Christian missionaries will not succeed in India – Mohan Bhagwat

Mohan Bhagwat

DNA“We have forgotten ourselves. We are all Hindus. Let our castes, languages we speak, regions we come from, gods we worship be different. Those who are sons of Bharat Mata, are Hindus. Hence, India is called Hindustan,” – Mohan Bhagwat

Raking up the issue of conversions, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat said such attempts are unlikely to be successful in the country as the missionaries “do not have the strength”.

Bhagwat pitched for Hindu unity and asked members of the community to come together irrespective of caste and language.

“… After converting people to Christianity in the US, Europe, they (missionaries) are eyeing Asia. China calls itself secular, but will it allow itself to come under Christianity? No. Will Middle-East countries let it happen? No. They now think India is the place.

“But they should keep it in mind, notwithstanding their strong push over 300 years, only six per cent of Indian population could be converted to Christianity. Because they do not have strength,” he said.

The chief made the remarks while delivering valedictory address at Virat Hindu Sammelan, organised by Bharat Sevashram Sangh in Vansda in the district.

Bhagwat sought to buttress his point by saying how two churches, one in the US and another in Birmingham in the UK, were converted into Ganesh temple and offices of Vishwa Hindu Parishad respectively, by a Hindu businessman in America.

Bharat Mata“This is the condition (of missionaries) in their own countries and they want to convert us. They cannot do it, they do not have that strength,” he added.

Bhagwat asked Hindus to remember “who they are” and that their culture is “superior”.

“Hindu community is in trouble. Which country are we living in? Our own country. This is our land, from the Himalayas (in the north) to the sea (in south). This is the land of our ancestors. Bharat Mata is mother of us all.

“We have forgotten ourselves. We are all Hindus. Let our castes, languages we speak, regions we come from, gods we worship be different. Those who are sons of Bharat Mata, are Hindus. Hence, India is called Hindustan,” he said.

Terming Hindu religion as one based on truth, Bhagwat said Hindus never tried to convert people pursuing other religions as they believe in co-existence.

He urged people of all religions to “walk together” to make the world a better place and India a world leader.

He reaffirmed the RSS stand that Hindus and non-Hindus living in “integrated India” have common ancestors who share the same DNA.

Bhagwat urged the attendees to reach out to their “brothers”, to whom they have not gone for ages, keeping aside differences of caste, religion and language.

“We should go to our brothers whom we have not gone to for ages. We did not go to them and hence these things (spread of other religions) are happening. We should go to them to share their pain, cooperate with them and perform our long-forgotten duty to make them aware of who they are, that we have common ancestors,” he added. – DNA, 31 December 2017

Missionary Visa

Though well-intentioned in his remarks, Mohan Bhagwat is somewhat naive about Christians and their missionary agenda. Conversions continue till today and Modi Sarkar continues to issue special visas to Christian missionaries. Christians being only 6% of the population is an out-of-date figure and very misleading. The true figure is closer to 15%—though nobody really knows as new converts are now hiding their Christian identity in order to grab government handouts meant for the Hindu poor. – Editor

 

India must stand firm against predatory proselytisation by American missionaries – Suhag Shukla

Compassion International

Suhag ShuklaCompassion International is only one player in an industry of humanitarian aid created by American missionaries where the only accepted currency is poor souls. Its marketplace is the 10-40 Window—home to the majority of the world’s Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims. Its marketing strategy is predatory and not at all concerned with the aid recipients’ religious freedom. – Suhag Shukla

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) placed US-based Church, Compassion International, on its prior permission list earlier this year. The Church came under investigation for allegedly transferring funds to non-governmental organisations (NGOs) not registered under the Foreign Contribution Registration Act (FCRA) as required by law. In an unusual show of support from the highest levels of the US government, a special request first came from US Secretary of State John Kerry to the Ministry of External Affairs on the Church’s behalf. On Tuesday, 6 June, the US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing admonishing India for singling out Compassion International. Compassion International is one amongst several American NGOs currently under scrutiny by the MHA’s FCRA division.

Compassion International’s president and chief executive officer, Santiago “Jimmy” Mellado, shared in an Op Ed on The Hill, a heart-wrenching story about a 16-year-old Indian girl named Rinki. As an American of Indian descent, who frequently visits India, I have sadly met many such Rinkis—children and families who are suffering under the crushing weight of poverty, hunger and illiteracy. I’ve also seen, first hand, and supported, many humanitarian NGOs that work in India to alleviate suffering through transformative assistance and empowerment programmes.

