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.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Genuine tears in Pak vs hypocritical tears in India

V SUNDARAM

I was highly amused to read a news item in one of the newspapers on 29 May 2007 to the effect that at least three thousand (3000) Christians, Dalits and human rights activists from different parts of the country courted arrest at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on 28 May 2007 while protesting against the calculated �Silence� of the Government on the alleged rise in Anti-Christian attacks throughout India. At a rally holding aloft their proclamation banner 'Stop Violence on Christians', Christian and Dalit leaders, which included All India Christian Council (AICC!!) President Joseph Dsouza, National Integration Council Member John Dayal, Justice Party President Udit Raj and Mount Carmel School Principal V K Williams, issued a strong warning to the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh that his silence could lead to killing of innocent people at the hands of communal forces now working themselves out to unseen levels of frenzy in India.

Madhu Chandra, an All India Christian Council (AICC) leader, told the media: �The protest rally was in the wake of attacks on Pastor Walter Masih in Jaipur, Rajasthan on 19 April 2007 and on Christian priests Ramesh Gopargode and Ajit Belavi on 7 May 2007 in Kolhapur, Maharashtra, and a generally high incidence of communal assaults against Christians this year thus far. In 2006, the All India Christian Council (AICC) recorded at least one incident of anti-Christian attack every third day, but this rose to one attack every alternate day during the first four months of this year in 2007�.

Expressing his great disappointment with the Congress party that leads the UPA in New Delhi, John Dayal added that it was no longer only the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that should be blamed for anti-Christian agenda, but also the Sonia Congress Party. He said: �Look at the Congress-government in Himachal Pradesh, which enacted the anti-conversion law. Christianity in India has been reduced to a 'daylight religion', because the people of the community feel unsafe after sunset�. Perhaps they would feel safer in Multan District in Pakistan, as will be seen from the facts to be narrated below.

The participants in the protest rally were from several states including Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Punjab, Orissa and Andhra Pradesh and they shouted slogans against the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, saying, 'UPA government, wake up and stop atrocities on Christians.' Likewise, in the last week of May, Christians in Mumbai also staged a rally at Azad Maidan to show solidarity with the protesters here.

Let us contrast this politically imagined situation of fictionalised atrocities against the Christians in India with what is actually happening in Pakistan today. It has been extensively reported in all forms of media during the last one week that Christian clerics in Multan District in Pakistan are being forced to convert to Islam or face death. Naveed Amer Jeeva, Pastor Joseph Daniel, Dr Elvin and Pastor Mehtab Masih, all front rank leaders of the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA) stated at a joint news conference on 6 July 2007 in Multan: �As many as 10 Christian Clerics have received threatening letters from unidentified people reading � 'Embrace Islam, Stop Preaching Christianity and quit your faith. Otherwise the count down of your life has begun'�.

Naveed Amer Jeeva of the APMA said: �A state of fear prevails in Shanti Nagar (Multan Town) because District and Provincial Governments have turned a deaf ear to our problems. We are feeling insecure and unsafe today because of these threatening letters from Muslim fanatics. Pastor Mukhtar Barkat had received a similar threatening letter from Muslim fanatics in 2004 and was assassinated on 5 January 2004 in Khurrampura Khanewal. The minorities in general and the Christians in particular are not safe in Pakistan. Recently, Christians in Charsadda also received threatening letters warning them to shut their Churches and convert to Islam... Even a petition has been filed against the appointment of Justice Bhagawan Das as acting Chief Justice of Pakistan on the ground that he is a non-Muslim (a Hindu)�.

When the Reserve Bank of India brought out a two rupee Coin with a Christian Cross inscribed on it, in these columns, I had written an article attacking the Government of India and also the Reserve Bank of India for functioning as informal unpaid agents for the promotion of Christianity in India. Soon the matter was taken up by print media and TV channels and a public debate took place. Later many political leaders and leaders from Hindu organisations condemned Reserve Bank of India. At that time the Reserve Bank of India gave a highly loaded and political clarification in the following words: �The reverse of the coin contains the visuals showing stylized representation of 'Unity in Diversity', a defining characteristic of our country. The symbol shall be seen as four heads sharing a common body. It shall be thought of as people from all parts of the country coming together under one banner and identifying with one nation. The visual code helps the user connect with an individual denomination, which makes the process of identification quicker�.

