Sunday, April 27, 2008

Look Who's Talking: Advani Woos Christians

New Delhi, April 26: After trying to persuade Muslims to back Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP), former deputy prime minister L. K. Advani today asked Indian Christian community to back his party. The BJP is trying desperately to persuade one and all before the forthcoming general elections to be held next year. Christians can play an important role in states like Kerala and north eastern states.

Christian community has been at the receiving end in states where BJP is in power including Gujarat, Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Orissa. Christian institutions have been constant targets of BJP’s sister concerns like Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal and RSS.

Advani today said, “Those who call the BJP ‘communal’, ‘anti-minorities’ and ‘anti-Christian’ are spreading falsehood for their own ulterior motives. Let me make it very clear that we respect Christianity, we revere Jesus Christ for his message of universal peace, love and brotherhood, and we deeply value the contribution of our Christian brethren both to India’s freedom struggle and to India’s nation-building in the post-Independence era.”

Advani said this while speaking as the chief guest at a function in Kottayam (Kerala) today to celebrate the Navathy — 91st birthday — of Rt. Rev. Dr. Philipose Mar Chrysostom, Valia Metropolitan of Mar Thoma Syrian Church of Malabar. He said on the occasion: “I am indeed blessed that I have come to pay tributes to His Holiness who embodies faith, love, happiness, experience, compassion, wisdom and, above all, boundless enthusiasm.”

Advani recalled that when Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee formed the Bharatiya Jana Sangh (predecessor to the BJP) in 1951, he appointed Barrister V.K. John as the chief of the Jana Sangh in Madras province. Barrister John, incidentally, was a classmate of Dr. Mookerjee in Calcutta.

“The same propaganda was also heard at the time. Barrister John was asked: ‘How can you, a Christian, accept to be an office-bearer of a communal party?’ His answer was forthright: ‘I know Dr. S.P. Mookerjee very well. He cannot be the president of a communal party.’”

Giving the examples of how the BJP backed a Christian PC Alexander to be its presidential nominee in 2002, Advani said, “Dr. Alexander was never known for his proximity to the BJP. Rather, he had served as the Principal Secretary under two Congress Prime Ministers — Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi.”

Advani also called for expanding inter-faith dialogue to promote the tradition of mutual tolerance and respect, peaceful coexistence, national solidarity and common endeavor for common good. “I believe that every faith has something valuable to offer and we should have an open mind to absorb the best in every faith.”