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 30, 2005

Tsunami-Evangelism’ by Western NGOs

By S. Gurumurthy
(Excerpts, courtesy: The New Indian Express, Jan. 26, 2005)

Constituting the cultural and political thrust of the West on the Rest, the Western NGOs look for ‘sinners’ belonging to other religions to ‘harvest’ them for their religion, points out the renowned columnist, Sri S. Gurumurthy (e-mail:

Many NGOs from the West operate globally. They are no simple instruments of service when they set foot on the Rest. They constitute the cultural and political thrust of the West on the Rest.

Invited by the tsunami disaster, an NGO team from the US landed in Chennai a couple of weeks ago. How? By an exclusive Boeing 747 plane claimed to be one of the two of its kind. The other being the US President’s! This NGO looks for ‘sinners’ belonging to other religions to ‘harvest’ them for its religion. It came here with celebrities, a world champion in boxing and a Miss World runner-up, so that it is not lost in the overcrowded NGO bazaar. The team drove to Thazhangudam, a tsunami-affected village in Tamil Nadu. It declared a charity of Rs. 4000 corers for the 10 affected countries over the next 45 days. ‘Others make empty promises.’ It mocked. Its mission: adoption of children orphaned by tsunami. Obviously, it did not know that parents and not children have been orphaned by tsunami, which has killed children more than the old.

It felt sad that the “TN Chief Minister did not come to receive them.” “A Chandrababu Naidu would have done that,” it moaned. NGOs like this, backed by huge global funds, are ever in search of disasters. Excelling even corporates in PR they build brands. Similar, but smaller, versions of such NGOs have been imported into India in the last few decades.

In normal times they monopolies the metro pages of newspapers and occupy their front pages in times of disaster. They have offices in metros. Led by modern, articulate, sometimes media-space seeking socialites, they are adept in publicity. Liaise with governments and officials. Monopolize all visible spaces. So they access high value cheques from the rich and aid from the state. This is how the western NGO model has created a perception that all non-government activity is ‘NGO’ work.

These NGOs mask the work of neighborhood communities, the real social safety net in India, from visibility…. With the result the amorphous ‘NGOs’ grab all credit as the media keeps repeating ‘NGOs are doing excellent work’. It is the organized, globally funded, metro-based, PR branded NGOs, operating from star hotels and air-conditioned offices and driving around in slick cars whose interviews, TV bits, photos are visible.

These NGOs need photos and TV shots to publicize their work, to raise funds and increase their turnover. They heed disasters to build their brands. In the process the real work of the unorganized local social network is masked by the media bias in favour of organized and publicity savvy NGOs. The central government made us proud by saying ‘no’ to foreign doles for the tsunami disaster. Why not say ‘no’ at least to foreign NGOs and their affiliates here who have global design?


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