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.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Evangelists are subverting Indian Culture

Francois Gautier is a French journalist, born in a conservative Catholic family but is an ardent admirer of India. To the best of one’s knowledge he is independent-minded and does not belong to any party or group, be it the Bajrang Dal, the VHP, the RSS or even the BJP. Which is why an article he recently wrote for The New Indian Express (October 6) should command attention. He was analysing the situation in Karnataka and the reason why there was a spurt of anger against missionaries in Kanara. To quote him: “Newlife, one important western-funded missionary centre (http:/ began making conversions in and around Mangalore by accosting poor people… befriending them and then taking them to churches to introduce them to the Father. Upon introduction, they were paid Rs 2, 500 per person and then taken to the Velankanni Shrine in Tamil Nadu, where they would get another Rs 3,000. When they finally got converted by changing their name, they got an incentive of Rs 10,000 onwards. Newlife would then give them instructions to abandon wearing the tilak on forehead, replace photos and figures of Hindus gods and goddesses with a Cross” etc. Gautier then presented a picture or how Hindu gods were denigrated and how missionaries—there are apparently more than 4,000 foreign Christian missionaries in India—brain-washed the poor. It is a revealing article.

But where do the missionaries get their money from and how much do they get? Available information lends credence to public apprehensions. Thus it is noted that in the year 2005-2006, these metropolitan cities, Chennai, Bengaluru and Mumbai received Rs 753.08 crore, Rs 464.09 crore and Rs 440.04 core respectively—all from foreign sources. Ananthpur district received Rs 288.01 crore and Hyderabad-Secunderabad Rs 236.08 crore.

Apparently, Andhra Pradesh which has a Christian Chief Minister has consistently been one of the three states to receive such mind-boggling foreign aid. Christian leaders smilingly point that under the Constitution, propagation of religion is legally permissible. But what the Vatican and the various protestant organisations are seeking is not so much the spread of Christian faith as much as extension of the power of the church to undermine the cultural unity of India and break up the nation—a trick that must be exposed by all patriotic Indians.

May it be remembered that when Pope John Paul II visited India (he had been barred from China) he made the point in a public statement that in the first millennium it was Europe that was converted, in the second it was Africa and henceforth it is Asia’s turn. It was a slap in the face of India, a predominantly Hindu country, but quiet was maintained because Hindus with a greater culture believed in the ancient dictum: atithi devo bhava—guest should be treated as God. Pope John could not care less, if he hurt Indian sentiments by his indiscreet comments.

The issue today is not conversion to another faith. Rather it is the deliberate move to break up India. Conversion inevitably destroys a local culture and is fundamentally subversive in content. Conversion, especially in tribal areas, leads to demographic disturbances which in turn lead to resentment. Resentment leads to violence. We condemn violence without trying to seek the reason behind it because it does not serve the interests of our secularists. Kandhamal is an excellent example of this submersion. In 1961, the Christian population there was just under 2 per cent. In 1971 this rose three times to 6 per cent. Thirty three years later, in 2001, the Christian population has risen to 27 per cent. The cleavage between Christian and non-Christian tribes has widened to such an extent that it has been the cause of social antagonism and killings.

Banning the Bajrang Dal would not solve the problem. It would only add to tensions, not only in Orissa but right across the country. Christianity came to India even before it spread to Europe and it was accepted ungrudgingly. If today Christian efforts at conversion are strongly opposed it is because the loyalty of converts is turned towards Rome or to Protestant evangelical centres. There is clear evidence which confirms that Christian organisations are backing terrorism and separatist movements in India’s North-East.

The National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) was founded in 1989 and since its inception the NLFT has been engaged in an armed struggle to carve out a separate Christian nation—Tripura. The Baptist Church is known to back it. Christians entered Nagaland and Mizoram in the last quarter of the 19th century and this has led to the transformation of an entire culture which could lead to the isolation of an entire state from mainstream India with dire consequences. The protestant church is working havoc in India while the Union Government wilfully turns its head away. In a short time we are going to have another Kashmir in the North-East thanks to the indifference of Sonia Gandhi- dominated Congress. The first step to prevent further deterioration of the situation is not banning the Bajrang Dal but deporting all foreign missionaries and confiscating funds sent from abroad to undermine the essential unity of India. The sinister plan of the evangelists has to be exposed. The issue is not religion; it is foreign dominance through not -too-subtle means. Under the protection of the Constitution, foreign sources are determined to undermine the basic cultural structure of India which is impermissible. They should be summarily thrown out. The vanvasis of Orissa did not invite the evangelists; it is the evangelist who is imposing himself on the vanvasis under the protection of the Constitution. We are hung by our own petard. Australia’s Prime Minister John Howard has asked Australian Muslims who want to live under Islamic sharia to leave the country. Pakistan does not permit conversion. Nor do so many other nations. There is no reason why India should suffer evangelists. The only way to stop the predatory ways of missionaries is to throw them out, bag and baggage. What is at stake in India is not Christianity as a faith but Christianity as a political weapon to take over India by means foul.

The opposition is not to a religion but to a calculating church which is practicing a silent invasion under the very umbrella of a Constitution. The UPA government—and in the end India itself—is being taken for a ride. India’s decency is being exploited fully and there must be laughter in various evangelist centres at India’s stupidity. Meanwhile the public should demand a White Paper on the evangelist invasion of India so that the truth is out. To practice a faith do converts need money from abroad? Who is fooling whom?

(The writer is a highly respected columnist, author and former editor of Illustrated Weekly and Chairman, Prasar Bharati Board.)


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