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, April 22, 2006

Book fair as Bible fair

A storm of controversy
By M. Bhaskar Sai

Last week, Chennai port welcomed MV Doulos, the world’s largest floating book fair, which has been listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest, active ocean-going passenger ship. Stocked with more than five lakh books, the book fair was inaugurated by Governor Surjit Singh Barnala recently. The book fair had occupied a major space in almost all the newspapers. And it was also said that the book fair would give an ultimate experience to book worms.

While all of us were thinking that the ship had brought a lot of cheer, it had also brought some controversies. Some visitors who had been to the ship said that the vessel is owned by Christian missionaries. “The crew was trying to spread Christianity among the visitors rather than promoting reading habit,” said a visitor who had been aboard the ship.

“Everyone who visits the ship is given a cassette which has messages of Christianity in it. Apart from that, most of the books in the ship are about Christianity. I had been with my family to the ship by paying Rs 50 for every person, thinking that we might get a good variety of books. On seeing this, all of us were very disappointed,” said another visitor.

“The only thing in which the crew members of the ship are keen on is spreading Christianity. Majority of books here are with Christianity content and the response from these people is also not good when we ask for something,” says Sekar, a bank employee.

Another shocking thing, which came to be known, is that one among the crew-members of the ship had used insulting words to a visitor, calling him a ‘nasty’ Indian.

Immediately, the visitor had complained it to the police but the police had reportedly said that they could not do anything as it is election time and a complaint might create some unnecessary problems. However, the police made the crewman apologise to the visitor, it is said.

When contacted Emilie Noteboom, project coordinator of MV Doulous, she denied all the charges and said they had come here only to serve the people. “We have all kinds of books here including medical and children’s books. We are here to spread hope and happiness among people. It is ridiculous to hear the charges against one of our crew-members,” she said.

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