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, October 25, 2008

What is this all about saving souls?

Let us first admit that Christian churches have of late been attacked and Christ’s statue disfigured, that Christians have been killed in Orissa with the police looking away. Let us admit without any apologies whatsoever the charges made against breakers of law and order in the states of Orissa, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka. And unlike as in the case of Afzal Guru, let us ask that anyone guilty of murder is given his just due, so that all killers get the message. Let there be no equivocation in such matters. Having said that, may one ask just one short question? What is the need to plan for conversion? Can’t the Christian Church leave India alone? Should India constantly be target for evangelists of all kinds?

Hindus do not go round the world attempting to coerce poor Europeans or Americans (if there are any such) to become Hindus. Hinduism respects other religions. They make no claims to uniqueness. There are pure atheists among Hindus, but they are respected. Has there been any occasion of Hindu monarchs sending armies to Portugal or Spain to destroy churches and additionally impose Inquisition of the most brutal kind on the people as these two wretched countries have done in Goa for several centuries? Have Hindus gone to Peru to destroy an entire Inca civilization? Has any Hindu naval force gone to Lisbon, to name one city, as Vasco Da Gama’s ships did to Calicut only to indulge in the most bestial cruelty?

Can any historian give an example of a Hindu king going to Ghazni to indulge in rape and plunder and destruction of masjids? Has any Hindu religious leader—say a Swami Vivekananda—gone abroad to insult Jesus or Virgin Mary as some of the Christian missionaries have done in India, in showering insults to Hindu gods? Haven’t the evangelists any sense of shame or decency let alone guilt? Besides, what do Christian evangelists do? They are cowards. They dare not preach in cities. They go into the Indian countryside, especially to tribal areas to hit Hinduism below the belt.

A recent report in The Times of India by one Amrita Singh tells it all. According to her planting agencies, as they are called, have taken over the evangelical role. They ensure that growth targets are set and new churches built. In the four years from 2003, apparently 22 new International Churches of Christ have been built. The Adventists, another Christian sect reportedly has plans to build 300 new churches.

The Presbyterian Church of South India which is funded by the US-based Mission to the World also apparently has set a goal of 500 new churches in the next decade. According to Amrita Singh (she has not mentioned her sources), one of the most effective church planting agencies working in India is the US-based AD 2000 and Beyond Movement. Writes Amrita Singh: “It is impressively organised, having mapped the whole of India by caste and identifying those most likely to be receptive to their message”. Nine tribes have been identified as good targets: Bhilala, Binhwari, Chero, Kawar/Kamari, Lhobha, Majhwar, Panika, Shin or Sina and Sikkimese Bhotia. AD 2000 has also identified thickly populated, politically important and moderately poor Northern India as “the core of the core of the core”.

How clever. Do Christians think that such activities do not offend sensitive Hindus? This is silent invasion of India, invasion not by armies but by hard cash, less obvious but more invidious and therefore worthy of condemnation. God is sold like a piece of cake to the hungry multitude. This is not saving souls. This is stealing stealthily, like thieves in the night and thieves the evangelists are. Besides, they work behind the scenes. India has long been a field for missionary activities which Hindus have put up with because they were ruled by alien powers. And our secularists have been supporting conversion, as Dr Manmohan Singh has in a recent statement.

It is clear that Dr Manmohan Singh has no understanding of the Hindu sentiments which, starved of state support, is increasingly resorting to violence to make its point, and this is further taken as a weapon to damn Hindus and to support conversion as that is entirely within the Constitution. Conversion is not allowed in China. It is frowned upon in France, a very liberal country. We permit abuse of Hindu gods on the grounds that freedom of expression is sanctioned under the Constitution. We are making a mockery of our Constitution and the evangelists are taking us for a ride.

Driven to desperation, many Hindus—and may it be said here and now, that it is not only the VHP or the Bajrang Dal that is up in arms. Substantial segments of Hindus belonging to the Congress, the JD(S) and all other parties are equally furious, only they dare not open their minds in public, lest they are accused of being fundamentalists and Hindutva-wadis. This writer is a ware of what people think having currently his roots in the countryside. The Constitution has to be changed drastically. Foreign money should not be allowed to trickle in various guises. The world has no idea how persistent the Church is. It is imposing an alien cultural value on Indian Christians. Christians are not permitted to study astrology, or practice yoga and pranayaam is not looked at with favour and one Mumbai priest who was teaching both was given his come-uppance.

And all the while Hindus are made to feel guilty of intolerance which only adds to their subdued fury. Conversions do not take place overnight. The evangelists are smart enough not to commit that folly. The poor are given all kinds of assistance, medical help, education for their children and other services free of cost for two to three years and then asked whether they wouldn’t want to have their souls saved. It is all done subtly and calculatedly. The gratitude of those helped in many ways is exploited fully. And who cannot succumb to such pressures?

What is more at stake is not demographic changes but the slow disappearance of cultural values. But the citizens of India must demand a White Paper giving access to information on the role of evangelists and missionaries in the last three decades, and how billions of dollars are spent in India. The truth must be out. Let the people decide. Importantly let no alien force attempt to use our liberalism and sense of values and fairness to our disadvantage. It is being recklessly exploited. The Constitution was not intended to be misused. We cannot permit foreign forces to corrode our culture, and the values which have sustained us down the centuries. Dr Manmohan Singh should think again.

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