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.

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Conversions threaten a way of life

by Francois Gautier
December 30, 2005

Francois Gautier writes to Dr John Dayal, member, National Integration Council, in response to the letter he wrote Prime Minister Manmohan Singh:

Dear John Dayal,

I am a Westerner and a born Christian. I was mainly brought up in Catholic schools, my uncle Father Guy Gautier a gem of a man, was the parish head of the beautiful Saint Jean de Montmartre church in Paris. My father Jacques Gautier, a famous artist in France, and a truly good person if there ever was one, was a fervent Catholic all his life, went to church nearly every day and lived by his Christian values.

There are certain concepts in Christianity I am proud of: Charity for others, the equality of social systems in many Western countries, Christ's message of love and compassion.

Yet, when I read your letter to Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, apropos the inaugural meeting of the National Integration Council, I was a little uneasy.

First, you seem to assume that you are speaking for the entire Christian community in India. But I know many Christians in this country, and they never voice the grievances you so loudly proclaim. In fact, I have found that most Christians in India are not only happy to live in this country of traditional tolerance, but that they are also different from many Christians in the world: More multicultural and ecumenist in spirit, maybe.

Then, you speak of the marginalised Dalits. I agree that there are still unforgivable atrocities committed against Dalits, although very often they are done by backward castes themselves. I remember during the tsunami in Pondichery, how the Vanniars, an OBC caste, stopped the Dalits from a coastal hamlet from crossing the Vanniars' part of the village to bury their dead, as the Dalits' cremation ground had been submerged.

At the same time, my 30 years in India have taught me that nowhere in the world has there been so much effort to rectify a wrong -- from 1947 onwards. This resulted in a Dalit, the late K R Narayanan, born in a poor village of Kerala, to be elected President of India, one of the highest posts in this nation.

Has a black man ever been President of the United States?

Reservations for Dalits have made it possible for them to access education and jobs regardless of their merits -- and this is a unique feature of India today.

You continue by saying that 'the agenda draftsmen of papers for NIC seem to believe that forcible and fraudulent conversions (to Christianity) are the main cause of civil unrest in tribal and other rural areas'. And you retort that 'this is a malicious myth propagated by obscurantist and fundamentalist -- and often violent -- political groups'. Meaning Hindu groups, of course.

I have to disagree with you on two points.

One, I have seen with my own eyes how conversions in India are not only highly unethical -- that is, using unethical means of conversion -- but also that they threaten a whole way of life, erasing centuries of tradition, customs, wisdom, teaching people to despise their own religion and look Westwards to a culture which is alien to them, with disastrous results.

Look at what happened to countries like Hawaii, or to the extraordinary Aztec culture in South America, after Portuguese and Spanish missionaries took over.

Look how the biggest drug problems in India are found in the Northeast, or how Third World countries which have been totally Christianised have lost all moorings and bearing and are drifting away without nationalism and self-pride.

Second, I think people like you show very little gratitude to that Hindu ethos which has seeped into Indian Christian consciousness. It is because of that Hindu ethos, which accepts that god may manifest himself at different times in different names, that Christians were welcomed in India in the first century. Indeed, the Syrian Christians of Kerala constituted the first Christian community in the world.

It is because of this inbred tolerance in Hinduism that Christianity and many other persecuted minorities in the world flourished and practiced their religion in peace in India throughout the centuries.

But how do Christians thank the Hindus? When the Jesuits arrived in India with Vasco de Gama, they committed terrible persecutions, particularly in Goa, crucifying Brahmins, marrying local girls forcibly to Portuguese soldiers, razing temples to build churches and splitting the Kerala Christian community in two.

And today, people like you continue ranting against Hindus and promoting unethical conversions, using the massive power of the dollars donated by ignorant Westerners, who do not know that their money is used to lure innocent tribals and Dalits, who still possess that all encompassing acceptance of all gods, towards another religion.

Furthermore, you use false statistics, saying for instance that nuns have been raped. You no doubt allude to the Jhabua rape case, when courts have shown that these nuns were not raped by Hindus, but by Christian tribals.

I know, I went there and interviewed these innocent souls.

And who has been hijacking of the educational system in India? Not the Hindus, as you accuse, but the Christians, who control much of the higher education in India and by subtle and not so subtle means, poison the minds of the students, teaching them to look down on their own culture and look up to whatever is Western -- even if it has already failed in the West.

In how many schools and hospitals in India today, the Bible is read at the beginning of each day, each session? Would you approve of the Bhagavad Gita, the Bible of 850 million Hindus being read in Christian schools in the West to Christian students and nurses?

Finally, when you say: 'God bless you, you Government, and God bless India', which god are you talking about? Is it Jesus Christ? But the message of Christ was one of love, of respecting others' cultures and creed -- not of utilising unethical means for converting people.

It is false to say that Jesus is the only 'true' god. As Hindus rightly believe, the Divine has manifested himself throughout the ages under different names and identities, whether it is Christ, Buddha, Krishna or Mohammad.

Let this be the motto of the National Integration Council of India.

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At 1/01/2006 02:35:00 PM, Blogger Dileep said...

interesting post there buddy!! well first of all i dont know how important of a person you are, but then i call everyone my friend :)! I am an indian who came to the states probably a year and a half ago. The interesting thing i realized after i came here is that most of the hindus or so called hindus do not realize how great our culture is. Neither do the most of the American born Indians. Many Americans and other american born Indians has this weird image about India. They find Indian as a country of poverty, child abuse and women abuse. They think this is beacause of hinduism, which is ridiculously on the opposite extreme of their beliefs. They also believe that hinduism is Polytheistic, and is a damned religion which believes in idols. When i read the book ""Arise Arjuna" i was actually shocked. Fundementalism, which most of them time people associate with hinduism does not even exist in this religion.!

The underlying base of every religion I believe is the salvation of human beings. The problem I think is not with the religion but is with people who interpret it.

Anyways I personally believe that hindusim is > any other religion in the world. it has much more philosophical things thats applicable. Not only that i dont th ink there is any bad things written in vedas or puranas like saying it is ok to sell your girl in the market! haha

peace bro


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