Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Christianity and Conversions

The recent attacks in Orissa is not the first time, missionaries and converted Christians are being attacked in Orissa. The image of the Australian missioner Graham Staines and his 2 sons set on fire is still very fresh in my mind. The whole objection around this gruesome acts is conversions. I have a few points to make, over and above what MM had to say.

As history goes, Saint Thomas converted 4 brahmin families in kerala as Christians and so I am just an another convert. My religion in my mind does not stand secondary to any other religion or caste, my beliefs rooted in Christianity is just as strong as any of you in your religion with no converted great grandfathers. I hold my religion deep within me. It has played a huge part in moulding my thoughts and actions.

Christian missioners from within India and abroad mostly work in the interiors of India or any other country where the existence of people is almost denied. That is why it is always mostly the SC/ST, the tribals, the adivasis that are involved in these conversions. If they preach the Bible and bring help for these people, why is it suddenly such a huge issue. Why is the number of hindus or number of christians a matter of any relevance at all. The percentage of christians in India is about 3% inspite of decades of the british rule and missionaries being around since India's freedom. What kind of threat is foreseen to invite such rampage.

Tell me, if you adopt a child today from an orphanage and you are told the child belongs to a different religion, would you help him practise his religion or will you love him, instill your values and teach him your faith? If it were me, it would be me that I will instill in that child, the values and the faith(as far as the child is willing). How is it anybody else's business? Most missionaries devote their lives to enriching the lives of people who live in the dark, in all aspects, morally, socially and spiritually. They are people who feed hungry children who no one bothered to feed, no one bothered to clothe and no one cared for. The poor are fed, they are educated, they are treated with love and care and then they preach the bible, the only way christian missionaries know to comfort people and to give people hope. If in the end, they did convert why should anybody have a problem with that unless you just cannot stand a fellow human being's better quality of life?

About conversion offered as a bribe, many christian institutions might offer an advantage to a christian when screening for a job or so. To avail that benefit, somebody converts to be a christian. If I want to marry a Hindu, and the law says I have to be a Hindu to marry one, I will go through the procedure. To me the conversion procedure or process means nothing, because I do not believe in it and it is just a ritual but if the ritual helps me marry the guy I love, I will do it. So the bribe here is the marriage and you convert. There are so many mixed marriages in our church. The girls are converted into christians, with their consent ofcourse. None of them come back to church after their wedding or the baptism. How is this any different from the conversions that people might do for a job or to avail any benefits from the church? There are stories of people marrying SC/ST guys to obtain the SC status for a seat in the medical school. People have their own reasons and justifications.

I have read people who wrote something to the effect that why don't the missionaries just help and get lost. I am lost for words with this attitude. No one cares if the poor died bleeding on the roads sucked and bit by stray dogs. No one gives a second thought for people who left the comfort of their homes and countries and dedicated their lives to help the poor in our neighbourhood. But if a holy book is read that does not belong to the religion of the guy being loved and cared for there is this whole set of people who suddenly come out of their dens and debate the rights & wrongs.

In introspect if anything is a forced conversion,in the current context, it is threatening people to refrain from converting at gun point, roasting human beings alive who accepted an another religion. I as a christian, for a fact know, the bible does talk about preaching the word of God, does talk about redemption and about bringing peace into the lives of people but forceful conversion is not an agenda of the Bible.

Edited to add: Since I am unable to access my url, I will address the comments right here.
Smitha: Yes religion is a personal choice. People make their choices based on their circumstances and lives, be it poor or rich. It might be a foolish decision or choice but it still is an individuals choice. So lets respect their choice and not say ".. they are ignorant and more gullible" and so they made that decision. What gives anybody else a right to prosecute or judge an individual for the choices they made? About teaching my faith to my child being considered as abuse, I teach my child all that is me and I think is good. I believe faith is food for the soul and just like how I wouldn't wait for my child to choose whether she wants to be a vegetarian or a eggitarian or a non-vegetarian but will just feed her what I have, I would feed her my faith as well. She is free to choose to be a vegetarian when she wants to and choose jainism over christanity when she understands it but untill then I am not going to be on hold, not teaching her, feeding her anything.
Missionaries from all religions are free to go and give a helping hand regardless of caste and creed. How is anybody teaching or preaching to people against secularism? The objection here is not from the missionary or the convert but a third person who doesn't know the poor guy, doesn't care for the guy, doesn't want to extend a warm hand but doesn't want the poor man to make a choice because he thinks the man does not have that right because he is stupid and does not know what is right for you. Isn't that against secularism?


the mad momma said...

Glad you spoke about this Sunita. I will take it up again in a few days when I have collected my thoughts...

S m i t h a said...

these attacks based on religion makes me sick whenever i think abt it.
religion is a personal choice and it should remain that way. the problem comes when someone pushes or choses for u. in this regard even i've a problem with christianity.
one could be doing the most kindest thing but if one is pushing an agenda it does not matter how pure their motives were, they need be scrutinized.
and a child is not hindu/christian bcos he is born into a hindu/christian family. we do not say that a child is Marxist bcos their parents are too! we dont allow kids to vote or drink until a certain age. in an ideal world the kids would be allowed to chose their own spiritual path when they are capable of such a decision and parents teaching kids their own faith will be frowned upon and equated to child abuse.
the missionaries do tend to the sick, feed the poor and give hope to many.. but then they also sneak in that "jesus is the only way to salvation". i have a problem with the word "only". the bible may not have an agenda but missionaries sure do! for fundamentalists(in the sense that they believe only in their God & disbelieve all others) population count is the most critical. missionaries work with the downtrodden bcos they are ignorant and more gullible.
i hope india remains secular.

S m i t h a said...

the point im making by calling some ppl "ignorant & gullible" is how immoral the ppl are who use these poor souls for their own cause. i can respect their choice and still wonder at the same time how irrational a choice they've made based on misinformation.

and food for survival is not the same as food for the soul.. a child can survive and make rational/moral choices without understanding religion. one has to hold religious teachings to a kid bcos once the first commandment is taught the kids mind is not longer open to other suggestions. every religion teaches disbelief of others religions. and there is only a thin line between disbelief and tolerance. and in case of any misunderstanding or debate between two irrational groups only violence results bcos neither side will be able to bring any proof to the table and only the number of believers will swing the vote. bcos religious ppl take authority as truth and not truth as authority.

im against all religions equally, disbelive in any kind of god and i wont be swinged even if all the kindest acts are only performed by religious ppl. bcos i care abt the truth and religion advocates to close your mind and blindly believe.

Hip Grandma said...

Happy Onam though belated.This is one festival that all communities celebrate whatever their religious belief.

Biju said...

there seems to be a sudden spurt of activity from these sangh parivar gangs. What's surprising is that they go on and hold rallies and make speeches threating an entire community and yet no action (none whatsover) has been initiated.

These religious+political parties will not stop until our country is left in tatters.

Sunita said...

@HGM: Happy Onam to you too.
@Biju: The recent spurts are probably purely political but sometimes I see the same views amoung people like us as well.