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.

Monday, February 17, 2003

A NATIONAL CHURCH WOULD NOT AGITATE FOR AN ANTI-NATIONAL CHRISTIAN AGENDA

'The defenders of the faith' are hysterical again. The same groups - the same editorialists, the same NGOs, the same 'eminent scholars', and the same news commentators - who are anti-Ayodhya movement, anti-Pokharan II, anti- NCERT syllabus, anti-changes-in the ICHR set up - simply put, the anti-Hindutva groups or Anti-Hindutva coalition. The groups that do not, at any cost, want the Hindus to organize themselves or assert their political and religious identity - they are all having another wonderful, self-indulgent attack of hysterics yet again. This time it is to protest the ordinance banning religious conversions in Tamil Nadu.

The substance of all their objections and abuse, as stated in three news reports and one editorial in The Hindu dated October 8, 2002, and as reported in newspapers and news channels in the first three days after the ordinance was brought in, can be summarized in the following points. Even a prolonged hysterical attack compounded by temper tantrums is not going to add anything more to the substance of this criticism, no matter how may more newspapers and news channels carry reports of this ordinance. The abuse and threats by the various Christian groups and churches and the defenders of the faith may get more strident, more violent and dramatic but this is all the substance there is to their protests.

The ordinance is a violation of religious freedom and aimed at curtailing the freedom of the Christian minority. It amounts to imposing draconian curbs on an individual's fundamental right to religious freedom - objection

The draconian ordinance militates against the secular spirit of the government of a party, which swept to power especially with the minority vote bank - objection and abuse

The Chief Minister is 'appeasing the deputy Prime Minister and attempting to please the Sangh Parivar, 'the Hindutva brigade' - abuse

Rev. Valson Thampu on Star news at 10 p.m on Tuesday, the 8th October, with a phony accent that is characteristic of most intellectuals parading their intellect on Star TV: The Chief Minister is seeking to flaunt her religious identity. The more corrupt politicians are the more they flaunt their religious identity. (Star News, thankfully cut him off even as he was halfway through doing the Carl Jung act). abuse (with a phony accent, let me emphasise).

The ordinance targets Christians engaged in poverty alleviation. It will sound a virtual death-knell even to genuine activity of ministering to the poor, the sick, and the illiterate - areas where the missionaries have a long and enviable record. objection

The ordinance would destroy the secular, multi-religious fabric, and peaceful co-existence in Tamil Nadu, the "Dravidian soul of India". It is a slur on Tamil Nadu's liberal traditions. Objection bordering on abuse

It violates Articles 25 and 12 (2) on which foundation the secular Indian democratic republic is formed. It is a regressive and patently anti-minority legislation with serious constitutional implications for a citizen's fundamental right to personal freedoms affecting profession, practice and propagation of religion (Article 25). The ordinance also violates Article 19. objection

It violates article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which declares that everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion - a pseudo-objection, a long shot forced by desperation.

Even as I am writing this response to the shrill criticism of the ordinance, the news on a English news channel is that the Christian groups in the state are threatening to shut down the 4000 odd educational institutions in their control - "for fear that these institutions may be considered allurement", they simper coyly. The Christian priests are probably hoping that students and parents of these institutions will bring similar pressure, (as happened with the relatives of those held hostage on the airplane hijacked to Kandahar in December 1999), to bear on the Tamil Nadu government and the state government too will succumb to mass hysteria and withdraw the ordinance. Good luck. They should do the same with their hospitals too. There may well be another ordinance allowing the state government to take over all these institutions and I am just as sure that Hindu religious leaders will be more than willing to take over the administration of their hospitals too.

