Friday, August 14, 2009

Orissa Christians leaders take exception to US report

Orissa Christian leaders take exception to US report

Bhubaneswar, Aug 14 (PTI)
Taking exception to a report by a US panel on global religious freedom placing India on the 'Watch List' for Kandhamal violence, Christian leaders in Orissa today said the majority community has been "extremely cordial" to them.

Minorities in India have been targets of hate campaign by a small section, "but the civil society of the majority community has been extremely cordial and supportive of the minority community in the state," Orissa Minority Forum (OMF) President Swarupananda Patra said.

His remarks came in the wake of a statement made by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom that India was placed on the 'Watch List' due to "disturbing increase" in communal violence there.

Though a few 'criminal elements' created problems for the minority community during the riots, the secular fabric of the society was intact, Patra said.

Who the heck is the US Commission on International Religious Freedom?

This week a US government agency that most people have never heard of announced that they were placing the nation of India on a "watch list" based on claims that Christians and Muslims in India are being "persecuted" by the Hindu majority.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has a total of eight members: a Chair and two Vice Chairs and five Commissioners. Five of the current members are Republican appointees, three of them appointed by former president George W. Bush and one each by former House leader Dennis Hastert and former Senate leader Bill Frist. Of those five one (the Chair) is an officer of the Federalist Society (which some called the "Shadow Justice Department" of the Bush Administration), one is an officer of the Hudson Institute (the "think-tank" that hired Dan Quayle!), one (the Vice Chair) an officer of the Ethics and Public Policy Center (a think-tank whose "fellows" include Rick Santorum and Stanley Kurtz), one an officer of the Southern Baptist Convention, and the fifth Republican appointee is the founder of the Islamic Institute of Boston (go figure).

One irony is that the Chair and two of the Commissioners of the USCIRF are members of groups that have earned a place on a "watch-list" of their own! The Federalist Society, the Hudson Institute, and the Ethics and Public Policy Center have their own pages at the website of And some people might also find it odd that a member of the "Ethics Committee" (sic) of the Southern Baptist Convention sits on the USCIRF, since, as everyone knows, the SBC was formed originally for no other purpose than the preservation of the institution of human slavery, and today the SBC does not allow women to serve as pastors, and is openly and unapologetically homophobic.

None of the members of the Commission are Hindu or Buddhist.

Two countries not on either the Watch List or the even more serious Countries of Particular Concern list are Greece, where it is a crime to establish a religious organization without the government's permission, and government produced schoolbooks contain antisemitic materials; and South Korea, where arson attacks on Buddhist Temples by fanatic Christians have occurred regularly for decades, and where the current President is a fundamentalist Christian who has shown blatant favoritism to Christians in government appointments.

Obviously the agenda of the USCIRF is to serve as an advocacy group for US funded Christian missionaries operating abroad.

A little more on "Plato for Pagans"

Here are a few scattered ideas that didn't find their way into the first post on this subject.

(1) I also plan to do additional volumes beyond the two already outlined in skeletal form. A volume apiece will be devoted the Timaeus and Parmenides, while another volume will include the dialogues on knowledge, logic and language: Cratylus, Theaetetus, Sophist and Statesman. If I live long enough maybe I'll do one on the Laws, too, although in the meantime I should probably try to figure out a way of covering Book X of the Laws - probably in the volume on the Timaeus.

(2) Wherever possible I will use R.E. Allen's translations, as well as relying heavily on his commentaries. But even when I follow Allen closely I will be, hopefully, making the material more accessible. I think it would be pretty much totally impossible for someone without a strong background to just sit down and read Allen's commentaries starting from scratch. I'm not sure if I will succeed in accomplishing that with my own commentaries, but I'll try.

(3) I also plan to make extensive use of Pierre Hadot's What is Ancient Philosophy? and also Julia Annas' The Morality of Happiness. Both of those books, in my opinion, do have the level of accessibility that I am hoping for - not that they are light reading!! Charle's Kahn's Plato and the Socratic Dialogue and Annas' Platonic Ethics Old and New will also be at my side quite a bit.

(4) I will also weave Thucydides History of the Peloponnesian War into the mix, especially in the first two sections of Volume One dealing with the life and death of Socrates. I also plan to make heavy use of the following secondary sources Perez Zagorin's book on Thucydides, Mark Munn's The School of History, Arlene Saxonhouse's Free Speech and Democracy in Ancient Athens, Robert Parker's two books on religion in Athens, and a number of the usual, and perhaps unusual, suspects concerning Athenian history. However, my goal will be to avoid any reliance on peculiarly modern interpretations of Plato, Socrates, or Greek history. Where a contemporary scholar's ideas seem consistent with a natural reading of Plato and/or with objectively agreed upon historical facts, then secondary sources will be used to explain and illustrate such interpretations and historical facts, but secondary sources will never be used as primary justifications.