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


An interview with Dr. N. S. Rajaram

"As Pope visits India, the Vatican's main concern is survival in an indifferent, even hostile world," says Dr. N. S. Rajaram. "It is now facing threats on two sides - collapse of Christianity in the West, and the expansion of Islam in its neighborhood from the Caucasus to Kosovo."

Navaratna S. Rajaram is best known for his work on Vedic India, especially for his work on the decipherment of the Indus script with Natwar Jha. He has also written extensively about Christianity and Islam. In writing the book "Dead Sea Scrolls and the Crisis of Christianity," he was probably the first scholar outside the Judeo- Christian fold to study the consequences of the revelations of the Dead Sea Scrolls. He is concerned that Indian thinkers seem ignorant of the background to Christianity's sudden aggressiveness in India by failing to see the Vatican's geopolitical agenda behind its religious exterior. V.A. Gopala interviewed Dr. Rajaram in Bangalore.

Gopala: As the Pope visits India, many people are demanding that he should acknowledge that salvation is possible outside Christianity also. What is your view on it?

Rajaram: I don't think it matters much whether he acknowledges it or not. I don't believe that anyone has the right or the competence to tell me how to attain salvation. The real question is - what are the Vatican's plans and what can it contribute to the most important issue of our time, which is combating terrorism?

Gopala: You mean the Vatican, which is a religious organization, should be concerned about issues like terrorism?

Rajaram: Absolutely. In the first place, neither the Pope nor any of his followers in India has any spiritual message to offer. Until recently, Christianity used to claim that it was a superior religion and that it was here to save our souls. But today, Christian leaders are saying that Hindus should not make any embarrassing demands on the Pope like conceding the legitimacy of other faiths or acknowledging its atrocities like the Goa Inquisition and spreading lies like the killing of St. Thomas by Hindus. So people should be asking what is the Pope's - and the Vatican's - real agenda if not saving

Gopala: If the Vatican agenda is not really spiritual, what could it be?

Rajaram: In studying Vatican's moves, we must start with the recognition that the Vatican is not and never was a spiritual entity. It is driven by an expansionist political ideology, which it calls religion. This is what allowed it to collaborate with the Nazis and participate in European colonial exploitation, even supporting their atrocities. Of course it made huge profits from all these. Its main agenda is to protect its interests worldwide - its political and economic interests. To achieve its goals it will stop at nothing. The Vatican's main concern today is survival in the next century. And for this, India is very important.

Gopala: Are threats to the survival of Christianity so serious?

Rajaram: The Vatican certainly sees them as deadly serious. Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, next to the Pope the most influential man in the Vatican, has openly said that the Church is in a crisis and anyone who does not believe it is either blind or deluded. He is the head of a Vatican office known as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In the old days it was known as the Holy Inquisition. It was this office that instituted the Goa Inquisition at which more than 70,000 innocent people were tortured and killed for refusing to accept Christianity. And this office now feels that Christianity is in deep trouble.

Gopala: All this is extraordinary. Why does the Vatican feel it is in such crisis?

Rajaram: If it seems extraordinary it is only because the media in India has paid no attention to it. It is widely discussed in Western media. The Church is facing problems on two fronts: doctrinal and geopolitical. I need not go into the doctrinal problems resulting from the revelations of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which suggest that Jesus Christ may never have existed. But looking at geopolitics, the major development is that Christianity has collapsed in Europe. Even in Rome, Church attendance in many areas is down to 3 percent or less. At the same time, pre-Christian Pagan religions are making a comeback in Europe. Today Christianity is a minority religion in Europe. To go with this collapse in Europe, the Vatican is seeing a grave threat from the growth of Islamic Fundamentalism in the region. This has added a new and serious threat to its existence.

Gopala: Does the Vatican fear Islam so much? The Vatican is in Rome.

Rajaram: If you look at the history of Christianity over the last 1500 years you will see that its fears are not unfounded. Note that Christianity was the religion of the Roman Empire - in what are now parts of Iraq, Egypt and the whole of Turkey. Its major centers were Jerusalem and Constantinople or today's Istanbul. The Arabs took Jerusalem and the Turks took Constantinople in 1453. The Vatican knows that Muslims believe that Allah has promised them Europe as Dar-ul-Islam. And now you have Islamic armies in Kosovo, which is only about a hundred miles from Trieste on the Italian border. And you also have Islamic armies fighting in the Caucasus – in Chechnya and Dagestan. And now the coup in Pakistan has turned it into a Fundamentalist country. Although they are calling it a military coup, it is also a Fundamentalist coup. It was triggered by Nawaz Sharif's attempted crackdown on Islamic seminaries, in addition to his firing the Army Chief. The Pakistani Army is not the professional army of Ayub Khan's time. It is a 'Talibanized' army, a process begun by General Zia. At the time of commissioning, every Pakistani soldier and officer today takes his oath not to defend the constitution, but defend Islam! So a highly trained and equipped army may soon join the ragtag band of Mujahiddeens fighting in Kosovo and the Caucasus. This is what happened in Kargil. In fact, at that time I called Kargil the 'Tip of the Terror Iceberg'. This is the geopolitical picture that is giving nightmares to the Pope.

Gopala: Does this have anything to do with Pope's visit to India?

Rajaram: It will certainly be in the background, though no public statements are likely to be made about it. Vatican officials don't have to say anything. We know it from numerous public reports. The Vatican's problem is that it is threatened by Islam, but Europeans will not lay down their lives to defend it. Its collapse in Europe has led it to try to expand its position in India – both in numbers and political influence.

Gopala: So the Pope wants friendly relations with India?

Rajaram: There is nothing wrong with friendly relations with anyone. The problem is that Christianity has no ethical values. It is a belief system -not an ethical system like Hinduism or Buddhism. There is no concept of resisting evil as in the Gita, but only expansion and profit, and now survival. This allows it to make compromises with the most evil of forces like Nazism and indulge in practices like the Inquisition. In short, end justifies the means. This may lead it to make compromises with terrorists also. Even during the Kargil conflict, Christian leaders in India were more concerned about missionaries in Orissa than the soldiers dying in Kashmir. They were complaining all the time, even when the 'atrocities' proved to be hoaxes and publicity stunts, but how many of them went to care for the wounded in Kashmir? This raises serious questions about their priorities.

Gopala: Coming back to the Pope's visit, do you feel that protests should be organized?

Rajaram: People have a right to protest peacefully, and it is entirely up to their conscience. But I feel that it is much more important to educate the public about the true nature of Christianity and its agenda. It is important also to force the Vatican and Indian Christian leaders to take a public position on the most important issue of our time - Islamic terrorism. They should not be allowed to hide behind their religious robes and indulge in platitudes and pontifications. The basic problem is that Christianity and the Vatican have nothing constructive to offer in the looming struggle between civilization and barbarism. India will be the frontline state in this war, but Christian organizations and their representatives are creating distractions in places like Orissa and even in countries like Sudan and Indonesia.

This is why the Chinese Government didn't allow the Pope to hold his Asian Bishops' Conference in Hong Kong. So he is coming to Delhi. Indians should recognize that he and his organization are concerned about their own survival above anything. Everything else - including Indian Christians - is dispensable to achieve their goal. This should be made public and debated. What is the Vatican's position on Islamic terror, including in Kashmir, which is now part of a world war? Debating this and forcing the Pope to take a stand on this I feel is much more.


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