Mr Mellado’s article was a continuation of a theme-of-the-week of sorts. The House Foreign Affairs Committee held a full committee hearing on 6 December entitled, American Compassion in India: Government Obstacles, during which several members of Congress admonished the Government of India for placing restrictions on Compassion International’s ability to carry out its work there.

Mr Mellado presents Compassion International as primarily a humanitarian organisation, which just happens to be founded on “Christian values”. However, its stated mission attests to it being a response to the Great Commission and existing “as an advocate for children, to release them from their spiritual, economic, social and physical poverty and enable them to become responsible and fulfilled Christian adults.” As a Hindu American, a lawyer, and a civil and human rights advocate, and proponent of religious pluralism, I have several concerns both about Compassion International’s methods and our government’s endorsement of them.

First, there is no doubt that there is economic poverty in India. But, I am at a loss as to what Compassion International means by “spiritual poverty” in a deeply religious and tremendously diverse and pluralistic India—an India, which has not just inspired and spoken profoundly to the millions born into the Indic traditions, but scores of seekers and prolific thinkers like Ralph Waldo Emerson, David Thoreau, Walt Whitman and Aldous Huxley, to name only a few. What I do know is that there are millions of Christians who wouldn’t find Compassion International’s message or methods very Christ-like.

Second, I am stunned that the House Foreign Affairs Committee would expend resources and diplomatic capital to hold a hearing that unequivocally endorsed Compassion International, an American Church operating in India. The thought of the American government body privileging a particular faith, even as it impinges on the faiths of the majority of a strategic partner country of a billion, is inconceivable, but it did happen.

Caruna Bal VikasThird, why should the US government interfere in the sovereignty of a strategic, democratic ally on behalf of a single non-governmental entity? According to Indian media reports in 2015, investigators found that Compassion International, through its Indian affiliate Caruna Bal Vikas, was distributing funds to NGOs not registered under the Foreign Contribution Act of 2010 (FCRA). This act governs the ability of Indian NGOs to accept foreign contributions and how they are distributed, requiring any NGOs receiving foreign funds to be registered. Caruna Bal Vikas was also found to be distributing funds to many religious NGOs—as opposed to social service NGOs—contradicting their own FCRA application. Mr Mellado’s suggestion that Compassion International is being targeted because it is Christian betrays the fact that consistently the top FCRA approved donors and FCRA recipients of foreign funds are Christian—evangelical and Mormon—as are a good portion of the tens of thousands of FCRA registered NGOs.

Rinki’s parents, like scores of other poor Indian parents, enrolled her in one of Compassion International’s child development centres, where she “enjoys nutritious meals, tutoring and counseling that counters poverty’s debilitating message that ‘you don’t matter’.” Dr Dan Brewster heads the academic programming administered in those centres. He also happens to be a renowned expert in missiology and proponent of the 4/14 Child Ministries and Mission Strategy. 4/14 targets children age four to 14 for evangelising and conversion because of their impressionability and receptiveness, as well as the unique mission opportunities that arise as a result of the vulnerabilities caused by their poverty. Mellado claims that his organisation is being singled out because they demonstrate Christian values—that they serve children and families in India of all religions. But donors are assured that the most important impact of their $38 sponsorship is that their “sponsored child will hear about Jesus Christ and be encouraged to develop a lifelong relationship with God.” Outcomes are monitored in part by the assistance recipients’ “…demonstrated commitment to the Lordship of Christ.”

World Council of ChurchesBy Compassion International’s own methods and measures, desperately needed humanitarian assistance is conditioned on religious conversion—something that both the Vatican and World Council of Churches have called un-Christian and unethical. Where the American government has partnered with faith-based organisations to provide social services both here and abroad, it’s deemed such conditioning illegal. That the government of India should want to curb the exploitation of its poor by foreigners or its own people then, is not only its right, but duty.

It is not my intention to single out Compassion International—its alleged violation of Indian law and our government’s unmerited defence has simply placed it in the spotlight. In reality, Compassion International is only one player in an industry of humanitarian aid created by American missionaries where the only accepted currency is poor souls. Its marketplace is the 10-40 Window—home to the majority of the world’s Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims. Its marketing strategy is predatory and not at all concerned with the aid recipients’ religious freedom.

