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, May 27, 2006

Unprovoked, unwarranted Papal assault on India

Unprovoked, unwarranted Papal assault on India I

V SUNDARAM
NewsToday


'The Christian God is cruel, vindictive, capricious and unjust' -President Thomas Jefferson

'Missionaries are perfect nuisances and leave every place worse than they found it'. -Charles Dickens.


Pope Benedict XVI hails from the land of Hitler and Nazidom. He is now living in a country which produced another great man of compassion like Benito Mussolini. It is not therefore surprising that he has warned the government and the people of India on the question of enactment of laws against conversion by duly constituted authorities under the law in India. By virtue of the fact that a woman from the country where Vatican is located happens to be temporarily in a position of supreme and unchallenged strength and power in India today like that of Queen Elizabeth I, Pope Benedict XVI seems to have derived the ballast power to come out with the following statement: 'the disturbing signs of religious intolerance which have troubled some regions in the nation (India), including the reprehensible attempt to legislate clearly discriminatory restrictions on the fundamental right of religious freedom, must be firmly rejected'.

Henry VIII in order to marry the woman of his choice called Anne Boleyn divorced his catholic wife Catherine of Aragon from Spain. He took this extraordinary decision after he had failed to persuade the Pope to give his consent to marry Anne Boleyn. Not only did he marry Anne Boleyn, but also broke away from the Church in Rome because he could not put up with the tyrannical authoritarianism of the Pope and his blatant interference in what Henry VIII considered a personal matter. Thus was born the 'Anglican Church' in England. This was almost a few years later than Martin Luther declared his independence from the authority of the Pope in Germany in 1519.

Pope Benedict XVI seems to be under the mistaken impression that he is living in 16th century Europe, if not England. He seems to think that he can control the duly elected President of India, even as the Pope in the 16th century tried to control Henry VIII with catastrophic consequences for the Catholic papacy and ludicrous consequences for the Church in England.

I am very amused by what Pope Benedict XVI has described as 'religious intolerance' in India. The record of Christianity in India in the field of tolerance and compassion is well-known. I would like to give a few 'snap shots' from certain moments in the history of Hindu-Christian encounters in India. Coming to facts of history, the first encounter between Hinduism and Christianity took place not in India, but in those parts of West Asia, North Africa and Southern Europe which comprised the Roman Empire at the dawn of the Christian era. There is evidence, archeological as well as literary, that Hinduism had made its presence felt in Graeco-Roman Religions and philosophies long before Jesus was born. It was widely believed in the ancient Western world that the Greeks had learnt their wisdom from the Brahmanas of India. Evidence of Hindu colonies in some leading cities of the Roman Empire is also available. Hindu temples had come up wherever Hindu merchants and traders had established their colonies. Christianity did not fail to notice this Hindu presence as soon as it became a force in the Roman Empire. We find Saint Hippolytus attacking the Brahmanas as a source of heresy as early as the first quarter of the 3rd century.

Right from the very early days of Christianity, Hindu Temples were viewed by the Christian Priests as the most vibrant and visible symbols of what they called 'Brahmana Religion'. They became targets of Christian attack like all other Pagan temples. To quote Dr R C Majumdar, the eminent historian: 'According to the Syrian writer Zenob, there was an Indian colony in the Canton of Taron on the upper Euphrates, to the west of Lake Van, as early as the 2nd century B.C. The Indians had built two temples containing images of Gods about 18 to 22 feet high. When about A.D. 304, St. Gregory came to destroy these images, he was strongly opposed by the Hindus. But he defeated them and smashed the images, thus anticipating the iconoclastic zeal of Mahmud of Gazini'.

Historians of the Roman Empire have documented the large scale destruction of thousands of Pagan temples by Christianity from the 4th century onwards. According to Majumdar it cannot be ruled out that many of these temples were places of Hindu worship. The word 'Pagan' is a comprehensive term in Christian parlance and covers a large variety of religious and cultural expressions which are non-Christian in character.

