The Conversion Agenda

"Freedom to convert" is counterproductive as a generalized doctrine. It fails to come to terms with the complex interrelationships between self and society that make the concept of individual choice meaningful. Hence, religious conversion undermines, and in extremes would dissolve, that individual autonomy and human freedom.

Friday, February 12, 1999

'Without conversions, the Church will simply collapse'

The Rediff Interview/ N S Rajaram
"There is now a scramble for India by various international Christian organisations, rather on the lines of the phase in our history three centuries ago when the French, the Dutch, the British and others tried to take us over," says N S Rajaram, former principal scientist of Lockheed, USA, and grandson of the famous statesman Navaratna Rama Rao. "Conversion is not possible in China or anywhere else other than India, and without this conversion, the Church will simply collapse worldwide."
The man who worked for many years in the areas of artificial intelligence and robotics in the US switched interests nearly six years ago, and is now a well-known science historian with many published books.

In his book The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Crisis of Christianity, published first in the United Kingdom and later in India, Rajaram puts forward his argument that Christianity worldwide faces the threat of extinction, and is trying hard to spread its tentacles in countries like India to ensure its survival.

He discussed with M D Riti at his home in Basavanagudi in Bangalore the ongoing Christian controversy raging in our country today. Excerpts:

Do you think the Hindu-Christian equation in India is under threat now?

Not at all, because the conflict and clashes in India today are not between Hindus and Christians. It is the activities of the missionaries that the Hindus are objecting to, especially their drive for conversions.

What is objectionable about the activities of missionaries like Graham Stewart Staines?

Has anyone investigated his past or found out what exactly he was up to?

Of what relevance is his past, good or bad, to his work here or to the circumstances under which he was killed?

Why had nobody heard about Staines and his work before his death? If he was doing such wonderful social service, why did nobody talk or write about it until now? Then again, why was a foreign national carrying around a small handgun?

Complaints had been lodged against Staines right from 1981 at the deputy commissioner's office. But the law enforcement agencies, because of the enormous political pressure, do not have the courage to take action against such people.

Staines was carrying a handgun. He fired several shots into the crowd and he was shot with an arrow. After that, the place might have been burnt. This is the report we have from three different sources. The media simply reported that his wife said he never owned a gun. That is not the way to practise journalism. Why did nobody go and check police records and ascertain the truth?

Media disinformation has reached an all-time high now. They speak about the number of schools that Christian missionaries have set up now. Why doesn't anyone write about the 15,000 schools set up by Vidya Bharathi in north India? If they ever mention this, they add an insinuation that this was done to spread the ideology of Hindutva. This is a clear double standard. You have heard more about Staines now than about people like Neelakanta Rao, who were internationally known for their work in leprosy. The media praises Mother Teresa to the skies, but the work done by Satya Sai Baba is considered obscurantist.

There is a bias in the English language media in favour of the Christian missionaries, especially when they are foreigners... I can tell you, having lived in the US for many years, that if I had tried to go into churches and disrupt their services or desecrate their chapels, they would not have looked upon me kindly.

But there are so many foreign missionary couples who have dedicated their lives to providing medical and educational aid to Indians in remote rural and forest areas. The least one can do is support their endeavour at least in spirit?

A few might certainly be dedicated and good. But this mass production is highly questionable. And the very idea that you need these foreigners to uplift your people is a sad commentary on the people themselves.

But don't you agree that this reconversion of tribals drama being enacted now is a real farce?

No, because they are just being helped to return to their original way of life.

How does reconverting them do that?

Because all that they have acquired is a thin veneer of change. Anyway, Christianity is finished in India, because it takes such enormous resources to just hold on to the people they have. There is hardly any Christianity left in urban India. The strongest criticism of Christianity in India comes from the Christians themselves. Everyone should be guaranteed the freedom to practise their own religion. However, people should not be allowed to barge into your home, as happens in the west coast, and demolish your puja room, saying that Jesus will save you: this should definitely not be tolerated.

I don't think anyone does that kind of thing now!

It happens all the time -- today, right now. The newspapers are just not reporting it.

How do Christians worldwide benefit from Indian conversions?

They don't give a damn about it.

Then why is there a scramble for India?

A small elite benefits from this entire process. So many people gain employment.

Having a large Christian base in India would not require the employment of a large network overseas. Even geographically, we are so small: we would not need a huge Vatican empire to govern us.

There is no huge empire in Europe: its collapsing. The conflict in India that we see today is a result of the problems faced by Christian Church worldwide, especially in the West. The Catholic Church is struggling for survival in the world. They have a huge number of institutions that require staff. There are also a huge number of theological institutions that require students for support. There is also the question of employment. And they are not getting people in sufficient numbers.

For example, there are almost no nuns coming out of Western countries. So Kerala has become a fertile ground for this.

