Hindu dharma is implicitly at odds with monotheistic intolerance. What is happening in India is a new historical awakening... Indian intellectuals, who want to be secure in their liberal beliefs, may not understand what is going on. But every other Indian knows precisely what is happening: deep down he knows that a larger response is emerging even if at times this response appears in his eyes to be threatening.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

The Hoax of Human Rights

- Sita Ram Goel

* Extracted from Sita Ram Goel’s History of Hindu-Christian Encounters (AD 304 to 1996), Voice of India, New Delhi.

(In the demise of Shri Sita Ram Goel, Hindu society lost a bold and towering figure whose collaboration with Shri Ram Swarup gave birth to a stimulating era of debate and introspection on many socio-religious and political problems plaguing the Hindu community. In memory of these two distinguished personalities, we begin a new column with this issue titled “The Voice of India Column” devoted exclusively to selected extracts from some of the important works of these pioneers published under the banner of “Voice of India”, New Delhi. Our sincere thanks to Shri Pradeep Goel for making this possible.)

The next encounter between Hinduism and Christianity took place in the Constituent Assembly which started framing independent India’s Constitution in 1047 and completed the work by the end of 1949, The dialogue centred round what the Christian participants proclaimed as the their fundamental human right, namely, to propagate their religion.

The Christians were quite clear in their mind as well as pronouncements that the “right to propagate” religion entitled them to 1) receive massive financial help from foreign sources; 2) maintain and multiply churches and missions; 3) train and mobilize an ever expanding army of missionaries, native and foreign; 4) enlarge the mission infrastructure of seminaries, social service institutions and mass media; and 5) convert an increasing number of Hindus to Christianity by every means including fraud and material inducements. They had been holding meetings and passing resolutions on all these points even before the Constituent Assembly was mentioned in the negotiations between the Congress leaders and the British Cabinet Mission.

The Hindu participants, on the other hand, did not grasp the full meaning of the “right to propagate religion.” They did understand that the word “propagate” was only a substitute for the word “convert,” and tried to hedge in the provision with various restrictions. But they did not realize or think it important that “propagation of religion” had employed and would employ a formidable organisational weapon forged almost entirely with the help of foreign money and controlled completely by foreign establishments including intelligence networks. Therefore, the points they raised in the course of the dialogue did not go to the heart of the matter…

What helped the Christian lobbyists a good deal was the talk about fundamental human rights which filled the atmosphere at the time the Constitution was being framed. The San Francisco Conference had completed the framework of a United Nations Charter. A declaration of fundamental human rights was being proposed and discussed. The Christian missions were backed by powerful people and establishments in the West. They, therefore, exercised considerable influence in the United Nations and were able to ensure that this declaration included their right to wield organisational weapons in the countries of Asia and Africa for the conversion of non-Christians. The politicians who mattered in India were either unaware of the Christian game or did not understand the implications of the “fundamental right to propagate religion.” They yielded easily when the Christian lobby pressed for inclusion of the word “propagate” in the clause which in its earlier version had allowed only freedom to profess and practise religion.

The controllers of Christian missions in Europe and America had foreseen quite early in course of the Second World War that the enslaved countries of Asia and Africa were heading towards freedom. The future of Christian missions in these countries was fraught with danger. The missions were an integral part of Western imperialism. Leading native freedom fighters did not look at them with favour. It was, therefore, felt that the future of these missions had to be rethought and replanned. They had to be presented in a new perspective in the post-war world.

In the past, propagation of Christianity and conversion of heathens with the help of organisational weapons, forged and financed by the West, had been propped up as a “divinely ordained” privilege. That was not going to work in the new world order which was emerging fast. Propagation of Christianity was, therefore, to be presented as a fundamental human right. Christian missions were to become champions of religious liberty and minority rights.
As early as 1941, church organisations in Britain and the USA had set up Commissions for projecting a post-war world order from the Christian point of view. The Commissions “foresaw” great opportunities for “world evangelization” in the “just and durable peace” that was to be ensured in the wake of victory over the Axis Powers. More important, the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America and Foreign Missions Conference of North America had set up a joint Committee on Religious Liberty with which the International Missionary Council was cooperating unofficially. The Committee completed its work at the end of 1944 and its findings were presented to the world at large in a 604-page book published by the International Missionary Council from New York in January 1945…

Former Secretary-General of UNO, Boutros BOUTROS-GHALI greets Pope JOHN PAUL II on his visit to the United Nations in October 1995.

