I find it very sad to see how people are using the net to attack each other's religions. In the wake of recent violence, in Kandhamal & bombings, this reaction is all too easy & understandable. But whatever our beliefs, we need to rise above this. This mentality of attack pollutes our beliefs. The fact is, each religion carries a huge shadow, yet each also carries great beauty. This simple & balanced truth gets lost in the attacks.
The shadow of Christianity is the intolerance: the belief that "only we have the truth, the others worship false gods". This attitude was spread by the first wave of European missionaries during the 19th century, and the result is that Christians held themselves separate & considered themselves superior. Christianity carries a terrible history of wars of religion & persecution between Catholics & Protestants - the antithesis of the love which Jesus taught. We must remember, he never founded a Christian church or wrote the bible: it's a selection made several centuries after his death, that left out for example the "Gnostic Gospels" & included writings by people with a much narrower vision than that of Jesus.
On the other side, conversion to Christianity has given thousands of people in India respite from the cruelties of caste, and a more personal relationship with god.
Hinduism carries a great shadow too, more complex in a way. We all know about the cruelties of caste hieracrchy. Organisations such as Bajrang dal & VHP represent a great narrowing of the universal truths so evident in earlier writings, such as the Upanishads.
Neo Vedanta and Modernity, by Bithika Mukerji (1983/2008) shows one aspect of the way that Hinduism has narrowed itself to bring it into line with Western materialism.
It is clear that in Kandhamal now the only forced conversions going on are by Hindus of Christians. When people are cruel to others in the name of religion, they demean themselves and their religion. The cruelties experienced there on a massive scale spell great danger for India. When the Maoists killed Saraswati they acted out of stupidity and their own belief in violence. When the VHP & BD reacted by systematic ethnic cleansing this showed the same kind of diabolical planning evident in Gujarat in 2002, and the same transgression of all that is good in Hinduism. When the State authorities fail to curb or punish those responsible for the ethnic cleansing & tacitly condone it, this endangers us all.
So to open up and create peace, everyone needs to look at the shadow side of their own religion - it's far easier to dwell on that of the other religion. When one does this one sees far beyond the present polarisation:
In the dark days of the USA in the 19th century, when european settlers were exterminating the indigenous tribes, who lived a far more balanced life & had their own religion based on a relationship with nature, Chief Joseph of the Nez Percé tribe (northwest USA), was pressurised to accept schools & churches, after his people had been conquered and forced onto a reservation. He refused them on the grounds that "They teach us to argue about God. We do not wish to learn that."
The recent, horrendous bombs in India and Pakistan are obviously set off by extremists, wishing to instigate strife between people. The history of the CIA shows a pattern of instigating people against each other, penetrating extremist groups (including Osama Bin Laden, as is well documented, against the Russians in Afghanistan). They could easily be instigating extremist Hindus & Christians as well as Muslims now. Whether this is so or not, this is the pattern.
One hidden aspect of what's going on in Kandhamal, & all over Orissa, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh...is a manufactured "resource war". The companies vying for India's minerals usually have Indian faces (Tata, Mittal, Agarwal), but behind them are foreign banks & other interests, creating conflict & biding their time. In every case, the projects involve dispossessing farmers (tribal & non-tribal) whose culture represents one of the most ancient & balanced layers of Indian civilisation. Yet few non-tribals have much understanding of it & most show it gross disrespect. The very act of mining a mountain violates the order of life they have preserved.
So whoever is starting the violence, we have to learn fast to free ourselves from the insane attacking mentality of my belief system or religion is better than yours: pure reactivity. We can be better than that. If God exists, would He/She want us to argue about Him/Her? The idea is laughable! Let's think instead, how do we create solidarity now een Christians, Hindus & Muslims? And also solidarity with tribal religion, counteracting centuries of disrespect?