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CHRISTIANITY IN INDIA

Discussion in 'National Politics' started by NS52, Oct 28, 2018.

  1. NS52

    NS52 MILITARY STRATEGIST

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    By

    Col Dr Narendar Singh

    If you have been following Indian mass media or social media in the last few months, you couldn’t have escaped the narrative “Christianity is posing a growing and serious demographic threat to Hinduism by converting large numbers of Hindus through aggressive proselytising. This effort is heavily funded by Christian organisations in the West that see India as being ripe for large-scale conversions. Since proselytising and conversions are not part of Hindu tradition, or that of any religion that originated in India, the playing field is tilted against Hinduism, and this is causing serious societal friction. This sometimes leads to spontaneous and violent reactions.”

    The fact is, the story of Christianity in India is a story of dismal failure, demographically speaking. No believing Christian would like to admit this in this manner, but both they should open their eyes to the simple fact that stares them in the face: that India has mostly passed up Christianity, and that there is no other country in the world that has proven so resistant and so impervious to it as India.

    Not for lack of effort on the part of the Christians, or for lack of listening on the part of the Hindus. Most of the Indian Hindu Elite for over a century are the Alumni of the schools established by missionaries. Very few regions in the world have provided Christianity as much freedom to tell its story and propagate itself as India, and in no other country has Christianity tried to spread its message so hard and for so long—for nearly 2,000 years to be specific—which is about half as long as Indian civilisation itself.

    According to tradition, St. Thomas, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ, came to India in 52 A.D. and landed at Kodungallur on the Malabar Coast.[1] He preached the Gospel to the Brahmin families of Kerala. St. Thomas established seven Churches at: Kodungallur, Kottakkavu, Palayur, Kollam, Kokkamangalam, Niranam and Chayil. St. Thomas came to India when many European countries had not yet become Christian and so those Indians who trace their Christianity to him have a longer history and a higher ancestry than that of Christians of many of the European countries." He converted people from various castes, and finally died in Mylapore (now within Chennai) at the hands of hostile Brahmans. The second-century Acts of Thomas relates that Thomas encountered an Indian official named Abban in Jerusalem, who invited him to come to India to build a palace for King Gundaphorus. Thomas agreed to go with Abban, and the king eventually became a believer. Since 52 A.D. Christian missionaries have been trying to convert the population into Christianity.[2]

    What does Indian Christianity have to show for its humongous effort in terms of men, money and material, over two millennia? Almost zilch—or somewhere between two and three per cent of the population. And that number is on the way down, not up—from 2.6 per cent in 1971 to 2.3 per cent in 2001, and Christian Population is 2.78 Crores as per latest figure of 2011 Census which is about 2.3 percent of total Indian Population. Average spend of Evangelist Missionaries in India is about 1.2 Billion Dollars every year.

    The Indian attitude to missionaries has been well expressed time and again, whether by Mr Rajagopalachari, the elder statesman, when he told Hinduism could never tolerate a proselytising faith, or when Mr Ananthasayanam Ayyangar, the Speaker of the Lok Sabha (Lower House of Parliament), stated publicly that “cultural aggression is more disastrous than armed aggression” and that he hoped the Government of India would take steps to defend itself against this cultural aggression.

    Mr Nehru at that point wrote to the president of the Christian Council in India to clarify matters and stated:

    The question of foreign missionaries in India is not considered by us from the point of view of Christianity but from the point of view of foreigners coming to India.” Mr Nehru’s view is more urbane than that of his people and he waved aside, perhaps too lightly, the Hindus’ deep-rooted allergy to proselytization.

    A report presented to Madhya Pradesh Government on missionary activities in that state must be read. The seven-man committee, led by a former Chief Justice of the High Court, has minced no words. After visiting 77 centres and more than 700 villages, and hearing more than 1,100 people, it stated:

    “Evangelisation in India appears to be part of a uniform world policy to revive Christendom, to re-establish Western supremacy and is not prompted by spiritual motives. The objective is to disrupt the solidarity of the non-Christian societies, with danger to the security of the State. Enormous sums of foreign money flow into the country, and it is out of such funds that the Lutherans and other proselytising agencies were able to secure nearly four thousand converts. Missions are in some places used to serve extra-religious ends. As conversion muddles the convert’s sense of solidarity with his society there is a danger of his loyalty to his country being undermined.”

    “A vile propaganda against the religion of the majority is being systematically and deliberately carried out to create an apprehension of breach of public peace. There has been an appreciable increase in the American personnel of missionary organisations in India. This increase is obviously due to the deliberate policy of the International Missionary Council to (exploit) opportunities opened in newly independent countries by mass evangelism through the press, radio and television.”

