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Thứ Tư, tháng 9 20, 2006

No. 1139

Anger over Gujarat religion law
By Rajeev Khanna, BBC News, Sept 20, 2006

Buddhism will be seen by Gujarat as part of the Hindu religion

Ahmedabad, Gujarat (India) -- Christians and Muslims in the western Indian state of Gujarat have expressed resentment over an amendment in the law relating to religious conversions.

They say that moves by the state government to classify Buddhism and Jainism as branches of the Hindu religion are unconstitutional.

Christians and Muslims have accused the authorities of trying to polarise the state along religious lines.

But backers of the amendment say it will protect low caste Hindus.

People convicted of carrying out conversions using allurement or force face lengthy prison terms and fines.

'Inter-denominational conversions'

They say that such groups are vulnerable to exploitation and pressure for them to convert, which is undermining India's Hindu culture.

Under the Indian constitution, Buddhism and Jainism are classified as separate religions.

The government is accused of trying to preserve its vote bank

But under the terms of the amendment passed by the right-wing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Gujarat government on Tuesday, both are classified as part of the Hindu religion.

That means that Buddhists and Jains will not need official permission to change religion, because it would be deemed to be an "inter-denomination conversion".

Gujarat's Law Minister, Ashok Bhatt, said the amendment was introduced because the constitutional definition of the term ''convert'' is too vague, and does not specifically mention a particular religious denomination.

However, the leader of the state's opposition Congress party said the Gujarat government was using religion as a "tool" to maintain its bedrock of votes.

'Enticements'

The government's critics say it wants to ensure that low caste Hindus - known as Dalits - do not embrace Christianity or Islam and therefore be less inclined to vote for the BJP.

A man walks past the debris of the riot
Religious riots in 2002 devastated parts of Gujarat

Other states in India - including Tamil Nadu hand Rajasthan - have also drafted laws preventing religious conversions, but none has introduced an amendment similar to that passed by Gujarat.

Conversions are a contentious issue in the state, particularly in tribal belts where the BJP and other right wing parties have accused Christian missionaries of offering enticements for people to change religion.

Christian groups have denied the charges.

It is estimated that Christians constitute less than 0.5% of Gujarat's population, whereas about 85% of the state are Hindus. Muslims in the state account for around 14% of the total population.

The Freedom of Religion Act in Gujarat was passed in 2003, but has not yet been implemented by the government.

http://www.buddhistchannel.tv/index.php?id=42,3200,0,0,1,0
No. 1038 (Minh Châu dịch)

Sri Lankan monks want projection of Buddhist sites

By Our Correspondent

TAXILA, Sept 19: Pakistan harbours rich Buddhist treasure, which, with proper projection, can help turn the country into a hub of Buddhist religious and cultural tourism.

All it requires is making he Buddhist countries aware of this priceless asset through publications, and organising seminars and exhibitions to attract tourist from these countries.

This was stated by Chief Prelate of Sri Lanka Rajakiya Pandita Davuldena Gnanissara, while taking to newsmen here in Taxila Museum on Tuesday.

The chief monk along with heads of four different sects of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, namely Davuldena Gnanissana Maha Theva, Vevaldenjye Medhalankara, Niyangoda Vijitasiri and Dr Plyasna Dissanyake, is on a state visit to Pakistan. Eminent Muslim scholar of Sri Lanka and attorney at law Dr Z.Z. Akbar also accompanied the delegation. This is the first ever visit of any monk from Sri Lanka to Pakistan. The delegation is here to explore the religious and cultural potential in various parts of the country, especially Takht Bhai and Swat.

The chief monk of Sri Lanka said in his country, Buddhism was practised by nearly 70 per cent of the island’s 19 million people, but they had little information about Pakistan. He said Pakistan should project its Buddhist treasure through publications in Sri Lankan language, provide documentaries to the television channels, and organise annual exhibitions to show the world its cultural and archaeological heritage. He said Pakistan could annually attract thousands of religious tourists from Sri Lanka if Pakistani officials concerned adopted aggressive tourist policy.

Responding to a question, he appreciated the efforts of Pakistan government for preserving Buddhist worship sites. He said he was much impressed by the archaeological treasures, well- preserved sites and excellent preservation of the Buddhist artifacts.

The chief monk said their visit would add new dimensions to the relations between the two countries. He thanked the Pakistan government for giving them this rare opportunity to be in the land of Buddha and also for the hospitality.

http://www.dawn.com/2006/09/20/top15.htm