R A T I O N A L I S T   I N T E R N A T I O N A L
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New Delhi 110 091, India.

21 October 1999

Editor: Sanal Edamaruku
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The Second International Rationalist Conference scheduled to be
held at Trivandrum, from 17 to 22 January 2000 will be declared
open on 17th evening at 5 p.m. by Professor Paul Kurtz, the
most prominent humanist of our times.

Prof. Paul Kurtz is the founder of the Council for Secular
Humanism (CSH), the Council for the Scientific Investigation
of the Paranormal (CSICOP), and the Center for Inquiry 
-international. He is also the vice-president of the 
Rationalist Press Association.

Paul Kurtz, professor emiritus of philosophy at the State
University of New York at Buffalo, is not only an academic
philosopher of high rank. He has carried the ideals of
Secular Humanism and Rationalism to the general public -as a
man of public discussion, as a writer and publisher. With
hundreds of articles and more than 35 books, he has argued
for the good life: guided by reason and science, free from 
the dogmas of god and state, inspired by compassion for
fellow humans and driven by the ideals of human freedom, 
happiness and understanding.

The Second International Rationalist Conference marks the
Golden Jubilee of Indian Rationalist Association, founded
in 1949 at Madras by eminent educationist R.P.Paranjpye
(former vice-chancellor of Bombay university and former
ambassador of India in Australia) and Dr.S.Ramanathan (former
minister of education of erstwhile state of Madras) among

>From 1983, the head-quarters of the Indian Rationalist
Association is at New Delhi, the capital of India.
The First International Rationalist Conference was 
organised by the Indian Rationalist Association at
New Delhi in 1995. Delegates from 28 countries participated
in the First International Rationalist Conference.

We invite you to join us during the Second International 
Rationalist Conference at Trivandrum, the capital of Kerala,
the southern coastal state in India, and celebrate with us
fifty years of history  which created the largest and the
most vibrant rationalist movement in Asia, and most likely
in the whole world.

Ensure your participation. For more details about
registration, please write to: <sakthy@giasdla.vsnl.net.in>  


Pope John Paul II has chosen to pay a visit to India before
the new millennium dawns. In the first week of November 1999.
India is of great strategic importance for him. 
The christianisation of Asia ranges high in the Vatican's 
agenda for the coming century, and India is identified as 
the key.

While the growth rate of Christian churches in the West has
come to a standstill long ago, or even turned negative,
increasing efforts of missionary work are focussing India.
Besides the Roman Catholic church, there are others in the
race: Protestants, Evangelical church, Baptists, Pentacostals
-they all are trying hard to get the best piece of the Indian
cake. "Of all the nations in the world, India has the richest
potential of fruitful investment of evangelistic efforts at
this time. It is the best place to invest time, energy and
resources", says the co-ordinator of the 'Joshua 2000 Project',
a united 'Prayer Mobilization Network' of different Protestant
churches, which currently tries to implement its 
"Hindi-Heartland-Penetration Strategies" and unleashes thousands
of newly trained missionaries on the country. The Vatican
answered the challenge of its competitors by launching its
project: "Vision 2000".

The recent attacks on Christians in India have been widely
used by God's servants of all provenience to project their
martyrs and catch international limelight. In the competition
for publicity nobody was too bothered about truth;
some priests did not hesitate to field even concocted stories.
The Protestant churches looked slightly down on the Catholic
church, who did not have a single martyr for long. But then,
in last September, a Catholic priest while clandestinely
baptising converted tribals in the inaccessable jungles of
Orissa at night, was shot dead by them with arrows. Sometimes
the 'rescued souls' are thankful!

One aim of the forthcoming India vist of the Pope is surely
to tilt the balance of the Christian harvesting efforts in
favour of the Roman Catholic church and usurp supremacy.
One can already anticipate  how Protestant, Baptist, 
Evangelical and Catholic martyrs will be united as common 
receivers of his blessings and in this process become a kind 
of honorary Catholics. The visit coincides with the 
conclusion of the Asian Synode and gives the Pope opportunity
to present himself powerfully in the midst of his bishops.

There is another photo opportunity of significance expected:
the Pope has expressed the wish to make peace between the
world religions so that they commonly enter a century of 
religious harmony and tolerance! It is important for him to
emphsise this all-religious brotherhood programme to cover-up
the quite and aggressive missionary agenda which is
relentlessly harvesting in the fields of other religions.
India as a state with multi-religious population makes an
ideal stage  for great gestures like this. A meeting with 
the representatives of all major religions is already scheduled.

While the Holy Father tries his best to impress India and the
world, most Indians seem to lack enthusiasm about his visit.
Except in Kerala, despite all efforts, the Catholic church
is not an influential factor in the continent. People, 
especially in the cities and among the young generation, 
are not very interested in the  Pope. He is seen to represent 
archaic religious ideology which is, like radical Hinduism, 
obsolete in a modern world. "We want development, jobs, 
new technology, we want to compete with the best of the world", 
says a student.

A strong reaction against the visit of the Pope comes only
from the radical Hindus. The organisations of the
radical Hindu camp, leading among them the Vishwa Hindu
Parishad (VHP), have launched a vociferous campaign against
the visit, which shows, though touching important points, 
the limitations of its religious locus standi. Last week a
nation wide agitation has started at an auspicious hour
with saffron-clad sadhus performing rituals for all Hindus
killed by Christians since the time of Vasco da Gama.
Chanting 'slokas' and pouring purified butter into the fire
they condemned the Catholic church ceremoniously. Their
main demand is that the Pope should admit publicly that
"all religions are equal" and that "Christianity is not the
only path to salvation." Some VHP leaders demand that 
Pope John Paul II tender an apology for forced conversions
and atrocities committed against Hindus. The further steps
of their action plan are not yet revealed. "We don't expose
our battle secrets", told the Delhi VHP chief  to the press.
It is reliably known that the VHP is preparing  for a 15 
days protest march throughout the country. Starting from 
Goa, it will cover Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajastan,
Uttar Pradesh and Haryana and end at Delhi, followed by 
the burning of the Pope's effigy on the day of his
arrival, which would, according to sources, culminate
into "something  massive."

Not for the first time, Pope John Paul II may well surprise
his critics. The Vatican's new PR strategy is 'openness',
'honesty' and 'repentance' regarding the "errors" which stained
the history of the Catholic church with blood of millions
of people who did not subscribe to the 'right' religious
belief or did not submit to the ecclesiastical authority.
After -carefully- apologising for harassement of the Jews
and excesses of the Inquisition, he may well include the
Hindus, tortured and murdered by the church in Goa
in the list of victims of the victoric failings of his
institution. And as far as equality and harmony of the 
world religions is concerned -the clever Pope may simply
take the wind out of the sails of his critics by effectively 
blessing and embracing his Hindu, Muslim, Sikh and Biddhist 
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