© 1997 VNN



Defending Religious Freedom in Poland

Poland (VNN) - Polish Catholics Persecute Krishna Worshippers
by Ella Serwin and Magdalena Mola

Krishna worshippers in Poland are up against a fascist-like anti-Vedic movement made up of an unholy alliance between Roman Catholic fanatics and members of the Republican league an ultra right wing quasi-political group.

Priests and nuns from the Dominican order and members of other Catholic organizations have undertaken a massive misinformation campaign aimed at creating public hysteria over the "rising tide" of Hindu and Vedic teachings and its "evil consequences for Poland." Although the primary target of their bigotry and hatred is the Chaitanya Mission (founded by Jagad Guru Siddhaswarupananda), the attack has expanded to include Hindu beliefs in general and the sacred teachings of the Vedic literature. Examples of the type of persecution the Polish Krishna worshippers are experiencing include the following:

Gross Distortions of Vedic Philosophy and Religious Practices Sister Michaela, a Dominican nun, has claimed at public meetings and under oath in court that if Vaishnavism takes hold in Poland, worshippers of Krishna will introduce human sacrifices and "bloody offerings" before their "idols." She further claimed that "sati" will be introduced and widows of Krishna worshippers would be forcibly burned on their husbands' funeral pyres. Moreover, she asserts "temples of prostitution" will also be opened with group sex before the "idols." The "holy sister," who presents herself as an authority on Hinduism and Vedic culture, has also repeatedly blasphemed Lord Krishna.

Destroying and Defacing Posters A professor at Lublin Catholic University appearing on a popular radio program instructed his students and members of the public to tear down or deface posters advertising festivals and meditation classes conducted by the Chaitanya Mission. As a result, Catholic hooligans regularly rip down posters or stamp the words "dangerous sect" along with pictures of a skull-and-crossbones on the posters.

Disruption of Public Lectures In Krakow members of the Republican League have stood up in the midst of large public gatherings throwing "warning" flyers into the air along with firecrackers and stink bombs. One of the authors of this article, a rather frail woman in her late twenties, was knocked to the ground by a man from the Republican League when she asked him to leave the lecture. Republican League members have disrupted lectures in other cities as well.

Harassment of Krishna Worshippers Representatives from the Dominican Center have harassed members of the public as they enter or attempt to enter auditoriums and halls to attend programs sponsored by the Chaitanya Mission. Handbills claiming that the Vedic teachings attack and undermine the Biblical teachings are also distributed. Harassment campaigns against individual Krishna devotees have also been conducted. Recently posters with a skull-and-crossbones displayed on them were pasted up and down the street where a 78-year-old Krishna worshipper

lives. The posters gave his address and stated that a dangerous sect member lived there. A few days later the same individuals who put up the posters formed a picket line in front of the building where he lives. Within a few days this devotee, who was a Polish resistance fighter during WWII and highly decorated war hero, received an eviction letter from the Catholic organization owning the building he lived in.

The devotee, Narasingha das, stated as follows, "I have lived in this building for 30 years with no problems. Now I am being evicted because I am not a Catholic. I just want to spend the last few years of my life worshipping Krishna. I fought against fascism and the Nazis to defend the freedom of the Polish people and I am an invalid because of my service to my country. Yet now Polish citizens are using fascist tactics to try to take away my own freedom. I cannot understand it." Catholic officials have also contacted landlords and managers of halls and auditoriums rented by the group and discouraged them from renting their

facilities to the Chaitanya Mission. Other landlords are afraid to rent to the Mission because of the stink bomb and firecracker attacks and the threat of damage to their facilities by the Republican League and other hooligans. Therefore it is becoming increasingly difficult for the Chaitanya Mission to conduct its public programs.

The Chaitanya Mission, with ashrams and centers in all major Polish cities, is doing its best to defend the Vedic Dharma. An education campaign is under way by the Mission to counter Sister Michaela's misrepresentation of Hindu religious practices and her twisted and perverted descriptions of Krishna's divine lila.