The next important encounter between Hinduism and Christianity commenced with the coming of Christian missionaries to Malabar after Vasco da Gama found his way to Calicut in A.D. 1498. It took a serious turn in A.D. 1542 when Francis Xavier, started his inquisition in India. The proceedings have been preserved by the Christian participants. They make the most painful reading in the history of Christianity in India. Francis Xavier had come with the firm resolve of 'uprooting Paganism� from the soil of India and planting Christianity in its place. His sayings and doings have been documented in many biographies and cited by every historian of the Portuguese period in the history of India.

Francis Xavier came to the conclusion that Hindus are an 'unholy race and they are liars and cheats to the very backbone. The Indians being black themselves, consider their own colour the best. They believe that their gods are black. On this account the great majority of their idols are as black as black can be, and moreover are generally so rubbed over with oil as to smell detestably, and seem to be as dirty as they are ugly and horrible to look at.' So much for Francis Xavier's civilized and humane tolerance of the Hindus. He wrote to Rome to install inquisition in Goa immediately and it all started in an organized way in 1560 and continued till 1812.

In 1560 Viceroy's building in Goa was modified to become the 'palace of inquisition' with 200 cells with residence of the first inquisitor, house of secret, house of doctrine, any number of cells, and other special ones: of secret, of penitence; of perpetual confinement; of the tortures etc. Those officially responsible for inquisition were endowed with powers higher than those of Viceroys. I would like to present below a summarized calendar of events under the umbrella of Inquisition from 1560 to 1812.

Apr-2 1560: Viceroy D Constantine de Braganca ordered that all Brahmins should be thrown out of Goa and other areas under Portuguese control.

Feb-7 1575: Governor Antonio Morez Barreto, issued orders that the properties of those Hindus whose 'presence was prejudicial to Christianity' should be confiscated.

1585: The Third Concilio Provincial adopted a resolution asking the king of Portugal to banish from Goa 'the Brahmins, physicians and other infidels' whom the Church finds as an obstacle to convert the 'the heathens' to the 'only true faith'.

Jan-31, 1620: Portuguese government ordered that '...no Hindu, of whatever nationality or status he may be, can or shall perform marriages in this city of Goa, nor in the islands or adjacent territories of His Majesty...'

1625: Governor Francisco Barreto, issued orders to 'bar Hindus from seeking employment' in the Portuguese held Indian territory and Portuguese officials were ordered not to 'use the services of any infidel in matters of his office anyway'

To quote from the pages of Joao Felix Pereira (19th century) in Historia de Portugal, '..This Portuguese inquisition, this tribunal of fire, thrown on the surface of the globe for the scourge of humanity, this horrible institution, which will eternally cover with shame its authors, fixed its brutal domicile in the fertile plains of the Hindustan. On seeing the monster everyone fled and disappeared, Moguls, Arabs, Persians, Armenians, and Jews. The Indians even, more tolerant and pacific, were astounded to see the God of Christianism more cruel than that of Mohammed, deserted the territory of the Portuguese...'

Hitler and his compassionate men, cleverly connived at if not guided by the Pope in Rome from 1940 to 1945, exterminated the Jews in Europe in a cold-blooded manner. But perhaps Hitler got his seminal ideas from the Portuguese pirates who were responsible for the Holy Inquisition against the Hindus in Goa from 1560 to 1812. Portuguese Judges Magalhães and Lousada in Vol 2 of their Annaes Marítimos e Coloniais have given a graphic account of Portuguese Catholic cruelty, bestiality, brutality, inhumanity and savagery: '...The terrors inflicted on pregnant women made them abort....Neither the beauty or decorousness of the flower of youth, nor the old age, so worthy of compassion in a woman, exempted the weaker sex from the brutal ferocity of the supposed defenders of the religion� � There were days when seven or eight were submitted to torture. These scenes were reserved for the inquisitors after dinner. It was a post-prandial entertainment�.'

The Goan inquisition is regarded by all contemporary portrayals as the most violent inquisition ever executed by the Portuguese Catholic Church. It lasted from 1560 to 1812 though in Europe it ended by 1774. Historian Alfredo De Mello has described the Directors of Goan Inquisition as 'nefarious, fiendish, lustful, corrupt religious orders which pounced on Goa for the purpose of destroying paganism and introducing the true religion of Christ'.

This story presented by me of the Roman Church's record of organised cruelty in India during the last 2000 years, is not an end; not even the beginning of the end, but only the end of the beginning.

