Monday, May 15, 2006

Vatican and World Alliance of Churches Want Globally Accepted Religion

Vatican and World Alliance of Churches Want Globally Accepted Religion

Added: May 15th, 2006 7:32 AM

By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife at BosNewsLife News Center in Budapest

ATHENS/ROME/BUDAPEST (BosNewsLife)-- In a move expected to raise eyebrows among Evangelicals predicting the impending rule by the 'Anti-Christ' as described in the Bible, the Vatican and the world's largest alliance of Christian churches are seeking a "Common Code of Conduct" for conversions, in which non-Christian religions will have a say.

Following talks in Athens, Greece, this week, the World Council of Churches (WCC) and Vatican representatives announced they would open contacts with Islam and other faiths "to study ways to avoid conflicts."

On Saturday, May 13, the two groups were expected to continue negotiations with Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims near Rome as part of a four-day conference to sketch out an eventual “Code of Conduct” on Christian conversions, officials said.

Religious freedom and missionary outreach by Christian groups have become "increasingly sensitive topics" as many Muslims perceive their faith as under threat by the West and nations such as China struggle to maintain state controls on churches, organizers explained.

OTHER FAITHS

"How can we – anxious to maintain, develop and nurture good relations with people of other faiths – deal with this highly complex issue that sometimes threatens the fiber of living together?"added Rev. Hans Ucko, head of the Interreligious Relations Office for the WCC in published remarks.

Especially active 'Evangelical' Christians across all denominations have been singled out for attacks by Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist militants opposing Christian conversions in several countries of the world, including in Asia and the Middle East BosNewsLife Research established. But Evangelicals says Jesus Christ specifically ordered His Church to spread the Gospel into all nations and that persecution was to be expected.

Talks in Rome were held as in India on Saturday, May 13, thousands of Christians, including former Hindu-orphans, concluded their night of prayers and fasting against attacks against them by Hindu militants, who are fighting the spread of Christianity.

WORLDWIDE PRAYERS

Millions of others around the world were also believed to be involved in the All India International Night of Prayer May-12-13, sparked by events in the tense state of Rajahstan where Hindu-leaders have attempted to close down operations of one of India's largest evangelical mission groups Hopegivers International and its Indian affiliate Emanuel Mission International (EMI), and imprison their leaders.

Last month, lawmakers in the western Indian state of Rajasthan become the latest region in the country to outlaw proselytizing with punishments up to five years in prison. Critics claim the laws will be used to target Christian missionaries, who are often the target of denunciations from Hindu nationalists. But Muslims – who account for about 14 percent of India's population – also say the measures could be used against them.

In India's neighboring country of Sri Lanka, Christians on Saturday, May 13, were still recovering from attacks against their churches by Buddhist radicals trying to introduce anti-conversion legislation.

MOB ATTACKS

Recently, car tires were reportedly set on fire in front of a Methodist church to prevent people from entering for Sunday worship. On Saturday, May 6, a Buddhist monk in Poddala apparently led a mob to a site where members of the United Christian Fellowship had begun building a community hall and threatened the pastor and a construction worker.

In Piliyandala, southeast of the capital Colombo, Buddhist monks on April 30 led a mob to a Methodist church and prevented members from entering, as police declined to help, media reports said.

Also in Piliyandala, an Assembly of God church is facing a poster campaign and threats of massive protests if it does not close down. Violent mobs have carried out at least 160 attacks on churches or Christian institutions since 2002, when Buddhist monks first launched their campaign to introduce anti-conversion legislation, estimated Christian news agency Compass Direct.

CONDUCT CODE

In what they view as a move to ease tensions over conversions in Asia and across the globe,envoys from the Vatican's office on interreligious dialogue and the Geneva-based WCC – which includes over 350 mainline Protestant, Orthodox and related churches – said the hope to come up with the controversial 'Code of Conduct' soon.

The document was expected to take at least three years to research and draft with the other world religions.

Analysts said the biggest challenges to the project was involve Pentecostal and evangelical-style congregations who lead the drive for conversions around the world and represent the fastest-growing bloc in Christianity.

The WCC maintains links with some groups, including the 50 million-member Assemblies of God churches and the World Evangelical Alliance. Ucko reportedly said leaders hope to use the contacts to talk more with “the most zealous groups to try to find a common voice.”

TAKING SHAPE

The details of the conversion code will take shape in the coming years, said Ucko, but it will explore "the dos and don'ts" of trying to spread Christianity among other faiths, he told The Associated Press (AP) news agency.

He suggested Christian evangelists should stay away from places in the Muslim world where conversion from Islam is a punishable offense.

"This is complex moral and ethical territory. We want to open up a space to talk about this with other faiths," Ucko said. “What are the limits on seeking new Christians? What about people who have converted, but are afraid to come forward because they could be persecuted?”

NO LIMITS?

Evangelical groups say there are no limits on spreading the Gospel as Jesus Christ died at the cross for the sins of everyone, before His resurrection on the third day, so whoever believes in Him has everlasting life, as mentioned for instance in Bible verse John 3:16.

Supporters of the Code of Conduct point our however that conversions can be dangerous, referring to Abdul Raman, a Christian convert from Islam who faced a possible death sentence in Afghanistan before the charges were dropped in March and he was granted amnesty in Italy.

The move seems part of a broader initiative as it comes roughly 2.5 years after leaders at an unprecedented religious congress in the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan agreed to create what they called a "United Nations of Religions.

PRESIDENT SUPPORT

In September 2003, the President of the mainly Muslim and former Soviet nation, Nursultan Nazarbayev, offered to provide a new building in the capital Astana for the organization where disputes can be discussed in a neutral setting.

Delegates in Astana said they would call the organization "the Congress of World and Traditional Religions", dropping the word "national" because most faiths stretch across national boundaries.

Evangelical commentators, including best-selling author Hal Lindsey have warned that organizations such as the United Nations, the European Union with apparent support from the Vatican and likely WCC groups, are increasingly trying to create a universally excepted religion ideology, which they believe will in the end be a far cry from "the Way, the Truth and the Life of Jesus Christ," and likely be directed against Israel as part of a new World Order.

ASIAN POLITICS

In the short term, analysts say that the discussions over conversions are likely to spill into religious politics of Asia, including the alleged persecution of "house churches" in places such Vietnam and China amid an escalating clash between the Vatican and Chinese Communist authorities over control over Catholics.

Chinese Catholics must worship in the state-approved church, which doesn't recognize the Vatican. Last week, China angered the Vatican by ordaining two bishops without the approval of Pope Benedict XVI. The Vatican warned that those who took part might face excommunication.

The WCC represents more than 500 million Christians worldwide. The Roman Catholic Church, with about 1.1 billion members, is not a WCC member, but cooperates closely on many levels. (With BosNewsLife Research, BosNewsLife Reports, BosNewsLife News Center and reports from Kazakhstan and Greece).

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