Houston Hindus Stage Protest Rally Outside Church  

Source: India West; Nov. 12, 1999

Dissatisfied with the "apology" offered by the Southern Baptists for making denigrating remarks about Hindus, around 150 sign-carrying protestors picketed silently and peacefully in front of Houston's Second Baptist Church Nov. 7.

They were protesting what they called an "anti-Hindu" guidebook published last month by the International Missionary Board of the Southern Baptists Convention. A handful of people from the Jewish and Christian faith joined the protestors.

The guidebook, distributed to coincide with the festival of Diwali, says, among other things, that Hindus worship false gods and even Satan; that they are struggling in spiritual darkness.

Similar guides have been published in the past asking Baptists to pray for the conversion of Jews and Muslims. A booklet focusing on Buddhists is upcoming, according to the Associated Press.

Many of the protestors at last week's rally were students and young professionals.

"I am here to protest against religious intolerance," noted Shilpa Chunchu, a 24-year-old. "Ignorance brings prejudice."

Following the uproar unleashed by the publication, the Second Baptists Convention 10 days ago issued a statement defending the publication as something meant for its church members to "know better how to pray for Hindus," and not meant to offend Hindus or convert them to Christianity.

"The language in the prayer book 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," said the statement, in part.

Speaking to a Houston Chronicle reporter after the protest, Gary Moore, a spokesman for the Houston church said he had not seen the booklet, but was aware of it.

"Southern Baptists are pretty much a people of the book, and by that I mean the Bible of course," Moore is quoted as saying.

He went on to say that the Bible specifically states that Jesus Christ is "the way, the truth, the light" and it calls on Christians to reach out to others in spreading the word, according to the Chronicle.

Protestor Vijay Pallod told India-West that Hindus were not satisfied with the "apology" from the Southern Baptists, hence decided to go ahead with the protest.

Besides, the Southern Baptists have so far not agreed to pull the guidebook from circulation, as Hindus had demanded, he said.