Unprovoked, unwarranted Papal assault on India II

One of my truly devout Christian friends wrote to me immediately after the disaster of Tsunami in January, 2005: 'While many people in Tamilnadu were rendered homeless and they suffered heavily during the tsunami disaster, Humanitarianism was found to take its huge avatar and India became very proud of the love and kindness that still pervade our society. On the other hand, (as there is a saying in Tamil that Erigira veettil pidungiyavarai laabam), some so called Christian missionaries visited the tsunami-hit and offered relief after converting the affected persons to Christianity. The irony is that most of the fishermen whom they tried to convert were already Christians. Is it necessary at this time of agony. The word 'conversion' itself (instead of the word 'change') is diabolic in nature'.

I understand that Pope Benedict XVI has come out with his emotional outburst against the Laws of Conversion in India because of his anger at the passage of the 'anti-conversion Bill' by the Rajasthan State Legislative Assembly. The Pope has the temerity to declare that the Bill goes against the provisions of the Constitution of India. In declaring thus, the Pontiff is only betraying his Himalayan IGNORANCE of the 'LAW OF THE LAND'!! He gets his evangelical hope and buoyancy from the ludicrous pseudo-secular policy pursued by the Government of India under the control of what I call a Shikandin petticoat Christianity-coveting anti-Hindu leadership.

The Pontiff ought to know that he combines in himself the supreme position of the Head of the Roman Catholic Church at the Vatican and the Head of State of the Vatican. He should be aware of the fact that one of the fundamental principles of democracy is the separation of Church and State. The values and principles of democracy were enshrined in the American Constitution and both the British (1688) and American Bill of Rights (proposed in 1789 and ratified in 1791). As Head of the Vatican State he cannot speak on behalf of Catholicism just because he also happens to be the Head of the Roman Catholic Church. At any rate, one of the main axioms of International Law is that 'no country has the right to interfere in the internal affairs of another country'.

I view the statement of the Pope as a blatant interference into the internal affairs of India. Instead of worrying about the quantum, direction and framework of conversion in India, he would have done better to ask the questions �why is it that Christianity is declining as a faith in all the countries of Europe and in the West in general? Why is it that the percentage of attendance in all the churches and parishes has come down to an average level of less than 10 per cent today? Why is it it is becoming increasingly difficult to man all the churches and parishes on the simple principle of one priest for one church or parish?� These problems in the West in the arena of Catholic religion cannot get resolved by adopting a violent attitude towards the Laws against conversions in India.

The idea of a separation of church and State was formulated by many Western philosophers like Locke, Spinoza and other philosophers of the Enlightenment. In his famous 'A Letter Concerning Toleration', Locke gave three reasons for adopting this principle: a) First because the care of souls is not committed to the Civil Magistrate (the State) any more than to other men; b) The care of souls cannot belong to the Civil Magistrate because his power consists only in outward force but true and saving religion consists in the inward persuasion of the mind, without which nothing can be acceptable to God. And such is the nature of the understanding, that it cannot be compelled to the belief of anything by outward force; c) There being but one truth, one way to Heaven, what hope is there that more men would be led into it? �. What reason is there to oppose the dictates of their own consciences and blindly resign themselves to the Will of their governors and to the religion which ambition had chanced to establish in the countries where they were born?� In short, Locke makes it clear that it is not the business of the State to interfere with the freedom of conscience and thought of its citizens. The State cannot make people religious by force; at best, it may enforce outward observance, but at the cost of sincerity of belief. It is this fact which should weigh with all the missionaries in India and they should not view themselves as supreme authorities for communicating what they consider as the only right type of religion for all the heathens of India.

In his 'Memorial and Remostrance Against Religious Assessments' of 1785, Madison wrote: 'The religion of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man, and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate. The same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians in exclusion of all other sects. While we assert for ourselves a freedom to embrace, to profess and to observe the Religion which we believe to be of divine origin, we cannot deny an equal freedom to those whose minds have not yet yielded to the evidence which has convinced us'.

