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, November 04, 2005

Indian Evangelists Demand Foreign Funding to Proselytize Hindus

Suhit Kelkar
Friday, November 04, 2005

The All-India Christian Council (AICC) has opposed a section of the proposed Foreign Contribution (Management and Control) Bill, 2005 saying that it could be used to target Christian organisations charging them with conversion.

The council plans to agitate against the proposed bill’s controversial Section 5 (iv), which stops inflow of foreign funding to organisations which engage in “conversion through inducement or force, either directly or indirectly, from one religious faith to another…”.

The council says the clause could allow for a loose interpretation of what constituted inducement or force: for example, if a poor person converted to Christianity of his own free will, the Christian organisation involved could be blamed of coercion since it gave him succour.

It says it will ask the Centre to withdraw the particular section from the bill by agitating with the help of “secular-minded” activists and celebrities across the country.

“We plan to call a meeting of secular people and impress upon the government. We want them to withdraw the amendment,” said council general secretary Abraham Mathai.

Critics of the Christian organisations argue many Christian organisations, in effect , do a “barter’’conversion in exchange of food or succour, or put fear in the mind of their target audiences with impressive descriptions of the Biblical hell reserved for unbelievers.

Christian organisations, however, say that their conversion process involves a natural change of heart in the subject (called ‘seeing the light’) and does not involve coercion of any kind. They describe their work among the poor as necessary humanitarian work which the government has failed to do. Mathai did not say how many such organisations in India received foreign funding, but said it could go up to 1,000. He also said he was unaware how many people get converted to Christianity in India annually. But said, “The figure was very very less.”

Defending his argument, he said the Christian population of the country had not risen appreciably above 2 per cent of the population since Independence. The section is welcomed by others, who see it as a necessary restriction on missionary agencies indulging in induced or forcible conversion. “Freedom of religion doesn’t mean that you should allow people to convert people with the help of allurements or inducements,” said Vinay Sahasrabuddhe, national coordinator of the training cell, BJP.

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