Buddhists foolishly unite with Hindus!!

LUMBINI, Nepal (AP) _ Three weeks after the pope called for missionaries to spread Catholicism throughout Asia, Hindu and Buddhist priests Sunday passed a resolution to stay united against proselytizing.

The pledge made by 1,000 delegates from across Asia came at the end of a three-day conference in southern Nepal. It made no direct reference to Pope John Paul II, who made the call during his visit to New Delhi earlier this month.

But the sense of crisis within Asian religions was evident throughout the conference at this small town close to Nepalís border with India, the birthplace of Gautama Buddha.

During the assembly, delegates publicly and privately said they were concerned by the popeís comments. Many described conversions as a "war against Hindus and Buddhists" and a "spiritual crime."

"We are worried about our identity. If we become one, we will become a majority and no one will be able to touch us," said Acharya Dharmendra, a Hindu religious leader and a policy maker of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, or World Hindu Council, a major religious group in India that is allied with the ruling party.

Hindu groups in India have accused Christian missionaries of using mostly inducements and sometimes coercion to gain converts, a charge the church has denied. The animosity arising from the conversion controversy has led to several attacks on Christians in India over the last year.

For centuries Hindus and Christians have lived in harmony in India, which today counts 23 million Christians and 820 million Hindus among its 1 billion population. Muslims, Buddhists and Sikhs account for the rest.

The saffron- and ochre-robed priests raised their hands to the chants of Om to approve the formation of a two-member committee to decide how to improve Hindu-Buddhist unity.

Some delegates said the reason why many South Asians were being attracted to Christianity was that many people didnít know or understand the depth of their own religion and culture.

"If we donít teach our younger people our great religion, Iím afraid, however persuasive we might be, we cannot stop conversions taking place," said Maj. General Bharat Keshar Simha, chief of the Nepal-based World Hindu Federation and the coordinator of the conference.

The Hindu-Buddhist show of unity was briefly marred when some Buddhist groups refused to take part in the conference. Some monks felt the conference was being dominated by Hindus who were trying to diminish Buddhismís importance as an independent religion.

Some Hindus believe that Buddha is an incarnation of Vishnu, the god of preservation. Buddhists object to the belief and say it is an attempt by Indiaís principal religion to absorb a smaller community.


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