that several Church properties have been saved in the last 20 or 30 years because of the campaign I unleashed against commercialisation with the support of the enlightened public opinion expressed through the newspapers.
7. The historic Trinity Church land which was leased out to build a thirteen storeyed shopping complex was stopped midway by a writ petition filed by the late Rev. C. Arangaden and me .The late Barrister Balakrishna Rao in late 1980s presented the case free of charges. The stay continues even to this day and no portion of any Garrison Church can be commercialised today.
8. The alert public opinion mobilised by me through news papers and other sources has helped preserve and save several church properties in Bangalore, including the St. Anrews Church on Cubbon Road.
8 In 2008 about 60,000 sq. ft. of YMCA land on on Nrupatunga Road was sold to a Hindu – not BJP - land developer by the help of the same Catholic YMCA President – Congress leader and DCC president . The property is adjacent to the Police HQ and abutting into the Cubbon Park. Here again, I led the charge against the move with the help of the media and forced the YMCA to withdraw from the deal. But, the same Catholic president and Congress leader is back in the saddle and the property is not safe.
9 There are several other land grabs by Muslim land grabbers of Catholic diocesan property ably supported by friends of CSF. For instance, the precious land on Residency Road that housed an old age home has been converted into a commercial hub with the help of a former archbishop of Bangalore.

If you need documentary evidences, please feel free to get in touch with me. In the meantime, let us urge the churches to allot/distribute the excess lands in their possession, including the Methodist land in Belgaum, to the poorest of the poor in Christian community, especially the Dalit Christians.

How many among us know that the Idgah maidan in Hubli was originally belonged to the Basel Mission? We have no guts to reclaim it.


Saturday, September 11, 2010

Bangalore Initiative for Religious Dialogue (BIRD)

An Appeal for a small contribution

Bangalore Initiative for Religious Dialogue (BIRD) is a low profile organization formed in 2001, by a small group of Hindus, Muslims and Christians in Bangalore, to promote inter-faith amity in line with our native wisdom of promoting inclusiveness for preserving India's religious diversity.

BIRD has been organizing seminars, consultations, panel discussions and dialogues. The annual lecture series in memory of Rev. Dr Stanley Samartha remains the signature event of BIRD’s inter-faith activities undertaken in the cosmopolitan city of Bangalore. This year’s lecture will be delivered by Sir Mark Tully on 7th October

BIRD is entirely supported by small contributions from people of diverse faiths who are deeply convinced about the urgent need to preserve inter-faith amity in the true and abiding tradition of India, which is a living symbol of religious diversity and inclusiveness.

May I request you to consider making a small contribution to BIRD for its activities? Grateful if you please write a cheque in favour of BIRD and mail it to the following address:

Apt. No. 501, Indira Residency,
167 Hennur Road
Kalyan Nagar
Bangalore 560 043

Remembering Raimon Pannikkar

Raimon Panikkar, Catholic Theologian, Is Dead at 91

Mr. Panikkar was a Roman Catholic whose embrace of Hindu
scriptures and Buddhism made him an influential voice for
promoting dialogue between the world's religions.

Continue reading at:

In the Sept. 5th New York Times, there was an obituary of the distinguished Roman Catholic theologian Raimundo Panikker which is worth reading, especially with regard to Panikker's discovery of the value of delving into the scriptures of eastern religions.

Panikker was born in Spain to a Spanish mother and an Indian father. He became a Catholic monk and then went to India to study eastern religions. An 0ft-quoted comment of his is, "I left Europe as a Christian, I discovered I was a Hindu and returned as a Buddhist without ever having ceased to be Christian". That is the great contribution that a study of eastern religions imparts on any serious student of religions. Professor Diana Eck discovered likewise in her "Encountering God: A spiritual Journey from Bozeman to Benares".

And, yet one finds that most theologians of monotheism see little or no value in either studying eastern faiths or engaging in any serious dialog with followers of eastern religions. It is most pronounced among Islamic theologians, Christian proselytizers in that order, and least prevalent among the Jewish Rabbis.

Panikkar also averred that "if the Church wishes to live, it should not be afraid of assimilating elements that come from other religious traditions, whose existence it can today no longer ignore".

C. Alex Alexander

Raimon Panikkar who was and is a hero of Indian Christian Theology. All Indian Christians should read his position on the approach to Hinduism while remaining a true Christian. Mr. Panikkar has amazingly brought up the truth of Christ whom Christians simply say, " He is the light of the world" but would not mean anything to
the world. Christians must be able to know Christ an THE example of representation of HUMANS who can penetrate through the human history without any barriers of religion or even denominations. That is also the Christ who penetrates through genders, cultures, politics, language etc. that divide humanity foolishly. Christians' inability to understand and uphold that Christ who can enlighten the
entire world has become the biggest obstruction for Christ to be seen through the Church to the rest of the world. But it is still possible for Christians to come out of its petiness and see Christ 'AS HE IS' and the world would say, "we need HIM".

Fr. M .K Kuriakose, Philadelphia

Pannikar and Kaaj Baago

Raimon Panikkar averred that "if the Church wishes to live, it should not be afraid of assimilating elements that come from other religious traditions, whose existence it can today no longer ignore".