When the RBI gave the above clarification, Smt. Radha Rajan raised the following pertinent question: �The RBI must also inform us about when and how it was established my mutual consensus or general understanding in the country that the design which I call the CROSS, is according to the RBI, a symbol of unity in diversity. Was Parliament taken into confidence on this issue?... I for one have never seen this symbol anywhere before it appeared on our coins as representing unity in diversity. And one may question further, why four heads? Four heads of what entity?�.

Rev Fr Babu Joseph, spokesperson of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI) thought otherwise: � The whole controversy around the symbol of unity depicted on the reverse side of the two rupee coin as promotion of Christianity in India is nothing short of figment of imagination of certain individuals and groups in India that are obsessed with anti-minorityism. The Reserve Bank of India has made clarification on what the symbol actually meant and the matter should have been considered closed. Instead, these vested groups are trying to whip up uncalled for passion against a symbol which is universally accepted as representative of unity of people, cultures and religions which India truly represents. By raising such frivolous issues through political parties and organizations, we serve no useful purpose except create more social wedge between communities�.

When legitimate issues were raised by responsible journalists and political leaders, the anti-Hindu Christian leaders of the Church in India let loose a barrage of vitriolic abuse against the Hindus and Hindu organisations of India. Some of them like Dr John Dayal spoke about �Hindu political desperados and their hate campaigns and their chilling impact on the Christian masses of India�. Many of them showed great compassion and concern towards the Muslim terrorists of India who had destroyed our temples in Banaras and elsewhere. They said that Hindu attempts to paint a Muslim as a traitor and a murderer will hopefully invite administrative and judicial attention and the punishments that should go with such crimes in a democratic India.

Recently taking note of the communal politics of anti-National minorityism practiced by some of the Christian leaders and Christian organisations in India, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) gave a detailed memorandum to the President of India, fully documented with facts and figures, inviting his attention to the false propaganda of the 'Goebbels Variety' being carried on by these Christian forces against the peace loving and tolerant Hindus in majority in India. They stated as follows: �For some days now a misinformation campaign is on the go about alleged attacks on Christian missionaries. Unfortunately, some vested interests have been conspiring to haul the names of Hindu organizations into these episodes. Whenever any such incident comes to notice, even earlier than the actuality verified by the process of law comes to the fore, the Christian clergy, clerics, bishops and nuns hit the streets along with hundreds of students studying in missionary schools and make postures calling Hindu organizations names. A section of the media, with an eye on escalating their TRP and enhancing their 'secular image', acts hawk in putting these incidents under the nose of the world. In the process, they not only bring disrepute to the Hindu society that has a glorious tradition of tolerance and respect for all schools of religion, but also immensely damage the image of their own great country in the eyes of the world, and unwittingly allow themselves to be taken for a ride by the anti-India forces�.

Swamy Dayanand Saraswati told me that three leading Rabbis who met him in New Delhi told him that India is the only country in the world where the Jews have never been persecuted at any point of time in the last 2000 years. Our Christian leaders should also take their lessons from them, if not from the fanatic Muslims of Multan District in Pakistan today. In this context, I cannot help quoting the brilliant words of VOLTAIRE (1694-1778):

'Christianity is the most ridiculous, the most absurd and bloody religion that has ever infected the world- - -Where is the prince sufficiently educated to know that for seventeen hundred years the Christian sect has done nothing but harm?' (LETTERS TO FREDRICK THE GREAT, 1767) 'Pagan religion shed very little blood, while ours flooded the earth with it' (PHILOSOPHICAL DICTIONARY- 'RELIGION')

'CHRISTIANITY HAS DELUGED THE EARTH WITH BLOOD FOR THE SAKE OF SOPHISMS' (PHILOSOPHICAL DICTIONARY- 'RELIGION').

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