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.

Wednesday, November 22, 2000

Christian missionary perfidy in India: M.V. Kamath

Author: M.V. Kamath
Date: November 24, 2000

Should Amitabh Bachchan ever be gasping for want of suitable questions to ask on his Kaun Banega Crorepathi show, here’s one that he can try out. What happens when an irresistable force acts upon an immoveable body? Here are four possible answers: (a) Nothing. There's a stalemate. (b) An explosion (c) Laughter all round and (d) Bitterness on the part of both.

Consider what has happened in recent times, ever since, His Holiness the Pope was given a ceremonial welcome in Delhi and treated with respect in every possible way that no government in India has ever extended to a Jagadguru Shankaracharya. And it is BJP Government in Delhi. What did India get in return?

It is Roman Catholic communalism His Holiness said that he expects to "harvest" -- it is his word -- Indian (read Hindu) souls for Christianity. A more resounding slap on Hindu faces could not have been delivered. Did the BJP government wince at this arrogant assault on Hinduism; there was no public indication. Our secular press stayed even more dumb and voiceless. To criticise the Pope for what he said would have been considered by our secular media as an example of communalism. That this is an example of Roman Catholic communalism would not have occurred to our secularists.

Hardly had the ripples made by the Pope subsided, came the millennium World Peace Summit at the United Nations where most religions were represented except the Roman Catholic Church which looked down its nose on the gathering and refused to participate in it on the ground that it was opposed to relativist theories and did not wish to treat others as its equals. Worse, it published a 36-pages document called Dominus Jesus under the authority of the Pope that claims that salvation can come to mankind only through the redemptive power of Jesus Christ and that ‘the fullness of means to salvation’ can be found only in the Catholic Church.

When Cardinal Ratzinger signatory to the Vatican document was asked whether it did not smack of “fundamentalism” and whether with such an attitude a dialogue between the Catholic Church and others is possible, his reply was that a dialogue should not be a "substitute for missionary activity and for the urgency of an appeal to conversion". He further reiterated the Church's opposition to any "false idea of tolerance" which allows respect for other beliefs because it rejects the possibility of any objective truth. What under the circumstances is possible? That the Catholic Church can be intolerant but other can’t and shouldn't fight it?

Myths about Christians There are several myths about Christianity that are prevalent and which bear examination. One, that Christianity is a minority in India, two, that it is two thousand years old in India, three, that Christians have contributed substantially to the freedom movement and four, the most ridiculous, that it alone can provide salvation to all.

Christians may be numerically a minority in India but it has the backing of the Vatican and the entire Christian Church in the world. Even the international media (Reuters, Associated Press, United Press, Agence France Presse, Deutsche fresse Agentur) is controlled by Christians. The minority argument is a hoax that needs to be exposed.

Yes, Christianity is thousand years old (it came with St. Thomas) but it was confined to a small area in Kerala and southern India. Roman Catholicism came in a big way to Goa with the Portuguese barbarians and their equally murderous priests who demolished temples and practised cruelties of Inquisition for two hundred years.

The next Christian assault against Hindus came from the Protestant missionaries in India in the nineteenth century. Between 1851 and 1890 the Christian missionaries under British imperialist patronage converted people to such an extent that their numbers increased from 91,092 to 5,51,661. In 1890 there were more Christians in India than there were Sikhs, for a full report on Christian assault on Hinduism one must read Antony Copley’ book: Religions in Conflict: Ideology, Cultural Contact and Conversion in Late Colonial India (Oxford University Press) . Copley, incidentally, is not a RSS worker but a very British Reader in Modern History at the University of Kent at Canterbury.

The Catholics in India are in a dilemma. Their contribution to the Indian freedom movement is negligible. Indeed, the contribution of Christians in general to that movement is insignificant. Percentage-wise, how many Christians of all denominations suffered imprisonment? The Catholics are numerically in a minority in India. They have to live amidst Hindus.

All these years the Hindus suffered the insults heaped upon them by missionaries patiently and with great forbearance for at least two reasons. One, they were living under the British and two, they were disunited. Now they are getting united. The Hindu middle class is larger than the entire population of Europe.

And it is getting out of the secular mould in which it was imprisoned by Nehruvian concepts. And it is no longer in a mood to accept insults from the Pope or whoever. And it is remembering past injustices.

The Pope is seen as a white outsider who is imposing his views on Indian Christians. Catholics can't afford to alienate their fellow Indian Hindus. At the same time they dare not challenge the Pope and the Vatican. The word of the Pope is final. In theological matters he is infallible. They can't criticise the Pope even in private conversation. The Catholic fundamentalism is unchallengeable.

The Catholics have no use even for Protestants or Anglicans – and may it be remembered that those who sneer at our caste system are more divided among themselves that it is no longer funny. Brahmins and Vaishyas or, for that matter, Shudras, have not fought wars against each other. Catholics and Protestants have. U.S. Ambassador to India Robert Celeste, before be goes complaining to Bangaru Laxman, must go to the Vatican and tell it to be more respectful of Hinduism. It is not Sudarshan who fired the first shot. It is the Vatican -- and this must be clearly understood.

Nobody is questioning the patriotism of Roman Catholics; what’s regretted is the arrogance, the insensitivity, the thoughtlessness and the claims of spiritual superiority that the Vatican has been exhibiting, which is highly disturbing. Many Hindus are now coming to resist it strongly. The Church may consider itself irresistible, but Hinduism is immoveable and the onus for good behaviour is on the Church, both Protestant and Catholic. It is the Vatican, which is stirring passion and hatred and not the RSS. Sudarshan, as any Hindu, has the right to warn the Vatican that it to crossing the Laxman Rekha with its intemperate doctrinal arrogance. The Vatican is doing no service to Catholics in India, nor to true Christianity. It is representative of white Christian imperialism at its worst and Celeste should not be surprised if it is resisted. Somebody should tell him the truth.


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