Almost in the same vein, a brilliant Danish Professor, Dr. Kaaj Baago, in the United Theological College, Bangalore, made history when he said in the 1960s: “Hindus, Muslims and Buddhists should never give up their religion to join the Christian Church”. On the other hand the Church should humble itself and find ways of identifying itself with other groups, taking Christ with them. Christ, he said, was not the chairman of the Christian party. If God is the Lord of the universe he will work through every culture and religion. We must give up the crusading spirit of the colonial era and stop singing weird hymns like “Onward Christian soldiers marching as to war”. This will lead to Hindu Christianity or Buddhist Christianity.

It must involve the disappearance of the Indian Christian community, but he reminded us: “a grain of wheat remains a solitary grain unless it falls to the ground and dies”. Needless to say, the Indian Christians were furious. He left the College, the Church and the mission and took refuge with the Danish Foreign Service!!

He later returned to India as his country’s Ambassador and died in harness in 1988.


Attacks against Christians: Justice Saldanha's Bluff


The Compass News has reported:” Christians in Karnataka State are under an unprecedented wave of Christian persecution, having faced more than 1,000 attacks in the last 500 days, according to an independent investigation by a former judge of the Karnataka High Court”

But, “the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) has recorded only 72 attacks on Christians in 2009. That represents a decline from 112 attacks the previous year”.

It proves that Justice Saldanha’s allegation that there were 1,000 attacks against Christians in Karnataka during the last 500 days is utterly false and outrageous, and the reality easily verifiable. The allegation reflects his shocking ignorance about the real religious situation in Karnataka.

But, people like me who have access to the media and who are still in control of our Betz cells know that all such propaganda is being peddled in the name of a bogey man called Sangh Parivar! If any one is honest in his analysis, the so-called Sangh Parivar, it is certainly the outcome of the actions of the arch conversionists of Christianity and the Jehadi Muslims who challenge the religious sensitivities of the Hindu majority in the State.

Mr. Saldanha should apologize for his irresponsible and unsubstantiated comments; he should also check and recheck facts before deciding to disparage Hindu ‘extremists’ in public. In this day and age, when greater inter religious understanding and mutual respect is the need of the hour, levelling wild accusations that do not have any foundation, in fact, can hardly help matters.

The Sangh Parivar bogey man will disappear if Saldanha and his Catholic Bishops and the Protestant Evangelical leaders will come out openly and affirm that they are taking a solemn pledge in the name of Jesus to abide by the admonition of Jesus not to go miles to make a proselyte. If they can do that, the so-called Sangh Parivar will disappear

India and its tolerance for the diversity of its religious communities were built up over thousands of years. But, it looks like if individuals like Saldanha and his like-minded friends are not checked and their false propaganda nipped in the bud, your children and the children of India's minorities will have no future anywhere near the equity and fairness that they have so far enjoyed despite India being a predominantly Hindu nation.

I marvel and admire the enormous charity and Christ-like compassion of the Hindu majority to accept two Muslim Presidents, a Sikh President and a Dalit President and at present a Sikh Prime Minister and a foreign-born Christian woman Party Leader of the ruling party.Not forgetting the present Christian Defence Minister, Anthony. No Islamic or Judeo-Christian country on this world's stage can hold a candle to the wisdom of the majority people of India who truly know what Sanatana Dharma is. It is high time that Mr.Saldanha and his protagonists make an attempt to appreciate that. That would be a true Christian,s humility if that is indeed possible for them to manifest

Is there a true Christian leader among us who can light a candle amidst the encircling gloom spread by the religious conversionists of both funddamental Christianity and Jehadi Islam?

Peace, Shanti, Salam and Shalom. With malice towards none, and charity towards all, I remain true to my guide and spiritual leader, the Jesus of Nazareth.


Friday, September 10, 2010

9th Stanley Samartha Memorial Lecture

Rev. Dr. Stanley Samartha Memorial Lecture-2010

The Bangalore Initiative for Religious Dialogue (BIRD) is pleased to announce that the the 9th Rev. Dr. Stanley Samartha Memorial Lecture will be delivered by Sir Mark Tully* on 7 October 2010 in Bangalore at 5 p.m. at the Rotary House of Friendship, Lavelle Road.

Please mark your calendar and participate in the event if your schedule permits.


*Sir Mark Tully, KBE is the former Chief of Bureau, BBC, New Delhi. He worked for BBC for a period of 30 years before resigning in July 1994.He held the position of Chief of Bureau, BBC, Delhi for 20 years. Since 1994 he has been working as a freelance journalist and broadcaster based in New Delhi

Mark Tully joined the BBC in 1964 and moved to India in 1965 to work as the India Correspondent. He covered all major incidents in South Asia during his tenure, ranging from India-Pakistan conflicts, Bhopal gas tragedy, Operation Blue Star (and the subsequent assassination of Indira Gandhi, anti-Sikh riots), Assassination of Rajiv Gandhi to the Demolition of Babri Masjid.

Tully was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1985 and was awarded the Padma Shree in 1992. He was knighted in the New Year Honours 2002] and in 2005 he received the Padma Bhushan.

Tully has written several books based on India including India in Slow Motion (co-author Gillian Wright), No Full Stops in India, The Heart of India, Divide & Quit, Last Children of the Raj, From Raj To Rajiv- 40 Years Of Indian Independence, India – 50 years of Independence, India's Unending Journey and Amritsar: Mrs. Gandhi's Last Battle. In the area of religion Sir Mark has authored The Lives of Jesus to accompany the BBC series and Four Faces: A Journey in Search of Jesus the Divine, the Jew, the Rebel, the Sage.