Tag Archives: missionaries

Hinduism is India

Hinduism is India
Author: Francois Gautier
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: April 17, 2002
Since the Gujarat riots, it looks as if a battle between two radically different Indias is happening right now, under our own eyes; and the outcome of this battle will decide what kind of India we will have in the 21st century. India’s human rights groups, many of India’s finest intellectuals, the communists, the Congress, many politicians – in fact a major chunk of India’s elite population – assert in the strongest terms that on one side you find an India which is communal, mistreats, or even kills minorities; tries to impose its majority feelings and way of life on the others and is generally attempting to create a Hindu state; on the other, they continue, you have the secular and democratic forces of this country, the journalists, activists, catholic priests, Muslim liberals, who truly believe that circumstances have come to such a boil after the Ayodhya episode and the Gujarat massacre, that India has to be saved from Hindu fundamentalists for its own good.

This is on the surface, because history shows us that what appears as truthful, is often false and misleading and what popular opinion holds as false is time and again the truth, which is attacked by dark forces by decrying it, denying it, or belittling it. Thus, if you examine closely the theory of the good secular Muslim/ Christian/Marxist, versus the bad/dangerous/ fundamentalist Hindu, you are bound to come-up against several deep contradictions. First, historically, Hindus have been the least fundamentalist people in the world: Never trying to impose their creed upon others by the power of the sword, like Christianity or Islam, or even by the non-violent means of preaching, like Buddhism. Hinduism has also proved over the ages its infinite tolerance towards other religions, giving refuge to all persecuted minorities in the world, whether Parsis, Syrian Christians, Jews, or Tibetans today.

Second, Hindus have been particularly targeted in the last 15 centuries: Louis Frederick, one of France’s most respected, balanced and respected historian, called the Muslim invasions of India “cataclysmic”. Indeed, these invasions have left a deep scar of fear in the Hindu psyche and most of India’s modern problems – Ayodhya, Kashmir, or the dangerous enmity with Pakistan – are a left-over from these murderous assaults on Hinduism. Moreover, Hindus in India are not only an object of mistrust and contempt from many, but they are also chased from their own ancestral lands. There were one million of them in Kashmir in 1900, and 300,000 in 1947 – but only a few hundred today. Hindus have become refugees in their own land. In Assam, Tripura, or Nagaland, Hindus are being outnumbered by Bangladeshi illegal immigrants and terrorised by pro-Christian separatist groups, such as the Bodos or the Mizos, while local governments often turn a blind eye. Hindus are killed and raped in Bangla desh, were persecuted under the Taliban and are treated as second class in Pakistan.

It is true that the secular voices in India are often sincere, talented people who really want to preserve their country against the forces of communalism. One cannot fault a Shabana Azmi, an Arundhati Roy, a Medha Patkar, or eminent journalists like Dilip Padgaonkar with frivolity. These are people who are already famous or rich enough not to have to hog the limelight. They believe that they are putting their fame, or their pen, at the service of true secularism. But then, they have to ask themselves the question how it is that they have the freedom to criticize and to write whatever they please. In China, a country which many of them admire, they would already be in jail or thrown out of the country; in Pakistan or Saudi Arabia, they might even get killed. It is time that India’s intellectual elite realised how much they owe to Hinduism, both in terms of the ethos of tolerance in this country, its immense culture, and its spirituality

It is also true that one has witnessed in the past few months a sudden hardening of the secular forces against Hinduism. Not only in India, but abroad; not only with Indian journalists, but also amongst the Western correspondents. In France, for example, all the major newspapers have carried again and again particularly nasty stories against Hindus. Recently, one of the leading French newspapers asked General Musharraf this pointed question: “Why does the world protest against the killings of the Palestinians by the Israelis, but stays silent when thousands of Muslims are killed in India?” And this gave Musharraf his golden cue: “It is not only Muslims who are targeted in India he answered, but also Sikhs and Christians…India pretends to be the biggest democracy in the world, but it is only a bluff…”

