Indian Democracy & Secularism versus The Expansionist Church – III



Read the previous section of this series here

“When the missionaries came to Africa, they had the Bible and we had the land. They said “let us close our eyes and pray.” When we opened them, we had the Bible, and they had the land.” ~ Desmond Tutu

Christian missionaries found the fault lines within Hindu society useful for their conversion work. They promised the natives that Jesus loves everyone and that there would be no discrimination if one accepted Christ.

Dalit Christians Demonstrate for equal rights
(Source: csf.org)

They appealed to the Hindus to exchange their superstition and evil gods with the “civilized” influence of Christian light. But the facts are contrary to the promises they made. My interactions with several Christians in India have revealed that there is wide scale casteism within the Church. Apparently there are different churches for different communities. The dowry system is very much prevalent among Christians while there is a dip among Hindus. Superstition is a strong feature of the Christian community in India with pastors leading either mass exorcism or faith healing sessions for their congregations.

What Hindus lost in return for converting to an alien religion was self-respect, culture that was carefully preserved over millennia, land and personal integrity; thus, allowing aliens to take further advantage of their weaknesses.

It was during the summer break during my MBA course in the USA that I joined my friends on a road trip to Kentucky and other places. The plan was to attend the Amway national conference during the trip.

Foreign missionary in India

The people in the group had mixed opinions about Amway. I personally disliked Amway given my experience with their agents in India but I was curious about their business model after hearing so many success stories in the United States. At the conference, my dislike for Amway turned to disgust when they started the conference with a prayer service that called upon all the participants to help take the gospel to Hindus who are demon worshippers! I have had Church agents knock on my door both in India and in the US trying to coerce me into joining their congregation or a Bible class. But the Amway experience was different because it was a call given to a congregation of business men and women to convert Hindus to Christianity. After this incident, I accompanied an American friend, who was a devout Christian, to Church twice. On both occasions there was a mention of taking the gospel to India, the land of the Hindus who worship demons and false gods!

There was a further experience with a missionary town during another vacation in the US. Indian and Chinese students who lived on the same campus were invited by a certain gentleman to spend 2 days with American families to learn about American culture and to tour their picturesque town, for a fee. We were all bundled into a bus and driven to a beautiful community with around 30 well-to-do families. Every American home accommodated 2 students. While the hospitality was excellent, it was immediately obvious that these people were closely associated with the Church. The conversations over dinner and breakfast with the family I was with, was about “widespread poverty” in India, the Hindu faith and the caste system, our ability to speak English, their faith in the Lord! The family proudly explained to us that the children from their community visited a different third world country every year to work on humanitarian causes. My thoughts at that moment went to the several homeless people and beggars on the pavements of every city in the US. Why was there so much interest in the third world when their own were suffering? While the other Indian student did not even notice the interest that the host was showing in India’s poverty and her faultlines or the notes he was taking, I could not ignore his patronizing tone. Much to my chagrin, a couple of Chinese friends started Bible class soon after that trip. They were introduced to the class by the same gentleman who organized our trip.

All these decades, the Hindu middle class strove to keep the Church in business by patronising their convent schools, eulogising their sponsored literature and history books that condemn every aspect of Hindu society and religion as evil, watching Bollywood movies that depict a benevolent Father in a Church as a saviour while portraying the Hindu priest as a greedy villain.

But now, the Hindus are asking questions and waiting for satisfactory answers from the previous dispensations that so favoured the Church and from the Church itself. When the Nipha virus breakout caused several deaths last week in Kerala, where a large number of people follow Christianity, many people on social media wanted to know why the missionaries did not use faith healing to cure those who have the virus. Dramatic faith healing sessions, which are used by missionaries to trick naïve people into converting to Christianity, have become a joke among non-Christians.

There is large scale opposition among the middle class Hindus to the exemption of minority institutions under the Right to Education (RTE) Act by the previous government, as it helps them in their missionary work.

Recently, a friend told me about their daughter’s convent school having “forgotten” to declare a holiday on Mahashivaratri, which is fasting day for Hindus. After the parents gently reminded the school administration, the holiday was declared. She said to me that this unity among parents was new.

 

Evangelists don saffron garb of Hindu mendicants to fraudulently convert gullible Hindus
(Source: NewsGram)

Hindus are organizing themselves to protect their temples and temple wealth from getting plundered and from benefitting the missionary work of other faiths. The digestion and appropriation of Hindu symbols, gods and temples by the Church is another concern that has been raised by Hindus. The appointment of non-Hindus for the administration of temples has justifiably been questioned by Hindus, who ask if inversely Hindus would be allowed to administer churches or mosques.

 

(Source: Transgender Philippines

It is this Hindu unity that is worrying the Church. When an Archbishop calls for a prayer campaign because there is a “turbulent political atmosphere threatening democracy and secularism”, the hypocrisy of the Church stands exposed. When the Church lobby inside the government was strong, democracy was at the mercy of the Church and secularism was a lie, no threat to democracy was felt by them. Hindus were treated like second class citizens in their own country. If at all democracy and secularism existed in India, it is now; when all communities are treated as equal and religious lobbies are not allowed to dictate terms to the government.

 

Cover Picture: Demonstration against Christian missionaries (Source: SikhPA)

 

Author: Aparna Patwardhan

Published: July 21, 2018

 

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