RE: Research paper of Justice KT Thomas on conversion
BIRD will soon publish the K.T.Thomas lecture and following is the foreword written to iy by Dr. C.T.Kurien:
The Indian Constitution guarantees to every citizen the right to propagate religion subject to public order and morality as also the freedom to change religion. But neither of these or even the two taken together can be interpreted as the "right to convert", says the distinguished jurist and retired judge of the Supreme Court, Justice K.T.Thomas in his Stanley Samartha Memorial Lecture. Those Christians who hold the view that a primary Christian obligation is to convert others into the Christian religion and use the words of Jesus as recorded in the Gospel according to Mathew 28:19 to justify it may find Justice Thomas's position rather confusing, if not totally unacceptable. But a closer look at that frequently invoked Gospel text may suggest that it was not an exhortation to add to the numerical strength of the Christian religion or any of its many branches. For one thing when Jesus gave this command there was no Christian religion. But more than that, it is necessary to reflect on the essence of the mission of Jesus to understand the true import of his farewell message. Jesus was a Jewish teacher and my understanding is that he was challenging the Jewish people to think of God, the creator of all things, not as an exclusive Jewish deity, but as the loving and caring Father of human beings of all nations and all ages. If Jesus is seen as the messenger of this all inclusive view of the human family, then conversion ceases to be the main concern of Christians and the commandment to love neighbours, with all their differences, including religious ones, takes precedence. What then of religious conversations? If the essence of religion is the quest for truth, and it is natural that different individuals and groups have but partial perceptions of truth, religious conversations and dialogues will continue. This is more so where one lives in a context of religious plurality as in our country. But religious conversations then cannot be just fault-finding exercises, and certainly not condemnations. Rather, they must be the search for greater understanding of different positions and expositions remembering that religious truths have frequently been communicated through variety of idioms, figures of speech, and often through myths of different ages and cultures. It is not an easy task. What Justice Thomas states is that the Indian Constitution guarantees the freedom to pursue this line as also to change one's position if it leads to that. He asks everyone, Christians particularly, to go about religious conversation and propagation of this kind with sincerity, great humility, and above all, with deep sensitivity. This was also the plea that Prof. Stanley Samartha so fervently made during his life and which is more relevant today than ever before. It is my privilege to commend Justice Thomas's lecture to a wider audience through this publication.
C. T. Kurien __._,_.___
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