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.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Conversions: Real criminals are in U.S.

By M. V. Kamath

A smear campaign against India is on and the targets are Hindus. That is the only explanation possible for a U.S. State Department report on International Religious Freedom which has criticised the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the other "pro-Hindu" organisations in India for their alleged attitude towards non-Hindus. The U.S. Ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom, one Robert Seiple has been quoted by news agencies as saying that he was "concerned" about religious freedom in India and was planning to visit the country for a "candid discussion" with Indian officials in this regard. He is welcome. Perhaps he will explain to Indian officials how come the United States hounded out Osho from America making baseless charges against him. That will make a good start.

Religious freedom is guaranteed in India under the Constitution. Even without the Constitution, there has always been religious "freedom" in India for one religion to terrorise another. For about a thousand years Islam terrorised Hindus and indulged in forcible conversions. For two hundred and fifty years in Goa, Christian missionaries terrorised Hindus also resorting to forced conversions under threat of the sword. Perhaps Seiple needs to be educated on some aspects of India's history.

Nobody is terrorising Christians in India. They live happily with their fellow-Indians all over the country. It is true, however, that there have been troubles in three states, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat. And these troubles have largely occurred in the tribal belts in these states as a result of deliberate and conscientious efforts on the part of Christian missionaries to convert the tribals into Christianity.

The tribals have lived for centuries in peace with their fellow Hindu citizens. Hindus have never made any attempt at converting the tribals to "Hinduism"; on the other hand in many places tribal gods have been incorporated into the Hindu pantheon. Tribals have been left alone to pursue their ways of life in peace and contentment.

Tension has been created in recent years by the assault of Christian missionaries on tribal life. A deliberate attempt has been made by Christian missionaries under the guise of social and medical relief work to break up the even tenor of tribal rites and rituals. Families have been broken up. There have been bitter intra-tribal fights. Hindus are not involved here. But Hindus surely have a right to interfere when a marked and sustained effort is made by Christian missionaries to alter demographic boundaries.

The propagation and conversion of tribals into Christianity has resulted in India's northeast going up in flames. There have been secessionist movements detrimental to the unity of India. If the United States thinks that Indians will sit back and watch the erosion of their country, it is gravely mistaken. They do not want a repetition of Timor or Kosovo in South Asia. The creation of Pakistan has been enough of a traumatic event for India to permit more secessionist movements.

Tribals are not a sophisticated people like the diplomats of the U.S. State Department. When they are aroused they can get very violent. And when they get violent, they can kill. If Christian Missionaries insist that under the Constitution they have a right to proselytise, tribals can be forgiven if they indulge in violence to prevent proselytisation. There is no such thing as a one-sided right.

There are clear cut laws enacted both in Orissa and Madhya Pradesh, two states where proselytisation has been merrily going on outlining what is permissible. Missionaries and those they have persuaded to convert to Christianity have a duty to report to the District Magistrate in their area about the date, time and place where the formal conversion ceremonies have to take place. Both in Orissa and Madhya Pradesh the record of missionaries is very poor. Conversions take place not out in the open but deep inside the jungles away from the eyes of the minions of law and order. That spells a deep consipracy.

The people most guilty are not the RSS but Christian organisations abroad who have been liberally financing evangelist missions in a determined effort to undermine the unity of India. Christian Missions in Madhya Pradesh have set a target to 'plant' over 70,000 churches in the state and enhance the Christian population from the present 70,000 to 10 million by the year 2010.

Money is being poured into India in billions of rupees. The Christian Children Fund of the U.S. has put into the evangelist kitty in India the sum of Rs. 64.78 crores, the Evangelist Zentralstelle (EZE) of Germany as much as Rs. 59 crore, the World Visions International of the U.S. Rs. 37.54 crore and the Inter-Church Coordination Committee of the Netherlands Rs. 23 crore and the Opere Don Bosco of Italy Rs. 19.9 crore. These are subversive bodies who are undermining India's religious unity taking advantage of Hindu tolerance.

Conversion is forbidden in China. Under a Chinese law foreign religious people must not cultivate religious disciples (Read Conversions) among Chinese citizens and appoint religious clergy.

As recently as 11 March 1998, representatives of 50 Christian evangelical groups agreed to make an unprecedented joint statement promising not to carry out missionary activity in Israel. But India is tolerant. For being tolerant it is being smeared by U.S. officials under the prodding of American evangelist bodies, which want to reach "hitherto unreached people" among India's poor and illiterate tribals.

Hindus are not violent by nature but when they see what is happening they have ample reason to get upset. And yet, not a single Christian has been so much as touched anywhere in the entire country. Trouble has occurred only - and specifically- in the tribal areas.

The U.S. State Department would do well to stop the smear campaign against India, which has suffered long enough at the hands of Islamic and Christian religious tyrants to wish to suffer any more. Seiple must address his concern to his own country's over-zealous evangelist organisations. They are the real criminals.

Incidentally he may want to ask how much Islamic countries permit conversions to other religions. He may learn a few things there.

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