And a lawsuit for defamation and slander has been filed against Ann Lubowcheska, president and founder of the "Society to Protect the Family and Individual." Through news articles and leaflets distributed at public programs, Ms. Lubowcheska has falsely charged that Krishna worshippers from Chaitanya Mission engaged in activities which were illegal and extremely harmful to Polish society. However, during the first two court appearances, she admitted she had no evidence whatsoever to support her accusations. It appears she got her allegations from a book describing the activities of dangerous sects. Since she imagines Chaitanya Mission to be a sect, she concluded its members must engage in such activities even though the Chaitanya Mission is not even mentioned in the source books!

The battle against oppression is far from won. Using a strange defense allowed under an obscure Polish law, Ms. Lubowcheska is claiming that even though what she said was untrue, she had a right to say it "for the greater good of Polish society." She asserts the Vedic teachings presented by the Chaitanya Mission pose a serious threat to social well being and it was her duty to call attention to their activities in Poland. In effect her defense is to claim that the Chaitanya Mission is a dangerous sect. Although her specific allegations of illegal and harmful activities have been disproven, to win the final count against her that she falsely claimed Chaitanya Mission is a dangerous sect teaching dangerous ideas from the Vedas the burden is on the Polish Krishna worshippers to prove that Vaishnavism is a bona fide religious tradition.

To this end, Tusta Krishna das, founder of the Hindu Religious Freedom Foundation and a fellow disciple of Jagad Guru, was called to testify as an expert witness at the case. He presented several letters of praise for the Mission's activities from Catholic professors, nuns and priests in the Republic of the Philippines where Chaitanya Mission also has a large presence. Not only has there never been any conflict with Catholics in that country, but Jagad Guru's books are being used there as textbooks in Catholic universities.

More than 70 letters from charities and social welfare institutions who have benefited by the Chaitanya Mission programs in Poland and Russia were also presented.

Through recent news articles and TV reports, the public is gradually becoming aware of the injustices being dished out to the Polish Krishna worshippers. As a result, support for their plight is growing.

"Nonetheless," Tusta Krishna das stated, "with the offensive testimony of Sister Michaela and the depth of fanaticism amongst the Dominicans, it is still going to be an uphill battle to establish the purity of Vedic teachings. We need help from Hindu and Vedic scholars around the world, and the sooner the better."

Tusta Krishna das' five and a half hour testimony primarily focused on refuting misconceptions presented by Sister Michaela and also establishing the sacred nature of the Vedic scriptures and high moral character of those who follow them.

And much has been done to discredit Sister Michaela herself, the Dominican Center's "expert" on Hinduism. Skeptical about her testimony under oath that she held a degree in Sociology of Religion from Karnatak University, Chaitanya Mission representative Sunil Khemaney contacted university officials. He learned Karnatak University does not even have a religious studies department. Professor Anil Mudbidri from the Sociology Department further informed Mr. Khemaney that in his 25 years at the university no foreign student had ever studied in that department. And finally the registrar, Dr. Rajshekr, advised that not only had no degree been awarded to Sister Michaela (legal name Zofia Pawlik), no one by that name had ever been enrolled as a student at Karnatak University. It seems Sister Michaela has not only been misrepresenting Hinduism and the Vedic teachings but also her own background. Chaitanya Mission members are not surprised.

Tapasya das, head of the Chaitanya Mission in Poland, has an interesting and insightful take on the whole affair. Noting that early missionaries to India established Roman Catholicism not only through fear and intimidation but by slaughtering thousands of "non-believers" and by razing numerous Hindu temples in the province of Goa, he commented as follows: "How would the Catholics in India react if they were harassed and persecuted by local Hindus in the same way their Polish brethren persecute us? It would be an international incident! More importantly, perhaps, is how Hindus in India will react given the rising surge of Hindu activism when they discover how the Catholics are treating us here."

"This is a great contrast of values," he further stated. "Despite the fact that early Catholic missionaries in India often engaged in atrocities not unlike the Muslims, just look how nicely Hindus honored Mother Theresa when she died, even though they did not accept her beliefs. This is proof positive of the tolerant nature of those who follow the Vedic culture. Would an Indian saint be treated the same way by Catholics if he died in the West?"

Based on what he learned during his visit to Poland, Tusta Krishna das feels that the Catholics are conducting a full frontal attack not only on Chaitanya Mission but on all Hindus and followers of the Vedic culture. "If we don't stop this cold, it may very well spread to other countries as well."


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