The pressure on India is to recruit as many as possible, which in turn means conversion. It is largely due to problems in the operations of churches in the West. Most of the theological seminaries in the West would be closed were it not for students from countries like India and Philippines. Even chaplains in the US are mostly Indian. A very important church in Geneva, the Cantor is from Bangalore. Even in Scotland, I found a priest from Tamil Nadu.

I still cannot understand how a large Christian base in India would help the Church financially outside the country.
A small privileged class would benefit from it overseas. The other benefits of colonialism would follow. Suppose they offer marketing surveys to MNCs. Would that not translate to big money? Or if they offered their network as a marketing base in urban and even more in rural and tribal areas?

That sounds rather far-fetched.

Not at all. Gandhiji reminded us long back about the real intentions of colonialists when he said : 'One cry in this country, America, has long been markets, wider markets. If the farmers and the manufacturers desire to create a market, they will do well to get in touch with foreign missions. They can be assured that it will not be long before they receive their money back with liberal interest.' In other words, you are soliciting donations in return for providing marketing assistance. And believe me, the situation remains exactly the same today.

Do you wonder why the Indian people are putting up with all this? Because we have an educated elite in India today which is not at all concerned about the nation. And they in turn come from a set of colonial educational institutions which are not at all nationalistic in their outlook. The highest aspiration of their products is to serve someone from the West! These people have already sold the country.

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3 Comments:

At 5/03/2005 05:02:00 PM, Blogger Blogger said...

This is a clear double standard. You have heard more about Staines now than about people like Neelakanta Rao, who were internationally known for their work in leprosy. The media praises Mother Teresa to the skies, but the work done by Satya Sai Baba is considered obscurantist.

hmm, interesting take. How about the accusations against Sai Baba that is not investigated. Numerous reports of child molestation, inappropriate touching, sex with minors, and other claims have never been investigated. Why no outrage?

 
At 5/03/2005 11:41:00 PM, Blogger Vishnu said...

Very simple... when you investigate accusations you will not get any proof or evidences because they are NOT FACTs in the first place. These are allegations and accusations constantly spreaded by frustrated Christians or Missionaries (as in your case) as they see Him as a threat. No one takes such hate filled propaganda seriously especially when it is done on such a recognized and honored spiritual figure.

The question for you now is, why there is no outrage towards these intolerant Christians or missionaries who engage in these kind of propaganda that has no basis or plainly false allegations?

 
At 7/04/2005 08:20:00 PM, Blogger Anand Rajadhyaksha said...

Wrong and ill informed about the VATICAN.

The Catholic Church is indeed losing numbers and the ones most responsible for the erosion are the AMERICAN EVANGELISTS. I will return to this in the para after the next.

Even in India, the converting missionaries are NOT the Roman Catholics. Check it out. The missionaries with the maximum infrastructure and hoopla are AMERICANS. Even the Roman Catholic population is under attack; a lot are flockling to the 'born again' movement. Look around you: have any of the Christians you have known for years, tried to convince you to convert? Where are these people who visit you with pamphlets, coming from? Are they locals you know? Unlikely.

Even worldwide, eg; in South America, where all countries are 100% Christian (Roman Catholic), the evangelists are making inroads, and this turf war has been taken note of in media too. In USA itself, many properties belonging to the Roman Catholic Church are being sold, some bought by evangelists, others sold for the land they stand on as the Church is losing numbers and finds operations unviable.

As regards India, we must look at the American Missionaries afresh. It is the American Missionaries who have been active in the NorthEast, NOT the Roman Catholics. Conversion has been rife, and so has been subversion. The CIA links of the Amrican missionaries have long been suspected, but US has always used its political clout to get investigations suppressed.

It is not the parishioners who pour in the money, that money can simply not match the requirements. We must not forget the lessons of history: it was a population of converts that demanded Pakistan.

Statecraft demands commitment to long term targets, sometimes even beyond one's lifetime. And statesmanship is not always noble, either. It is the interest of the country that is served in the long term. And often, behind the country, stand corporations that finance the country's policians.

Such ambitions are beyond the understanding of the common people who cannot think beyond five year plans at the most. It is difficult for the people at large to understand why anyone would commit so hugely and so long term to something that will not benefit him personally and he certainly may not live to see it fructify. The ambit of the plan is so incomprehensible to the common mind and so audacious, that it is easy to thwart any demand for scrutiny simply by calling the accusation frivolous. Let me explain.

When you cannot prove the person you accuse to be the BENEFICIARY of the actions you accuse him of, how seriously will anyone consider your charge? The long term plan is too diffuse and discrete to immediately connect to, and with the powerful lobbies backing it, accusations can easily be knocked out. Besides, politicians and intellegentsia who are concerned only about personal gains are dime a dozen to raise a cacaphony to drown out any voice by a roar of false reasoning.

 

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