Hindu Prayer guide "Divali: Festival of Lights":
The SBC released 30,000 copies of the guide just before the most
important Hindu festival of 1999: the three-day celebration of Divali,
a.k.a. Diwali and Festival of Lights. It has 16 pages, and includes short
daily prayers covering a 12 day period. "According to Louis Moore,
editor of the latest publication, the language is harsher in this guide
[compared to other guides] because 'There is a clearer definition that
Hindus are lost.' " 1 This decision was
probably made because Hinduism is a polytheistic faith, while other guides
concerned monotheistic religions: Islam and Judaism.
Chandrakant Panse is a co-organizer of New England Hindus Against
Religious Intolerance. About 60 people staged a peaceful march on
1999-NOV-21 outside the Beacon Hill Baptist Church on Cambridge
Street in Boston, MA. They carried signs: "Respect All Religions"
and "Intolerance is Un-American". Ms. Panse said: ''We're
asking the Baptists to retract their malicious attacks on the Hindu
religion and its people.'' The group was protesting a Hindu prayer
guide distributed by the International Mission Board of the Southern
Baptist Convention. Some of the statements in the guide are:
||''Hindus seek power and blessing through the worship of gods and
goddesses and the demonic powers that lay behind them."
||"Hindus lack a concept of sin or personal responsibility."
||"...the darkness in their Hindu hearts that no lamp can
||''...demonic powers lie behind Hindu gods."
||"...more than 900 million people lost in the hopeless
darkness of Hinduism."
||"Walking through the streets of India during Divali is a
sobering reminder of the power of darkness that lies over this land."
||"Mumbai [India] is a city of spiritual darkness. Eight out
of every 10 people are Hindu, slaves bound by fear and tradition to
||"Satan has retained his hold on Calcutta through Kali and
other gods and goddesses of Hinduism. It's time for Christ's salvation
to come to Calcutta."
||Hindus live under ''the power of Satan.''
The other organizer of the protest, Suresh Jain, commented that ''None
of this is true. We are offended by statements in the prayer book which
say the only path to salvation is to follow
60 Hindus from the Atlanta GA area attended another rally in Atlanta on
1999-OCT-31. Software developer Shyam Tiwari of Duluth said they felt their
religion is under attack. "It's basically the pain which we feel because
of the denigration of Hindus and Hinduism by Southern Baptists. We wanted to
express our feelings as well as to enlighten these people, if we can."
Another protestor, Dhiru Shah said that the pamphlet attacks Hinduism. It "insults
and maligns Hinduism and the Hindus. We believe that conversion -- it goes
against the human spirit. We believe that there is only one God, and that God is
for everybody. There's no reason to convert anybody." 2
The prayer guide attracted a great deal of negative comment:
||The regional director of the American Jewish Congress, Sheila
Decter, attended the Boston rally. She noted that the SBC had
previously targeted the Jewish faith with a similar campaign just
before the Jewish High Holy Days this year. She said: ''The price
of democracy is the right to spread the good news about one's faith to
others. But this guide crossed the line from being a statement of
faith to denigrating another religion.''|
||The pastor of the Beacon Hill Baptist church, David Draper,
apologized to the group. He said: ''I am embarrassed by the guide.
Several statements about the Hindu faith were offensive and
insensitive. While there are differences in our traditions and
convictions, we should not be intolerant of other faiths.'' He
plans to meet with the group and to persuade the Mission Board to be
more accepting of other faiths.|
||According to the Virginian-Pilot newspaper, the prayer guide "has
worried some missionaries in India who already fear for their safety
in the wake of widespread anti-Christian violence." 3
||Dr. Saileela Venkatesan, of the Hindu Temple of Hampton Roads
in Chesapeake VA, said that the booklet was "disturbing''
and that it "makes a mockery'' of this Hindu holiday. It
is not a day of "spiritual darkness,'' as it is described
in the SBC guide; it celebrates "victory of good over evil.''
She said that the part of the guide which states that most "Hindus
lack a concept of sin or personal responsibility"
mischaracterizes her religion. "Irrespective of which sect of
Hinduism you follow, the most important thing always is not to commit
any sin...These are almost the same things as in the Ten Commandments.''
||Some SBC pastors in Virginia also had negative thoughts about the
||The Rev. Donald J. Dunlap, interim pastor at Churchland
Baptist Church in Chesapeake said: "It's most
judgmental and it comes across as arrogant... It creates bad
feelings and hostility, and I regret that very much. There
clearly is a way to present Christ to people without making them
feel like second-class citizens.''
||The Rev. John Dean, pastor of Norfolk's Larchmont Baptist
Church, objects to publishing the booklet during Divali.
"It's almost like flaunting our faith in front of them, when
we know full well it will not be beneficial."
||The Rev. Gulkhan Pau, general secretary of the Council of
Baptist Churches in North-East India, told Ecumenical News
International: "Those who bring out such derogatory
material from outside should be more careful, as it is going to
disturb our mission and put us in trouble.'' 3
The prayer guide also has its supporters:
||The Rev. Timothy Piland, pastor of Nansemond River Baptist Church
in Suffolk VA said: "I don't think it's ill-timed; prayer is
never ill-timed...The suffering of Christians in other countries is
not new. If ever there were a time when we need to pray for those
folks, it's now.''
||The Rev. Mark Stone, pastor of Kempsville Baptist Church in
Virginia Beach, agreed: "We don't want to be misunderstood,
but we will be...Jesus was misunderstood and he was crucified for it.''
In response to the uproar, Randy Sprinkle, the individual responsible
for publishing the guide, agreed that the booklet contained "an
element of arrogance." However, he said, it was the "arrogance
The SBC mission board later issued an apology which stated, in part:
purpose of the Divali prayer guide was to help Southern Baptists
understand and identify with Hindu people as we express our love for them
in prayer...The language in the prayer guide was chosen to communicate to
Southern Baptists, not Hindus, and the truths in it, as we understand
them, are rooted in the Bible, the book we believe to be god's revealed
word...It is distressing to us that elements of the guide may have
offended our Hindu neighbours and for that we are profoundly sorry...We understand that the good news of God's saving love in
Jesus, the Savior, may be offensive to some, but it never was our
intention to express that love in an offensive way.''
Cristopher Brauchili, "They know they're right, so why be
tolerant?" The Boulder News, 1999-NOV-6, Boulder CO. See: http://www.bouldernews.com/opinion/columnists/6chris.html
Paul Donsky, "Metro Hindus protest Baptists' pamphlet,"
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, at: http://www.accessatlanta.com/news/1999/11/01/hindu.html
Liz Szabo, "Southern Baptist prayer guide on Hindus offends and
worries," at: http://www.pilotonline.com/news/nw1106hin.html
Copyright © 2000 to 2003 incl., by Ontario Consultants on
Originally written: 2000-JAN-7
Latest update: 2003-APR-7
Author: B.A. Robinson