    The document The Attitude of the Church Towards the Followers of Other Religions affirms that the Church has only one mission namely bringing into reality the “Kingdom of God.” The principal elements of this mission are: witness, action for development and justice, prayers and contemplation, dialogue with followers of other religious traditions and proclamation of the Gospel and catechesis (cf. No.13)

    One of the gravest problems facing Christianity in India is the problem of adaptation. Despite Hindu willingness to adapt Christianity into their religious system, Christians have encountered difficulties with Indians unwilling to compromise their own beliefs. Many Indians refused to believe in the absolutism of Christian theology. The doctrine of Christianity that was most problematic was the proclamation of Christianity as the only true religion, viewing it as a manifestation of the hated colonialism.[3] The assimilation of Christianity into the Indian population required an incorporation of Christianity within the regimes of Indian culture. For this same reason, “Indian Christians have Indianized their churches and tried to end their dependence on foreign missions” (Borgard). An example of the challenges in India manifests with the treatment of traditional clothing. In a culture where clothing represents social status, one of the most evident forms of discrimination forbade the people of the lower caste to cover the upper part of the body. A bare breast was a sign of respect to those considered to be higher status.[4] In reaction to the custom, the missionary ladies implemented a jacket (ravakkay) to cover up the upper portion of the body. However, it did not meet the standards of the Christian Indians. Sparking waves of violence between the castes, in 1814, a proclamation was given permitting Christian Indian women to cover their bosom, but not in a manner identical to the women of the higher caste. In addition, the proclamation stated, women
    When I have finished baptizing the people, I order them to destroy the huts in which they keep their idols; and I have them break the statues of their idols into tiny pieces, since they are now Christians. I could never come to an end describing to you the great consolation which fills my soul when I see idols being destroyed by the hands of those who had been idolaters. St Francis Xavier

    of the lower caste were not permitted “to act towards persons of higher caste contrary to the usages of their own caste before they [became] Christians.”[5]

    Even a cursory survey of the history of missionaries in India will reveal with what zeal and vigour they battled against polytheism and worship of idols. The pantheon of Gods and Goddesses with which the Hindu universe is replete held out, in the estimation of missionaries, the greatest threat to the faith of the new Christians. Wherever possible the missionaries tried to do away with Hindu places of worship and plant a cross as a symbol of victory over the heathen world.[6]

    There is no better way to bring this situation to life than to quote the knighted Sanskrit scholar Monier Williams, an avid supporter of Christian evangelisation in India, who wrote this in 1878: “The chief impediment to Christianity among Indians is not only the pride they feel in their own religion, but the very nature of that religion. For pantheism is a most subtle, plausible and all-embracing system, which may profess to include Christianity itself as one of the phenomena of the universe. An eminent Hindu is reported to have said: ‘We Hindus have no need of conversion; we are more than Christians already.’

    Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi is an example. He had no difficulty whatsoever in citing Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount as one of the great influences on his life, but neither had he any difficulty in plainly telling Christian missionaries, who would never cease their attempts to convert him, this: “I am not interested in weaning you from Christianity, and I do not relish your designs upon me, if you had any, to convert me to Christianity. I would also dispute your claim that Christianity is the ONLY true religion.” It is not surprising, therefore, that the limited successes that Christianity has had in spreading its message in India has come from communities that were regarded as outside the hold of mainstream Hinduism, such as people in the Northeast or tribal in central India.

    The concept of sin was central to Christianity, while being absent from Hindu thinking. "In popular Hinduism the wickedest thing which a man can do is to break caste or some other outward requirement. Evil thoughts are not what popular Hinduism cares about. So, it cannot make men anxious about what alone is truly sin"[7] Further, the very idea of salvation is said to be distinct in the two religious’ systems. In Hinduism, salvation can be attained through faith and implies a release from suffering and rebirth; in Christianity, salvation means repentance for past sin, hatred for all sin, and holy living.[8]

    In the post-Independence period, this powerful missionary tradition was carried forward by Missionaries of Charity founded by the Albanian nun Teresa, who acquired a larger-than-life image in India and the world for her charity work focused on the poor and the homeless in Calcutta. With all that background, Teresa’s services were motivated by the desire to gain Christian converts. So, what do the numbers say? Only 00.64 per cent of the West Bengal population is Christian, according to the latest census figures available! And that leaves one wondering, where have all the converts that the great missionaries of their age and, most of all, Teresa of Calcutta, were supposed to have won, disappeared?