Coming to India under British rule, the book said, “The major difficulty is in lack of social liberty, rather than in deficiency of civil liberty legally formulated. It is extremely hard for members of most Indian groups to transfer their allegiance to Christianity or to any religion unless it be to the majority group of Hindus - or in some area, of Moslems - among whom they dwell. Persecutions and disabilities are severe, especially in regard to employment and the use of land. They rest upon the fact that transfer of religious allegiance brings a loss of entire status in society, including family position, economic relationship in village or caste guild and opportunities of marriage in the natural grouping. Not only do these hindrances tend seriously to limit accession to Christianity, even from the ‘depressed classes’ who have little to lose and everything to gain, but they also serve to cut off Christians as a distinct body of persons largely dependent upon their own meagre group for economic and social opportunity.”

The problem faced by Christian missions in some princely states of India was also noted. “Restrictions in certain Native States,” it was pointed out, “are ominous, since they suggest what the full combination of political rule with religious community interest may hold for wide portions of India in the future. Despite considerable British persuasion and influence to the contrary, certain Indian states prohibit the preaching of Christianity and the entry of missionaries within their borders. Some states forbid the erection of church buildings, some prohibit schools and one is tolerant of a single denomination. Patna recently put severe difficulties in the way of change from Hinduism to any other faith, using the piquant title ‘Freedom of Religion Act’.”

Looking to the future the book stated, “Rule by Indians is already well along in transition and is certain to be consummated, whether by gradual or by revolutionary change from the present mixed system in which British authority has long fostered the concept and the practice of self-government… The Congress Party has committed itself to religious freedom and the protection of minorities. But the restraints of British neutrality and British protection of minorities are irksome to the strenuous elements, and they may be swept away in the name of ‘Indian unity’ or even of ‘Hinduism restored’. All that has been associated in fact or in the emotions of Indians, with foreign rule and its cultural connotations will be a target for attack.

Finally, it came to the main culprit - Hinduism. “It is necessary,” it said, “to consider further the basic nature of Hinduism, the system which controls the lives of a multitude half as numerous as all the peoples of Europe. It is a totalitarian social and economic and cultural complex knit together with powerful religious sanctions. Every act of life, from birth till death, is directed by it. Race, caste, guild or occupational grouping, tribe or clan, family, gods, temple and pilgrimage, literature and legend, folklore and local superstitions, ethical and social prescriptions, community in all senses of the term: they are one pervasive, controlling force - Hinduism. How can one renounce it? If not impossible the thought is unnatural, impious. Withdrawal is an outlawing of self from all established institutions and from normal human fellowship. Such is the background for the Hindu view of conversion.” …
The World Council of Churches and the international Missionary Council exhorted church organisations all over the world to “intercede” for the success of the San Francisco Conference. The National Christian Council of India received a cable from New York stating that the American churches were planning special intercession on April 22 for the success of the San Francisco Conference and suggesting like action in “your constituency.” The National Christian Council Review commented, “Momentous issues will face the delegates of the San Francisco Conference of the United Nations as they assemble on April 25... A supreme responsibility rests at this time on the Universal Church.”

The San Francisco Conference of 1945 was backed by many churches

What this “intercession” meant became clear when the U.S. monthly, Christianity and Crisis, published in its June issue a report about Christian influence at San Francisco. “The concern,” it said, “which Church leaders have shown during the past decade for the development of a law-governed world has borne fruit… The State Department included in its group of advisers or consultants, representatives of certain Church organisations, Federal Council, Church Peace Union, Catholic Welfare, and others. These representatives had worked consistently and steadily to back the American delegates in giving what Mr. Dulles has called a ‘soul’ to the Charter. They had backed the recommendations for a commission on Human Rights and had urged the recognition of such in preamble and definition of the Assembly’s work.”

18 May – Churches’ concern over the situation in Iraq and the Israel/Palestine conflict, the role of religion in conflict, and working relations between the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the United Nations Organization were the focus of a first meeting between the UN secretary-general Kofi Annan and the WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia. Annan welcomed Kobia's initiative to invite the Council's member churches to mark the International Day of Peace with prayer services.

It seems, however, that lobbying for “religious liberty” through government delegations was not enough. Pressure from outside had to be maintained. It was with this aim that the World Council of Churches and the International Missionary Council set up a Commission on International Affairs which held its first meeting in Cambridge, England, in August 1946. One of its aims was to make sure that “the Church should and will play an important part in promoting the work of the United Nations.” According to a spokesman of the Church, “It is imperative that Christians develop an intelligent understanding of what the United Nations Organisation is, what its duties are and the manner in which these duties are to be discharged.” He added, “The American Church helped influence the shaping of the Charter. Upon invitation of the Department of State they had their consultants at San Francisco Conference. Plans are now being perfected whereby Churches may have ‘observers’ present at the public meetings of the major organs of the United Nations including the General Assembly.

Rest is history. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted and proclaimed by the General Assembly of the United Nations in October 1948 included Article 18 which read: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion: this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.” The renewed assaults to be mounted by Christian missions in post-war Asia and Africa had been camouflaged in clever language.


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