Don’t convert! – A Rejoinder to “Don’t target converts”
[ A rejoinder (11 Oct. 2008) by Dr. Mrs. Hilda Raja to the article “Don’t target converts” by Michael Pinto in the ‘Times of India’ dated 8 October 2008. ]
‘ Don’t target Converts ‘ by Michael Pinto
(TOI 8th OCT) – poses many questions than it answers. No amount of provocation can justify violence is easily said but humanly not easy to follow. All are not Gandhians or Jesus to show the left cheek when slapped on the right. Some countries follow a justice system which is based on ‘eye for an eye’.
It is shocking that politicians are equating the Bajrang Dal and the VHP with the SIMI.
The latter is a terror outfit with its branches now functioning in new names. The suspects belonging to these outfits are involved in serial blasts all over the country, they are trained in Pakistan and in POK .These are anti national outfits. What is the purpose/aim of these serial blasts-killing of innocent people who are about their daily business? The aim is to destabilize the country, create panic and insecurity and unrest within the country. Why was Parliament targeted? And who were behind it? But the same cannot be said of Bajrang Dal and the VHP. They are nationalists-they may be attacking a particular community for reasons of their own- the root cause being forced conversion and a reaction to the denigration of the Hindu gods and goddesses. Those involved in such violence and criminal activities must be apprehended and brought to justice. But where is the justification to demand a ban on such outfits? This is indulging in vote bank politics. Till date not a single terrorist has been brought to justice. The reality of wars, underworld dons killing, custodial deaths, political bosses unleashing terror against their opponents are all part of the harsh reality of today’s world.
Conversion from time immemorial has a concomitant – violence.
Indian history is replete with it. The oppression, force, torture, massacre of the Indians to convert them to Islam, and Christianity is not a fable. The Inquisition and all that it wrought is world record. Again it is in the name of religion. What you sow you reap. Violence begets violence-this is nature’s order. In ‘don’t target converts’ the author finds it strange that converts are targeted in a country which constitutionally upholds the right to preach and propagate one’s religion. But then to preach and propagate one’s religion does not mean to force and use fraudulent means to pressurize people to change from one religion to another.I am shocked that in this context the author compares inducements like ‘buy one and get one free’ in the market of commodities, to faith changing.If the market goods can be sold with inducements why not it be extended to faith and belief changing is the author’s argument. Can faith and belief be brought to the market level of sales of commodities?By this analogy the author accepts that there is inducement.Money is flowing from foreign based churches and the gods of these churches need recruits-the greater the strength the greater the power of these gods and hence the brokers of these gods are all out targeting the poor. The inducement-a plate of rice, a loaf of bread to the hunger, shelter for the homeless, and also the promise of the green pastures in the next world.The strategy has first an entry point-first denigrate, abuse, degrade and demolished their gods and icons. Second instill in these victims the doubt that their gods are false and then promise to lead them to the true god. A vulnerable victim, with a vacuum inner self is then ready for the initiation into a “New Life”/to be “Born Again“. The false propaganda is vicious because of its attack on another religion. This kind of provocation is not easy to overlook because human nature is to refute and repel this atrocious slander/blasphemy.
What will the author say if one prints pamphlets that the mother of Jesus was a prostitute and Jesus’ birth was not a virgin birth?
That after her marriage Joseph found her pregnant and toyed with the idea of putting her away. Only the intervention of an angel restrained him from taking such a drastic action. This is what the bible narrates. Will the Catholic Church and other fund churches sit back and humbly submit to such provocation? When posters depicting Jayalalitha as a Virgin Mary appeared in Chennai there were massive rallies and protests. But if Madhuri Dixit is depicted as Durga and the goddess is painted nude it comes under the freedom of expression of a painter.Only difference is that the same painter will not dare to let his artistic acumen and constitutional right to freedom of expression to depict Allah even in the best form. This is how we perceive the operation of guarantees/Rights enshrined in our Constitution
If opting for a “New Life”/ “Born Again”, demands discarding of one’s culture, social practices, adapting a western life style and adapting western forms of worship then the convert becomes an alien to the Indian/Hindu ‘ethos’, and is sucked into a process of alienation. This has other ramifications. Why did East Timor break away from Indonesia when its Christian population swelled to 27percent just in a matter of ten years? Similarly in our own context the partition of India was based on the theory that two religions-Islam and Hinduism cannot co-exist as a nation-that was the contention of then Muslims leaders. World history and Indian history is replete with the experience that ‘peace cannot co-exist with conversion. The reason being conversion has an inbuilt violence: physical, psychological, social and cultural. It may even abet one to be anti-national.
Another aspect to be noted in the business of conversion is that conversions are made even in proxy.
A few years ago in Trichy district of Tamilnadu a whole list of names were produced in paper and the bishop of that evangelical church baptized them in absentia! Would this qualify as conversion? I belong to the Catholic Church and my understanding of conversion is that it is a process-a life long search for truth.
Dr Mrs Hilda Raja
(Former member of the National Advisory committee of the CBCI)
Editors Note: The authoris a Retired Professor of Social Science from “Stella Maris College”, Chennai. Apart from being a practicing Catholic Christian, she is a true
nationalist, who values the cultural heritage of this great country and
respects the Hindu tradition too.
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