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.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Sonia's offensive against Hinduism

February 9, 2005, 9:32 pm

By N.S. Rajaram

Geopolitical fallout of this two-front war

Thanks to Sonia Gandhi’s assaults on Hinduism, Christianity is caught in a two-front war—against Hinduism in India and against Islam in the rest of the world. It is a gain for terrorists.

If there was the slightest doubt about the hand behind the recent Benny Hinn extravaganza in Bangalore, it was dispelled by Suzanne Hinn, the miracle healer’s wife. She introduced one Grace Brenta as the lady of honour, “a humble woman, in spite of being close to Sonia Gandhi”. Brenta is a river that flows between Padua and Venice in Italy. It is a name as Italian as Gangadhar is Indian.

The striking thing about the Benny Hinn show, which in vulgarity matched any WWF extravaganza, was the blatantly communal behaviour of its participants. Christian leaders—and their followers—dropped all pretence of non-partisanship and displayed their religious bias. Many, like Margaret Alva, openly came out in support of miracle healing. She obligingly fainted and fell like any WWF wrestler, showing that she had carefully rehearsed the performance during Hinn’s private visit to Sonia Gandhi in Delhi.

Some years back, Smt. Alva as Union Minister had performed her own miracle of allowing Ottavio Quattrocchi to escape, supposedly without the blessings of Benny Hinn or Jesus.

It was not just the performances at the show that reeked of tastelessness, but also the comparisons. The state Congress chief, not to be outdone by anyone in the game of competitive sycophancy, claimed that Benny Hinn’s performance was no different from Swami Vivekananda’s speech in Chicago in 1893! No one, least of all the Congressmen, tried to point out that Vivekananda did not receive such royal treatment, nor did the United States government place a military airport and security apparatus at his service.

But the Constitution also enjoins the cultivation of a ‘scientific temper’, which includes debunking charlatans—not promoting them at government expense. To their credit, the media and some intellectuals denounced the fraud and also the sycophancy. It seems the Congress party is floating in a balloon inflated with sycophancy.

One can understand the alacrity with which Congress leaders fell at the feet of the VIP charlatan, after all he came with the mandate from the ‘High Command.’ What was disturbing was silence on the part of technology leaders of the so-called ‘Silicon Plateau’. A high profile software entrepreneur, who raised a hue and cry when the former HRD Minister, M.M. Joshi reduced the IIM fees to help poor students, had nothing to say at the government’s lavish support for this disgraceful extravaganza. So, according to this worthy, it is wrong to subsidise poor deserving students, but alright for the government to subsidise witch-doctors peddling obscurantism.

Geopolitical Consequences

The Benny Hinn extravaganza is only the latest in a series of episodes that has served to drive a wedge between Hindus and Christians. The behaviour of Christian missionaries following the recent tsunami, when many of them refused to serve food to victims unless they first converted to Christianity has made an already bad situation worse.

The assault on the Kanchi Mutt has added to the long-held suspicion that it is part of an international conspiracy against the Hindus. What is remarkable in the circumstances is the open support extended by Christian groups, not only to Benny Hinn, but even to the arrest of the Kanchi Shankaracharya. Several Christian groups in Bangalore and Chennai held demonstrations supporting the Kanchi seer’s arrest. Why should they do this unless they are genuinely hostile to Hinduism and its sacred institutions?

Christian aggression is not limited to Hindu India. It has been widely reported that missionaries and other Christian organisations have openly tried to exploit the misery of Muslim tsunami victims in places like Indonesia. Sebastian Berger of the London Daily Telegraph (January 22, 2005) reported that Christian organisations see the tsunami as a God-given opportunity to gain converts.

According to The Telegraph report, one evangelist, John, who did not want his surname published, claimed: “I’m not here to do relief work.” His calling was missionary work, he admitted. “They are looking for answers,” he said of the disaster victims, whom he described as particularly good candidates for conversion.

Of course, Muslims everywhere hate Christianity, which they equate with American aggression and Zionism. In India, however, some Christian leaders are trying to instigate Muslim organisations to weaken the Hindus. One may recall the fake ‘Church bombings’ carried out by the Pakistan-based fundamentalist outfit, Deen Dar Anjuman, which Christian leaders tried to use as a pretext to bring down the Vajpayee government.

This is unlikely to help the Christians in India in the long run, for the security of any minority depends on the goodwill of the majority. Christians everywhere are at the receiving end of Muslim wrath who see them as crusaders against Islam. Outside India, Muslim hatred of Christianity has to be seen to be believed.

This growing division between Hindus and Christians is likely to result in serious international consequences. By her heavy-handed actions against Hindu feelings, Sonia Gandhi has aroused suspicions about creeping foreign influence in India. After decades of suspicion and hostility, India and America have worked diligently to build a common front against terrorism. While her motives remain unclear, by attacking Hindu feelings, Sonia Gandhi has revived the Cold War era suspicions of the West.

Further, the sponsoring unsavoury Christian fundamentalist outfits has driven a wedge between Hindus and Christians. India, which is a natural ally of the United States and Israel in the war against terror, will now treat everything from the West with suspicion. By this, Sonia Gandhi has dealt a serious blow to the cause of unity in the war against terrorism.

Thanks to her attacks on Hinduism, in the worldwide clash of civilisations, Christianity is now caught in a two-front war—against Hinduism in India, and against Islam in the rest of the world. With a friend like Sonia Gandhi, Christians need no enemies. The Islamic terrorists on the other hand seem to have gained a useful, even if an unwitting, ally.


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