From time to time we hear of startling revelations about church matters. This holds true for churches of all denominations and in all religions. One such recent development has been that of the apology of the Roman Catholic Pope John Paul concerning the “sins of the church over two thousand years.” It must have taken a great deal of courage and humility for this Pope to publicly admit that the church has committed sins.
In the Toronto Globe and Mail on Saturday March 11, 2000, there is a heading “Pope unveils apology for sins of the church”. In the article written by Michael Valpy who is a religion and ethics reporter stated “The Vatican formally unveiled yesterday the Pope’s sweeping apology for two thousands years of sins and errors by the Roman Catholic church, calling it unprecedented, cleansing and humbling, but not “spectacular self flagellation.”
In a few days Pope John Paul II will ask forgiveness from God for the violence of the crusades, the coercion of the inquisition, ex-communications, persecutions, divisions within Christianity, the treatment of Jews, neglect of the poor and the unborn, sins against women, aboriginal people, racists and ethnic groups, and the flaws of “ethical relativism.”
The failings of the church’s “sons and daughters” are set down in a ninety two-page document titled Memory and reconciliation: The church and the mistakes of the past.
One of the authors, French Priest Jean-Luis Burgeus, said: “We have mentioned a few errors, but we could have had a very long list.” From the foregoing quotation it becomes clear that a large church consisting of a billion or more people has committed many errors over two thousand years. In the crusades led by the church against the Muslims to recapture Jerusalem, many Muslims were killed. In the counter crusades by the Muslims many Christians were killed, and there were about ten crusades fought in the name of religion. Similarly, the church has sought out in the inquisition all those considered to be heretics, and they were burned at the stake. A famous example was Joan of Arc, later made a saint as Saint Joan. During the Second World War the church condoned the treatment of the Jews and nearly six million were slaughtered, and the church did nothing to stop the genocide. Recently, the Pope visited India where his reception was less than cordial by the Hindus. Although he has apologized for the wrongs of the church, he still instructed his Bishops in India to convert the Hindus to Christianity.
Christianity is a religion based on faith and belief that the messiah is Jesus the Christ, and he is the Son of God and the Saviour. Belief in Jesus is the only way to gain salvation. Thus all the people of all the other religions who do not accept Jesus as their saviour are considered to be heathen and cannot obtain liberation. Thus the Christian missionaries are very busy trying to convert people of other religions to Christianity in order to “save them”. On the other hand, the Hindus do not believe that they have to be “saved.” They accept that God is indwelling as the soul in the hearts of all beings. Omnipresence of God ensures this. Since God is already with them, from whom do they have to be saved? According to Satguru Kabir we have to travel on the inner journey, rise above duality, and realize our union with God.
The remedy for all the wrong doings committed in the name of God by different churches is that each individual, whether he belongs to the laity or the priesthood, must first of all have a very open mind and analyze truth from falsehood, the real from the unreal, knowledge from ignorance, unity from duality, and all of these must be done with the understanding that all livings beings are soul-beings, and that God is the Supreme Being available equally to all people, of all religions, of all ethnic and cultural backgrounds, and of all geographical locations. Let us bring God into our hearts and manifest that Divinity in our life, and all the church strife, problems and sins will automatically disappear.
[Excerpted from The Kabir Voice, March 2000, when this news was in the popular press. I am not singling our Christianity, as other religions also have their problems. Can you comment on negative behaviour in other religions, as there are many? We need to be aware of negative religious behaviour so that we can stay clear of them.]