"Genuine activity of ministering to the poor, the sick and the illiterate will be affected", says The Hindu editorial. It will affect poverty alleviation says another Christian group. But why? Why should this ordinance banning religious conversion affect the Christians' self-conscious, pious desire to alleviate poverty and serve the poor, the sick and the illiterate? Unless they are fishing in troubled waters, exploiting the vulnerability of the deprived and offering them bribes and allurements, besides making false claims and promises of miracle cures and magical prayers, to convert them to their faith? If the Christian groups were indeed offering selfless care for the needy and the under-privileged, as they claim and as is being attested to by the editor of The Hindu, like the Ramakrishna Mutt, the Sikhs, the Jains and the innumerable Hindu religious and other charitable institutions, they would have no reason to fear this ordinance or its implementation. But the very fact that they claim that it will indeed affect poverty alleviation work is proof enough that these alleviation activities and religious conversion to Christianity, in their orphanages, old age homes, schools, colleges and hospitals, form a package deal.

Now let us deal with their touching concern for the Dalits and the oppressed and their strident criticism of some Hindu social practices. Should not the Christians and the Muslims be looking into their own backyard first before becoming the noble scavengers of Hindu society? The genocide of native Americans and the Atlantic Slave Trade were both committed in the name of Christianity. Colonising the nations of Africa and Asia, impoverishing their societies, enslaving their people was also sanctified and legitimised by the Christian faith, with the full support of the Church. Trade and the Church have always worked in tandem. The white Christian missionaries in Australia have been held guilty of separating aborigine children from their parents at birth, transported to orphanages and foster homes run by the Church, so that they could be brought up as 'good' Christians; this evil act also perpetrated in the name of the Christian faith. And talk to the feminists of the West. They will hold the Christian religion, the Genesis in the Bible precisely, to be the basis of all abuse -of women, of animals and of all nature, as also the denial of equal marital and political rights to women. And lest I forget, the USA and India have been racked by scandals of priests sexually abusing and sodomising children in their care. The Christians of India have still not dared to ask why was Graham Staines burnt alive with his two young sons?

Now let us take a look at all these foreign missionaries who come to India and to other countries of Asia and Africa to practice their Christian charity - 'Mother' Teresa, dispensing compassion in India, unmindful of the deprived and the needy in her native country, Albania; 'Father' Marian Zelazek, a polish missionary in Orissa ministering to the leprosy afflicted people of Orissa, not mindful of the deprived and the needy in Poland; Graham Staines, the Australian missionary, with nothing to do in Australia, ministering to the tribals in Orissa; and the much advertised Christina Noble tending to the abused and deprived children of Vietnam and Mongolia!! They all have nothing to do in their own countries. All these white Christians, they all want to palliate their Christian souls by caring for poor brown people. I am reminded of the classic 'Murder in the Orient Express' an Agatha Christie, Hercule Poirot thriller where in response to Poirot's question, Ingrid Bergman says, she left the USA to look after the 'poor brown babies of India'. And they all manage to pick up a Nobel peace prize or at least a Magsaysay award or at the very least, get nominated for them, along the way. And they also get to kiss the hand of the pope.

The Tamil Nadu ordinance therefore rubs salt into their wounded psyche by sternly declaring that any attempt to convert minors, women and persons belonging to the scheduled tribes and scheduled castes will invite very harsh punitive measures. When you educate a woman, you educate the family, was the slogan of the Christian missionaries in the education industry; the corollary is when you convert the woman, you convert the family. The state government has acted creditably by accepting greater responsibility for the more vulnerable sections of our society who are prone to fall victim to ill-motivated, falsely kind words, to allurements and to false promises and claims.

The Christian groups are abusing the Chief Minister by calling her names - that she is moving away from and indeed perverting the Dravidian legacy and culture. Be that as it may, but what indeed is the 'Dravidian ' culture whose fig leaf the Christians are wearing today? The Tamil word "aavi" is both spirit/soul and steam. One of the 'Dravidian" jokes by the followers of Periyar, in whom the Christians are taking refuge today, is about the holy ghost - "Parisuddha aaviyil idli veguma"? "Can idlis be steamed in the "parisuddha aaavi" (or the holy spirit) was the familiar and frequent taunt of the rationalists.

