Plans by the National Commission for Minorities (NCM), an autonomous body representing India's religious minorities, to arrange talks between Christian and Hindu groups in the wake of continued attacks on Christian targets have come up against major difficulties, prompting a major debate within churches about dialogue with the fundamentalist Hindu groups which are critical of Christians.Major Christian groups are now to meet to decide a common approach to dialogue with fundamentalist Hindus.The NCM, which is funded by India's federal government and was set up to protect the interests of religious minorities (82 percent of India's billion citizens are Hindu), announced late last month that church leaders would soon meet representatives of Hindu fundamentalist groups like VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad—World Hindu Council) and Bajrang Dal "to remove discord, disharmony and misgivings between the two communities." However, despite the publicity given to the proposed meeting, listed for July 11, it never took place. And now the proposed dialogue itself is becoming the focus of a sometimes bitter public debate between Hindus and Christians.NCM officials met Protestant and Catholic leaders on June 27 as they arrived in New Delhi for the funeral of Archbishop Alan Basil de Lastic, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI), who died last month in a car accident in Poland. But a few days later church leaders were surprised to learn in the media that the dialogue would take place on July 11. The date had been fixed "without informing or consulting" them, they told ENI."We were taken by surprise. We never discussed any date, agenda or the groups that would represent Hindus," Bishop Vinod Peter, president of National ...

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