Don’t impose religious practices, Indian archbishop says of yoga measure
BHOPAL, India (Catholic Online) – The practices of a majority religion should not be imposed on other minority religions, said an Indian archbishop, reacting sharply to a decision of an Indian state government.
a Jan. 15 interview with the Indian Catholic, the Internet news service of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, Archbishop Pascal Topno of Bhopal said that he had nothing against “surua namaskar” or other Hindu rituals, but questioned the Madhya Pradesh government's decision to make the practice compulsory in all government schools and colleges.
"People from other communities should be given the freedom and the choice to say ‘no’ to it," said Archbishop Topno, acknowledging that the Catholic Church had not received any direct orders from the government mandating the practice.
“Surya namaskar” or sun salutation or prayer, comprising of “pranayam,” the control of breath and several main yogasanas, is the main component of Yoga.
Reports said that the government announcied it will hold mass surya namaskar recitations in institutions across the state on Jan. 25 as a precursor to a new yoga policy. The government has made it clear that it would encourage private schools and colleges to participate in the program.
"But we have not yet received any such notice," Archbishop Topno said.
Muslim organizations in the Indian state are reportedly critical of the state government's decision, threatening a boycott of student school attendance on Jan. 25 as Islam does not allow Muslims to bow in front of anyone but Allah.
Echoing those views, Archbishop Topno said that “similarly, one of our commandments also means that we should not bow down in front of any idol or any other god."
The Madhya Pradesh government has defended the measure as an innocuous step to promote the healthy practice of yoga in the state.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
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