And as for Valson Thampu's gem of a quote that the more corrupt a politician is, the more he seeks to flaunt his religious identity! The pope is the head of the Vatican empire. He is not only the religious leader of the Roman Catholics but as Head of State, he is also a political leader. Valson Thampu must be careful with his political science theories. Will Thampu's psycho analysis of the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister hold good for the pope too?

And as for the accusation that the Chief Minister has forgotten that she came to power on the strength of the minority vote bank, well, well, are the Christians by any chance actually saying that the Church is influencing national policies on the strength of their vote bank? But then they keep saying that they are barely 2% of the population when accused of rampant conversion activities! Surely they cannot use the same argument to mean they are too few in one context and that they are a powerful vote bank in another. Make up your minds will you?

And as for all the various articles of the Constitution that they are throwing around, they should go back and do their homework about what the Supreme Court has said in the matter of the 'right to practice and propagate' one's religion. The right to propagate does not mean the right to convert, the apex court declared unambiguously. (THE SUPREME COURT JUDGEMENT ON CONVERSION IN THE CASE OF REV. STANISLAUS V STATE OF M.P. ( A.N. RAY C.J) fpRS I-8/S.C. 909).

The operative part of the judgement is as follows:

Point 19 of the judgement reads : "We have no doubt that it is in this sense that the word 'propagate' has been used in Article 25 (1); for what the Article grants is not the right to convert another person to one's own religion but to transmit or spread one's religion by an exposition of its tenets. It has to be remembered that Article 25 (1) guarantees "freedom of conscience" to every citizen and not merely to the followers of one particular religion and that, in turn postulates that there is no fundamental right to convert another person to one's own religion because if a person purposely undertakes the conversion of another person to his religion, as distinguished from his effort to transmit or spread the tenets of his religion, that would impinge on the 'freedom of conscience' guaranteed to all citizens of the country alike."

And in India, the law of the land shall prevail over any Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Human Rights is a pocket deep enough to hold any agenda from the right to self-determination of Christians leading to secession, to right to evangelise and convert, rights of women, child labour and much more. And as long as the Supreme Court Order of 1977 on the Stanislaus case remains unchanged and unchallenged, the Tamil Nadu ordinance will withstand any legal and constitutional scrutiny. Secularism is rapidly becoming the last resort of anti-nationals and democracy the last refuge of every terrorist.

The same is true of the Christians' bandying about of the western concepts of democracy, secularism and freedom of conscience. When a religion like Christianity declares that it alone is the repository of the ultimate religious truth and that Jesus Christ alone is the saviour of all mankind, it is negating and trashing the beliefs, and the basis of the existence of the peoples of non-Christian civilizations. To repeat, please go back to the Supreme Court order of 1977 and read its operative part attentively. It deals with every one of these fancy western concepts. And for another thing, there are peoples of the world who laugh at the immaturity of the concept of 'original sin' and the foolishness of the idea of Eve tempting Adam with an apple, and peoples who don't think that man is born in sin or that he needs to be saved.

When the church operates in such a climate of beliefs which have other ways of looking at Truth, in other faiths which practice other modes of worship, then its insistence in India that it has the religious mandate and the constitutional right to convert, because Christianity alone is the path and the goal, is an obscenity and a gross abuse of the land and the peoples who allowed them to open shop here in the first place. The Hindu editorial is right, we are a liberal people, not just the people of Tamil Nadu but the people of India. We, the Hindus allowed these violent religions to come into this country in various guises, allowed them the space and the liberty to practice their violent religions, not realising that these alien religions will ultimately use our generosity, our liberalism to prey on our own women and children, on our own societies.

It is by now established that the Vatican and other Churches of the world are now looking to Asia to make up for the numbers they are losing in their own countries. So they are soliciting on behalf of their faith in street corners, on roads, in trains and hospitals, in schools and other public places. They crawl out from under every stone and every crevice - white, black and brown. I would be called something else if I solicited so aggressively, and in a similar manner and would swiftly invite the punitive arm of the law.

