New Delhi: Activist Swami Agnivesh has written to Pope Benedict XVI asking him to impose a "moratorium" on mass conversions or conversions through coercion, saying such acts ignite strong reactions in countries like India.
He wrote the letter in response to a Diwali message from the Pope in which he had made a strong advocacy for religious freedom to include freedom to convert.
Agnivesh said forced conversions or conversions by offering financial benefits to the poor had been witnessed, particularly in areas dominated by poor tribals, and such developments do not have a good impact on society.
"We have witnessed problems arising in Kandhamal due to conversions and re-conversions. We do not want such violence to recur in India," he said.
"We also want to bring together other religious leaders in demanding that the Pope to issue a statement towards stopping collective conversions in countries like India," he told reporters here, adding Pandit NK Sharma, a leading disciple of Swami Swaroopanand and Shankacharya of Puri were endorsing his stand.
He said the the Diwali message sent to him by the Pope strongly advocated for the freedom to change one`s religion.
"While we believe individuals should have the right to convert to the religion of their choice, what is not desirable is the mass conversions that have been witnessed in the past," said Agnivesh who had visited Vatican for a congregation on
the invitation of the Pope.
In the letter Agnivesh describes himself as a friend of Christians of India, who has been "at the forefront of taking up their cause" and says efforts of "well-wishers like me can be set at naught by one of the themes that can be read into your message".
"I, therefore, request that, in contrast to the advocacy of conversion that can be inferred from your message, we ask for a moratorium on collective conversions, on conversions brought about by force or enticement," he wrote.