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January 12, 1999


E-Mail this column to a friend Arvind Lavakare

Mission: Conversion

On December 4 last year, Calcutta's largest English language newspaper, The Telegraph, carried a five-column colour photograph on its front page showing the bonfire lit on the previous day at the heritage edifice of Victoria Memorial Hall by Youth Congress activists. Under the picture was the caption "Congress vandalises Victoria".

However, none of at least three other national English language dailies even reported the above vandalism.

These same three newspapers have, along with others, been going to town over the attacks on the Christian icons and individuals ever since the unseemly, albeit unfortunate, event began on Christmas day in a remote tribal district of Gujarat.

This utterly contrasting attitude in news coverage is only one of the few mysteries surrounding the Christian cacophany that threatens to become yet another crisis for the BJP-led coalition in Delhi, especially because the wide English language coverage by our newspapers has provoked the USA into needlessly prying into what, after all, is a domestic issue.

Another major mystery is why these major English newspapers are not bothering to cite Mahatma Gandhi's views on conversion.

The third mystery is why all the cries of crucifixion are being heard only from Gujarat, and, since the other day, from Maharashtra, rather than from predominantly Christian states like Goa and Kerala.

The last mystery is why the mainline newspapers, chic designer magazines and television talk shows have not undertaken an unbiased analysis of why Christianity is suddenly being targeted by sections of Indian people including intellectuals like Navratna S Rajaram, a qualified engineer from Bangalore, a PhD from Indiana University of the USA, lecturer in various American universities for some 20 years, an adviser to NASA since 1984, and presently settled in Bangalore.

That Dr Rajaram's studied diagnosis should find expression in the Sangh Parivar's Organiser weekly rather than in The Times of India or The Indian Express or The Hindu or The Telegraph resolves all the above mysteries all at once. These latter worthies are "secular", you see, and anything that serves as a stick to beat the "communal" BJP with is grist to the mill.

But before going on to Dr Rajaram's viewpoint on the current Christian crisis, let's take a look at some pronouncements of Mahatma Gandhi by whom the entire nation, including the "secularists" have always sworn.

In Young India of April 23, 1931, Gandhiji came to the conclusion that considering the great faiths held by the Indian people were adequate, "India stands in no need of conversion from one faith to another."

At page 110 of Volume 46 of the Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Nation is reported as saying "If I had the power and could legislate, I should certainly stop all proselytising." He went on to exhort the missionaries to stop conversions, adjudging that "It is the deadliest poison that ever sapped the truth."

Then there's Arun Shourie's book on missionaries in India which narrates how, when asked by the missionaries what should be done, "Gandhiji's advice was fivefold... give up conversion altogether...if you must, direct your efforts to those who are in a position to assess these matters; do not make the poor and illiterate and desperate the targets of your campaign ... Third, it would be better for non-Indian missionaries to return to their countries and attend to problems there... Fourth, Gandhiji counselled the missionaries to compliment the faith of the people, do not undermine it. Do not de-nationalise them... Finally, instead the life of the Church, live the life of Jesus, of piety, of the Sermon on the Mount. Let that life, that example, persuade people to embrace Christianity if they will, not these vending machines."

All these were strong words that the Christian missionaries have not paid heed to in all the decades since they were uttered by the Father of the Nation. Their licence for their "vending machines" has been the Indian Constitution's Article 25 that confers on all persons "the right freely to profess, practice and propagate religion."

Hence those "vending machines" continued to be in vogue in Gujarat's tribal district of Dangs even in December 1998 when all the bitterness hit the front pages. As revealed in a rare English journalistic piece by Sunil K Poolani of The Sunday Observer, one Sister Placid, who converts Dangs tribals, confessed that "We have certain targets every year. We have to lure and bribe them with goodies to join our faith."

Those words of Sister Placid expose the naked truth of the mission behind the missionaries operating in India. And yet, hordes of our politicians and dozens of our "secular" media turn a blind eye to it.

Indeed, so blind to the truth is this media coterie that it preferred to play up the alleged burning of copies of the Bible in Rajkot (Gujarat) last year rather than investigate the facts. Rajya Sabha MP Prafull Goradia has, in a signed article in a BJP magazine, stated that "No Bible was burnt in Rajkot, although three copies of the Bible were damaged in a scuffle that took place."

Explaining the situation, Goradia writes that a Gujarati book Navo Karar (New Contract) was distributed to children along with a copy of the Bible and each child was supposed to sign below the page attached to the last page of the book; that attached page said, "I have sinned. Lord Jesus sacrificed himself due to my sins. He came back to life after three days to save me. I, therefore, accept him as my sole saviour." The child's signature was to be accompanied by its name and the date of signing.

Writing in a Marathi language newspaper, M G Vaidya, a retired professional journalist of Nagpur, has elaborated the above episode to point out that that the event took place in I P Mission Girls School and, reacting to the opposition by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal, the school principal later wrote a letter to the Rajkot units of the two organisations undertaking to withdraw copies of the 'New Contract' and also to see that such literature would not be distributed in the future. Once again, this confessional doesn't appear to have made it to the pages of the "secular" coterie.

Nor has this ivory-tower group of opinion makers cared to tell its vast educated audience as to what is the precise scenario which has precipitated the Hindutva brigade into an antagonistic, almost bellicose, stance against the Christian missionaries.

That scenario has been depicted by Dr Rajaram. He writes that Christian organisations have made no secret of their goal that the conversion of India to Christianity remains their highest priority. In support of this contention he cites a study called ''The Report of the Consultation of World Evangelisation'' (Lausanne, Switzerland) in which the intention is made plain with chapters such as "Biblical Framework for Hindu Evangelisation", "Strategic Planning for Evangelisation of the Hindu" and others in similar vein. Finally, the study says, "The reaching of the Hindu is one of the greatest challenges to the people of God (Christian missionaries) in this generation."

According to Dr Rajaram, this zeal in evangelisation of the Hindu can be traced to the damning effect of the discovery of what are known as Dead Sea Scrolls by the Western world in 1991. In brief, these scrolls reveal that everything attributed to Jesus was there in accounts current among an extremist Jewish sect (known as the Qumranians) which existed in Palestine for more than 100 years before the birth of Jesus Christ!! The fallout is the bombshell that, for all you know, the crucifixion and the rest may well be a later dramatisation of the Christian missionaries rather than a historical fact we have been made to believe.

With the doctrinal foundation of Christianity being in trouble, leading persons in the Catholic Church are reportedly distraught with the feeling that the Church is collapsing. Indeed, Dr Rajaram believes that "Christianity has collapsed in Europe" and that the Catholic Church, having realised that fact, have come to the conclusion that "without its expansion in India, organised Christianity will be finished."

This has reportedly been one of the major stories of the decade and one that has widely appeared in the Western media. Somehow, the Indian press has hardly touched it. Perhaps time has come for "secularists" of all hues to look at it by first contacting Dr Rajaram and asking him to show documentary proof of what he has so boldly put down in black and white.

Meanwhile, Christians in India should continue to believe and practise their faith. They have every right to believe what they want and worship how they want. They should also realise that the Hindutva brigade's opposition is not against all Christians but only those who believe that their mission in life is conversion of others. And let everyone realise that every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

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