I have no doubt whatsoever that these considerations weighed with the Supreme Court of India when it gave its final verdict on the 'Law of Conversion' in India in 1977. In Rev Stainislaus Vs State of Madhya Pradesh (AIR 1977 SC 908), after delineating the dictionary meaning of the word 'propagate', and considering the arguments which had been urged, the Supreme Court held that: �What the Article Grants is not the Right To Convert another person to One's Own Religion, But To Transmit Or Spread One's Religion By An Exposition Of Its Tenets. It Has To Be Remembered. That Article 25 (1) Guarantees 'Freedom Of Conscience' To Every Citizen, Not Just The Followers Of One Particular Religion, And That, In Turn, Postulates That There Is No Fundamental Right To Convert Another Person To One's Own Religion Because If A Person Purposely Undertakes The Conversion Of Another Person To His Religion, As Distinguished From His Effort To Transmit Or Spread The Tenets Of His Religion, That Would Impinge On The 'Freedom Of Conscience' Guaranteed To All Citizens Of The Country Alike.'

IN THEIR UNANIMOUS JUDGMENT, THE FIVE JUDGES HELD THAT: 'We Find No Justification For The View That Article 25(1) Grants A Fundamental Right To Convert Persons To One's Own Religion. It Has To Be Appreciated That The Freedom Of Religion Enshrined In The Article Is Not Guaranteed In Respect Of One Religion Only, But Covers All Religions Alike, And It Can Be Properly Enjoyed By A Person If He Exercises His Right In A Manner Commensurate With The Like Freedom Of Persons Following The Other Religions. What Is Freedom To One, Is Freedom For The Other In Equal Measure, And There Can, Therefore, Be No Such Thing As Fundamental Right To Convert Any Person To One's Own Religion.'

Who were the five judges who gave this highly communal, highly saffronized, heathenish, anti-Arjun Singh, anti-Sonia, anti-Mulayam Singh Yadav, anti-Ram Vilas Paswan judgement? All the five Supreme Court Judges who gave this historic judgement in an unanimous manner against conversion were the specially chosen secular favourites of Indira Gandhi like Chief Justice A N Ray, Justice M H Beg, Justice RS Sarkaria, Justice P N Singhal and Justice Jaswant Singh. It should not be forgotten that it was in order to elevate Justice A N Ray to the position of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court that Mrs Indira Gandhi used her executive might to supercede three other distinguished judges with no less a record of so called distinguished service than Justice A N Ray. It was this judge who acted as the personal Judge for protecting the political interest of Indira Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi during emergency. To quote Arun Shourie with lethal effect in this context against the mafia of pseudo-secularists in the UPA Government today: ��each person with IMPECCABLE SECULAR CREDENTIALS. And the judgment was delivered not at some time when 'COMMUNAL FORCES' held sway. It was delivered when Mrs. Gandhi held the country in her fist-during the Emergency in January 1977.' No scope whatsoever for any Ambiguity!! And yet the Pope exhibits his IGNORANCE of the Law of the Land of a 'sovereign Nation' like India!! Is it not an instance of unprovoked and blatant interference in the internal affairs of our country?

Christian missionaries in 19th-century India used to describe those 'heathens with changed hearts' who came to the mission stations simply for food as 'rice Christians'. This became a derogatory term for those driven to accept Christianity out of hunger rather than genuine conviction. By his recent non-statesman-like statement, the Pope has make it clear that he wants to increase the number of �rice Christians� in India. In order to achieve this laudable objective, the Pope has appointed an Indian cardinal and seasoned Vatican diplomat to direct the church's worldwide missionary work. He is Cardinal Ivan Dias, Archbishop of Mumbai, who replaces Italian Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe as Prefect of the Congregation of Evangelization of Peoples.

Against all this background, I would invite the kind attention of all the High Priests of Programmed Proselytism in India to the following telling poem of Oliver Herford (1863-1935) called 'Zebra':

A Story-Teller of Some Note

Before My Time, who also wrote

Of Animals, tells of An Ass

Who for a Lion tried to Pass.

But though he wore a Lion's Skin

No one, of course, was Taken In.

Even as Aesop's Ass, so fares

The Zebra, for although he wears

The Tiger's stripes, he does not gain

The Tiger's strength, nor yet retain

The Simple Virtues of the Ass.

He fails to Shine in either Class.

A Plagiarist, who but Befools

Himself, and falls between two Schools.

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