The Christians protest that they offer no allurement, make no false promises and perpetrate no fraud. But let me give you two or three examples of what indeed they are doing, from personal experience.

For three consecutive Sundays the same three women came to my home at nine in the morning and offered to say a prayer for me and my family. On two occasions, I told them politely to leave and pointed to the religious symbol on my doorstep which said clearly that I was a vaishnavite Hindu, an Iyengar. But they kept coming back. On the third Sunday, I had to tell them that if they dared to set foot on my street again, I would become physical with them.

A student of mine attending classes at NIIT was waiting for a bus at the bus stop when two college going girls accost her on the road and invite her to come home with them for group prayer. What she told them cannot be repeated in polite circles.

And this soliciting is being done to Asians not just in India. My daughter called me from Cardiff, U.K, two days ago and told me the following hilarious story. She was sitting alone in a café in Cardiff when a middle-aged man of African descent approached her and opened the conversation thus. "Are you from Pakistan"? When my daughter shook her head and replied that she was an Indian, he asks her, "Are you Hindu"? By now, my daughter told me, she knew in which direction the conversation was heading. She waited nevertheless for him to continue, (to have some fun at his expense, she said). Sure enough he told her, why don't you convert to Christianity? Christ is coming soon and you must be prepared to receive him". To which she replied, I have no particular desire to receive him, and please leave me alone. I do not like the subject of your conversation". The man is persistent and tells her, "You are ignorant. He can bring you back alive from the dead. He can resurrect you". And he persists with this garbage until my daughter threatened to beat him up if he did not move away.

The target of the Church in the third millenium is Asia and non-Christian Asians. And as I said, they crawl out from under every stone and rock and hole in the ground. One persistent member of the laity even eaves-dropped on a conversation in a telephone booth at 11 in the evening by a Kashmiri Hindu lady in Chennai who had come to participate in a seminar and told her that if she came to the Church on Sunday, she would ask the pastor in her church to say a special prayer for the Kashmiri Hindus!! A little boy of eleven, named Ramu working as a garage attendant in the garage which cares for my cars, became Philip one fine day. I asked him why and he told me, two women and the priest of the local church gave his grandmother 40,000 rupees to convert. But why you, I asked him. Being just a little boy, he had not yet picked up the fine art of prevarication or lying. That was the condition, he told me. The priest told Ramu's grandmother that Ramu had to convert too and also that attendance at Church on Sundays was mandatory.

Against this background, when these pimps target children, old women, the sick and the poor, and the young and the impressionable, the Tamil Nadu government had no option but to take special care of these vulnerable sections of Hindu society. The agenda of the Church is to convert the world to Christianity, to prepare the world for the Second Coming of Christ. It is not a hidden agenda, it is a well-documented, stated agenda. Given that, every society will protect itself from this kind of aggression in its own way. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and all that bull shit notwithstanding. And even otherwise, this human rights business is an invention of the Church and western nations. Eastern societies never felt the need for concepts like human rights or democracy or secularism. These were invented as universal values only because they provided the best excuse for the Church and its patrons, the developed nations of the West and the USA to erode national sovereignty and to dilute national cultures.

The fact that the various churches in India and other Christian organizations are preparing themselves for a street fight, for arm-twisting and other forms of threats and agitation, proves that not only do they subscribe to but they also actively participate in the agenda of world churches to Christianise the world. Now more than ever, is it necessary to discuss the issue of national churches. The issue of national churches, religious conversion, of foreigners holding high office, are all components of the same threat to national security, national sovereignty and national culture. The secular brigade should study history to find out why Russia, Armenia, Georgia, Vietnam, and China all have national churches and will not permit the Vatican or the other denominational churches of the USA or Europe even a foot-hold in their countries.

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