Indian Religious Leader Warns of Coming Religious Freedom Crisis

Swami Agnivesh and Dr. Jonathan Gallagher

Budapest, Hungary..."If these religious conflicts continue, there is no future for India," commented Indian religious leader the Swami Agnivesh at a religious freedom conference in Budapest, Hungary on July 31. He was referring to violent clashes between various faith communities in India, particularly the Muslim-Hindu conflict earlier this year, and attacks on Christians by extremists, actions that have left hundreds dead. "Hinduism, with the reputation for being one of the most tolerant religions, has been hijacked for political purposes," he continued, warning that a major religious freedom crisis would result, with extensive violence and instability in the country.

Agnivesh, working president of the World Council of Arya Samaj, spoke of an inter-faith pilgrimage of 72 religious leaders from all faiths to the scene of many of the atrocities, Gujurat state, and said that militants had threatened them to the extent that the Army had been forced to provide protection.

In an interview, Agnivesh referred to his book, "Harvest of Hate," co-authored with Christian writer Valson Thampu. In heart-felt language, Agnivesh appeals to those who commit or condone religious violence: "In the name of God we ask you, the bloodthirsty actors in the tragedy of India, to have done with it. You have had your day. And have played your hellish theme to perfection. The land is littered with too many corpses already. Columns of smoke from the fires of hate choke the air. The sun hides his faces from this shame. Stars have fled from our sky. The wails of widows and the shrieks of burning children mock the music of our national anthem. A thousand wounds bleed. Our hearts bleed. Mother India bleeds. The obscene stench of blood fills her nostrils. Enough is enough. Stop this abomination. For God's sake, stop it. Live, and let live. Live in peace."

Agnivesh is also chairman of the United Nations Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, and also Founder-President of the Bonded Labour Liberation Front working on behalf of the oppressed and the victims of discrimination. [Jonathan Gallagher]