    There are evangelical activities that pose serious irritation to Indians of all religions (or no religion). For example, there are cringe-inducing videos up on YouTube and other social media of Christian pastors moving around poverty-stricken areas, talking into the camera for the benefit of potential donors in the West, patting their own backs about the great job they are doing of converting Hindus to Christianity. A new breed of independent, evangelical churches that has sprung up in recent decades, unaffiliated to the long-established mainstream churches such as the Catholics or the Anglicans or the Protestants, are particularly to blame. In their single-minded focus on money-raising, they seem no different from some of the godmen who have gained notoriety for their devotion to mammon.

    The money being pumped into should be utilized for education, betterment of society and luring of the people to convert.




    [1] Beaver, Pierce R. (1958) “The Indian Christians of St. Thomas.” Church History. Volume 27, Issue 1: accessed 26 October 2018. https://www.google.co.in/search?q=Beaver%2C+Pierce+R.+“The+Indian+Christians+of+St.+Thomas.”+Church+History.+Volume+27%2C+Issue+1+(1958)%3A

    [2] From the Letters and Instructions of Francis Xavier, 1993, pp117-8 & V. Balakrishnan quotes from a letter of Francis Xavier to the Church authorities in Portugal as follows: “I told the new Christians to demolish the shrines of the idols and saw to it that they crushed the images into dust. I could not express to you the consolation it gave me to watch the idols being destroyed by the very hands of those who so recently used to worship them”. V. Balakrishnan, op cit, p 105 & Kanayalal M. Talrej, op cit, p 18). St. Francis Xavier, after whom many educational institutions are named in India with pride. What sort of pride is this? No doubt, Francis Xavier was a mentally debased fanatic or a bigot.

    [3] Schwenz, Caroline Lee Victorian Women Travelers in the 19th Century
    [4] Kooliman, Dick. (1983) Conversation and Social Equality in India. (New Delhi: South Asia Publications), pp 146-49.

    KooLiman, Dick (1991) Conversion from Slavery to Plantation Labour: Christian Mission in South India (19th Century) Social Scientist Vol. 19, No. 8/9 (Aug. - Sep.), pp. 57-71.

    [5] Kooliman, Dick. (1983) Conversation and Social Equality in India. (New Delhi: South Asia Publications). p. 150.

    [6] This was clearly the case in Goa. Joseph Thekkedath, (1988) History of Christianity in India, vol.II, Bangalore, ,

    In a Franciscan document of 1724 it is stated that the Franciscans demolished or burned not less than 300 Hindu temples in Bardez. The income from the temple lands was now set aside for the charitable, educational and religious work of the Church. The state also claimed the right to supervise the education and upbringing of orphans who had neither parents nor ascendants. Later, this claim was extended to include also those children whose fathers had died, but whose mothers and ascendants were still alive. The children were baptized and placed in Christian homes or orphanages, where they were brought up as Christians. Then there was the law which obliged all non-Christians to attend periodical lectures on Christian doctrine. Frequently, though not always, those who became Christians, received some material advantage in the form of employment.

    Francis Xavier was the man solely responsible for the establishment of the Inquisition Court at Goa in 1560, under which Hindu women were raped and burnt alive and Hindu temples were demolished. (Kanayalal. M. Talreja, (2000) Holy Vedas and Holy Bible, (New Delhi), p 170.

    From the Letters and Instructions of Francis Xavier, 1993, pp117-8 & V. Balakrishnan quotes from a letter of Francis Xavier to the Church authorities in Portugal as follows: “I told the new Christians to demolish the shrines of the idols and saw to it that they crushed the images into dust. I could not express to you the consolation it gave me to watch the idols being destroyed by the very hands of those who so recently used to worship them”. V. Balakrishnan, op cit, p 105 & Kanayalal M. Talrej, op cit, p 18). St. Francis Xavier, after whom many educational institutions are named in India with pride. What sort of pride is this? No doubt, Francis Xavier was a mentally debased fanatic or a bigot.

    [7] Wáchan pátháwali: being selections of articles from the "Dnyanodaya." Bombay: Bombay Tract and Book Society, Bombay: Printed at the Anglo-Vernacular Press 1884, p. 177
    [8] Wáchan pátháwali: being selections of articles from the "Dnyanodaya." Bombay: Bombay Tract and Book Society, Bombay: Printed at the Anglo-Vernacular Press 1884, p. 755: 56
     

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