Why this sudden hardening against what the secular forces like to call “Hindu fundamentalism”? Throughout their history, Hindus have had numerous enemies: Arabs, British, Portuguese, and today Marxists, Muslims and Christians seem to have united against the common enemy. All of them, today and yesterday, felt that Hinduism was the only stumbling block to a wholly Islamised India, or a wholly Christianised India, or a wholly Marxist India. And indeed they were right: It is because of Hinduism that for seven centuries India endured bloody after bloody invasions and still remained Hindu in its majority; it is because of Hinduism that India was never fully Christianised, as so many countries colonised by the British, the Portuguese or the French were; it is because of Hindus that Marx could never get a real foothold throughout India: It is because of Hindus that westernisation, the civilisation of Coca Cola, MTV and MacDonald, is having a tougher time in India than it has had elsew here in Asia or the developing world.

And, ultimately, India has to decide: Does it want to lose its soul at the hands of the secularists and become a country like dozens of others in the developing world: Westernised, globalised, christianised, standardised? Or does it want to remain unique, special, different, with a remarkable culture which has survived centuries of invasions and colonisation? It is thanks to this uniqueness that a Hindu is different from anybody in the world, or even that an Indian Muslim is different from a Saudi Muslim, or an Indian Christian different from a European Christian. Yes, there is truly a battle between two Indias at the moment; but it is not the secular versus the communal, or the good Muslim versus the fanatical Hindu. It is a battle between a spiritualised India and de-spiritualised, devitalised, dehumanised India.

The truth is: If India loses its dharma at the hands of India’s enemies, there will disappear the only real spirituality left in the world. Once upon a time, true spirituality, which is the antithesis of religion, roamed the wide world: From Egypt to Mesopotamia, from China, to Greece. But today, the world is peopled by intolerant religions that still decree that their God is the only true one. Christianity is willing to put up millions of dollars of “charity ” money to convert thousands of innocent tribals in the North-East of India, thereby cutting them from their roots and culture; Islam has men and women, who in good faith (look at the beautiful and innocent faces of some of the Palestinian women suicide bombers) are willing to kill and get killed to impose Allah’s ways on an erring world. If we continue in this manner, we are going towards self-destruction, pralaya. I can only finish by quoting what the Mother of Pondicherry once said: “India must be saved for the good of the world, since India alone can lead the world to peace and a new world order.”

(Francois Gautier’s column shall appear as ‘The French Connection’ every alternate Wednesday)

Unethical craft of conversion

Posted May 1, 2006
Author: Francois Gautier
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: April 26, 2002

I was born and brought-up a Christian. I believe that Jesus Christ is an Avatar of Love, and that now more than ever, specially after the 11th September terrorist attacks on America, we need his message of compassion, charity and kindness for one another.

Many Christians have taught the world that the first precept of Christ is to look after the deprived and the needy: Missionaries, such as Father Ceyrac, a French Jesuit who has lived for more than 60 years in Chennai, have understood this principle, tending to the poorest sections of this society, while respecting their culture (Father Ceyrac, who speaks fluently Tamil and Sanskrit, often quotes from the Upanishads).

Unfortunately, there has crept in the purity of the early Christianity an exclusiveness, a feeling of sole proprietary right over God. This exclusiveness, this feeling amongst Christians, that “we are the only true religion, and all other gods are false gods”, has had the most catastrophic and bloody consequences: Millions have been killed in the name of Christ, entire civilisations, such as the Atzecs and Incas, have been wiped-out, “to bring them the word of Jesus”. Even Christians have savagely murdered each other, whether in France or England. One would have hoped that this intolerance, this fanatical and militant drive to convert, forcibly or otherwise, pagans to the “True” God, had ceased in this new millennium of “enlightenment”. Unfortunately, it is not so. For nearly three centuries, India has been the target of a massive conversion drive. It is even more so today, as Christianity is dwindling in the West: There are less and less people going to churches and very few youth willing to become priests and nuns, without speaking of the paedophilia scandals racking the American Church. The Vatican is thus looking for new converts in the Third World, particularly in India, where people have such an innate aspiration to spirituality. Indeed, the Pope has earmarked this new millennium as “The Evangelisation of Asia”. And it is in the North-East that this evangelisation is meeting with the most success.

