About 60 Hindus hold protest over Southern Baptist pamphlet

Atlanta rally participants say prayer guide is effort to denigrate their religion

November 01, 1999|By COX NEWS SERVICE

ATLANTA -- About 60 Hindus attended a rally yesterday at Centennial Olympic Park to protest what they see as efforts by the Southern Baptist Convention to denigrate Hinduism and convert Hindus.

The issue erupted a week ago, when the Southern Baptist Convention published a "prayer guide" that made reference to Hinduism's shortcomings. Hindus took offense to the claims, including one that said Hindus do not have the concept of sin or personal responsibility.

Southern Baptist leaders say the prayer pamphlets are not evangelical conversion manuals. But Hindus such as Shyam Tiwari of Duluth said they felt their religion was under attack.

"It's basically the pain which we feel because of the denigration of Hindus and Hinduism by Southern Baptists," said Tiwari, a software developer. "We wanted to express our feelings as well as to enlighten these people, if we can."

The protesters lined up along a street in the park and held signs for passing motorists and walkers. One sign read "Bigotry and Hatred, the world can live without." Another: "Truth is one. Wise call it different."

They stood silently for several minutes before breaking out in songs, one about universal brotherhood.

The Baptist booklet "insults and maligns Hinduism and the Hindus," said Dhiru Shah of Alpharetta, who helped organize the rally. "We believe that conversion -- it goes against the human spirit. We believe that there is only one God, and that God is for everybody. There's no reason to convert anybody."

There are nearly 800,000 Hindus in the world, mostly in India, Sri Lanka and Nepal. The ancient religion holds that there is only one supreme truth that is the cause of all existence. Hindus also believe in reincarnation -- that individual souls pass through many lives before attaining "Moksha" -- liberation from the cycle of birth and death.

Manju Tiwari of Duluth joined the protest because she wanted people to learn about Hinduism.

What the Baptists are saying "is not right. That's why I'm here. What they're saying is wrong," she said.

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