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Carmelite Nun, former Hindu, on Pope's call for Religious Freedom

By Nirmala Carvalho
July 16th, 2010
Asia News (www.asianews.it/)

Sister Mary Joseph, a former Brahmin Hindu, since 1977 has lived in the cloistered Carmelite Convent in Mumbai. Here she comments to AsiaNews the theme "Religious freedom, the path to peace", chosen by Pope Benedict XVI for World Day for Peace 2011.

MUMBAI, India (AsiaNews) - Sister Mary Joseph, 63, was a Brahmin Hindu until 1971. Converted to Catholicism in 1971, she now lives in the cloistered Carmelite convent in Mumbai. Before her conversion, she was called Radha Krishnan and taught in the school of the Canossian Mahim (Mumbai), where she encountered the Catholic faith.

Commenting to AsiaNews on the theme of World Day for Peace 2011 - "Religious freedom, the path to peace" - the cloistered sister stresses the importance of being able to change one's religion without opposition.

"Religious Freedom - she says - also includes the right to change religion, searching for the truth, expressing opinion, and worshiping in places of worship (public). When someone discovers a religion with best values that gives hope, no one should object. "

Sister Mary Joseph recalls the "hard trials" that she experienced during the period of her conversion: "My conversion to Catholicism was an affront to the pride of my family, which was crushed by my choice. My family had to suffer humiliation from other relatives, being of a higher caste of very traditional Brahmin Iyengar. "

Without religious freedom, the sister continues, "a culture of dialogue, participation, solidarity can not develop in society, "and" peace can not flourish. "

In India, this is still often lacking: "In the past in the district of Kandhamal [Orissa, where pogroms against Christians occurred between August and September 2008, ed], minorities have been persecuted and threatened by the majority. Christians have suffered and continue to be marginalized even today in some parts of the district".

"Our Holy Father" continues the Carmelite, "knows that religious freedom is the basis for the development of peace. When it is hampered by violence, community, society, nation and the world are destroyed".

Sister Mary Joseph finally claims that the whole of society must work to promote "religious freedom". "It is an inalienable and inviolable right rooted in the dignity of every human being. It must be guaranteed not only legally but also in everyday life. "

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