But conversions in India of low caste Hindus and tribals by Christian missionaries are sometimes nothing short of fraudulent and shameful. American, Australian, or Norwegian missionaries are investing huge amounts of money in India, which come from donation drives in their countries, where gullible Christians think their dollars or Euros are going towards uplifting “poor and uneducated Indians”. It is common in Kerala, for instance, particularly in the poor coastal districts, to have “miracle boxes” put in local churches. The innocent villager writes out a paper mentioning his wish: A fishing boat, a loan for a house, fee for child’s schooling… And lo, a few weeks later, the miracle happens! And, of course, the whole family converts, making others in the village follow suit! Missionaries also make extensive use of “miracle” prayer meeting trick, where a glib preacher persuades naive tribals that a miracle is happening in their midst, while encouraging them to convert.

One such fake “miracle” prayer meeting, called the “Gangtok Prayer Festival 2002”, is being organised in Gangtok (at Guards Ground), from April 26 to 28. It will be conducted by Dr Paul Dinakaran (he runs Jesus Calls from Chennai), who is famous for leading these “miracle” meetings all over India. Who is behind the drive? There are three US-based Christian fundamentalist organisations. The first is Bible for the world; second, Common Global Ministries Board; and third, United Church Board for World Ministries. These foreign missionaries could be quietly pulling the strings from behind the scenes. Where does the money for organising these costly meetings come from? Only the Government of India can answer these questions. Sikkim is a sensitive border area, which is claimed by China. Does, for instance, the reader know that China encourages foreign missionaries to convert Tibetans in Tibet and that the Dalai-lama is very concerned about this fact? Although it is learnt from reliable sources that Governor Kedarnath Sahani of Sikkim, as well as Chief Minister Pawan Chamling, are very concerned, the State Government seems unable to do much, as many of its Christian ministers are involved in this meeting. Conversions have been taking place in Sikkim since long. Earlier, the North District of Sikkim was targeted in places like Janghu where the Lepcha community lives. But it is happening now in all the districts of Sikkim (West-Sombaria/ Soreng, South- Namchi, East-Gangtok).

It is especially the tribals and Hindus living below the poverty line who are being targeted. It’s not just that conversion is an unethical custom; it also threatens a whole way of life, erasing centuries of tradition, customs, wisdom. It teaches people to despise their own religion and look westwards to a culture which is alien to them, with disastrous results. Look how the biggest drug problems in India are found in the North- East, or how Third World countries, which have been totally Christianised, have lost all their moorings and bearing, and are drifting away without nationalism and self-pride. It is time that Indians awoke to the threat of Christian conversions here.

The argument that Christians are only 3 per cent in India, and therefore cannot be a threat, is totally fallacious: The influence that Christians exercise in this country through their schools, hospitals and the enormous amount of money being poured in by Western countries for the purpose of converting Hindus, is totally disproportionate to their numbers.

Western missionaries (and their governments) would like us to believe that democracy includes the freedom to convert by any means. But France, for example, a traditionally Christian country, has a Minister who is in charge of hunting down “sects”. And by sects, what is meant is any group that does not fall within the recognised family of Christianity, specially anything that is a Hindu flavour: There is not a single Hindu temple in France and all recent applications for the construction of one have been rejected.

It is sad that Indians, once converted, especially the priests and nuns, tend to turn against their own country and help in the conversion drive. There are very few “White” missionaries left in India and most of the conversions are done by Indian priests. Last year, during the Bishops’ conference in Bangalore, it was restated by priests from all over India that conversion is the first priority of the Church. But are the priests and bishops aware that they would never find in any Western country the same freedom to convert, that they take for granted in India?

Do they know that in China they would be expelled, if not put behind bars? Do they realise that they have been honoured guests in this country for nearly 2,000 years (the first Christian community in the world is that of Syrian Christians, who have prospered in peace in India since 1st century AD) and that they are betraying those who gave them peace and freedom?

The message of Christ is one of Love, of respecting other’s cultures and creed – not of utilising devious and unethical means for converting people. It is false to say that Jesus is the only “true” God. The Divine has manifested Himself throughout the ages under different names and identities, whether it is Christ, Buddha, Krishna or Mohammed. Let this be the motto of the 21st century. Only then will true spirituality emerge, beyond all religions and intolerances.