India Crossed-OutThe fruit of conversion to a brand of exclusivist Christianity is a cycle of inner, familial, communal and inter-religious strife, and even violence. I’ve heard firsthand accounts of converts, who are often asked to repudiate their community and family, reject traditions and customs that have been passed down for generations, and instructed to avoid attending religious ceremonies and celebrations that are the very basis of daily life. In some instances, converts are paid visits from Church volunteers to ensure that the convert, who may have received a seat for their child in a Church-run school, or much needed medical treatment at a faith-based clinic for their sick spouse, isn’t reverting to the practice of their original faith.

Where in the corpus of human rights law and widely shared notions of dignity, mutual respect, and pluralism should a person ever have to choose between remaining faithful or being full? The Foreign Affairs Committee made the wrong choice this week, but I hope that the Government of India does not relent in protecting its poor against predatory proselytisation. – Swarajya, 10 December 2016

Suhag Shukla, Esq., Executive Director and Legal Counsel, is a co-founder of HAF. She holds a BA in Religion and JD from the University of Florida. As Legal Counsel, Ms. Shukla has helped launch the Foundation as a leading voice for religious freedom.

Nepalese Children

10/40 Window Religions

10/40 Window Map

Christianity’s rise tests Nepal’s new secularism – Peter Janssen

Nepalese Christians

Peter A. JanssenSince the advent of secular democracy in 2008, when the decade-long communist insurgency ended with the resignation of the last king and a pledge to draft a new constitution, Christianity has enjoyed a growing appeal among Nepal’s hill tribe minority groups, such as the Kirats and the Dalits. – Peter Janssen

Saturday is the one day off in Nepal’s working week and therefore has become the holy day for Nepal’s growing Christian community. At the Nepal Isai Mandali-Gyaneshwor Church in Kathmandu about 300 Christians gather every Saturday to pray, sing hymns, listen to Bible sermons and praise the Lord, many of them reverently raising their hands to the ceiling and shouting out “Hallelujah,” “Trust in Jesus” and “Amen.” The Nepali congregation provides a glimpse of what early Christians communities might have been like — simple, friendly and egalitarian—before Rome took over.

“One thing I like about Christians is they believe all Christians belong to one family,” said M. J. Shah, whose own family are descendants of the Shah monarchs who ruled Nepal for more than two centuries. When the country’s absolute monarchy ended in 2008, so did the reign of its last king, Gyanendra Bir Bokram Shah Dev, and the former Hindu kingdom was set on the path to a secular democracy.

“When I was growing up I was told Christianity was not for us. It was only for lower caste people,” said M. J. Shah, who “found Christ” in 2005. His family initially disowned him but have since reunited with him, in acknowledgement of his much-improved personal conduct since his conversion and marriage to another Christian. “Before, I was a gambler, a fighter, a drinker and a drug user. I used to beat people up. I was terrible,” he admitted.

M. J. Shah remains somewhat unique among Nepali Christians. Most significantly, he is related to the royal family and is therefore of a higher caste than most. Christianity has been on the rise since Nepal went secular, at least in name, in 2008. Previously Christian missionaries were banned from the kingdom. Now there are over 8,000 Christian churches in the country and more than one million converts, although exact estimates are difficult to find.

Nepalese Christian ChurchNeed for acceptance

A more typical convert is Dil Maya, a 70-year-old woman from the Dalit, or “untouchable” caste. “My husband Dhan Bahadur fell very sick once and no doctor could cure him,” she said as she attended the Nepal Isai Mandali-Gyaneshwor Church in Kathmandu. “Someone told me to go to a church and pray and that was how I first came here. It healed my husband, and I felt healed, too because for the first time in my life, I felt accepted by a community. No one accepted me before. I feel accepted here.”

Since the advent of secular democracy in 2008, when the decade-long communist insurgency ended with the resignation of the last king and a pledge to draft a new constitution, Christianity has enjoyed a growing appeal among Nepal’s hill tribe minority groups, such as the Kirats and the Dalits. The Federation of National Christians in Nepal (FNCN) estimates that 60% of all Nepali Christians are Dalits, as is their chairman, C.B. Gahatraj.

Dalits account for an estimated 12% of Nepal’s 30 million-strong population, with most of them living in the southern regions neighboring India. Although caste prejudices are arguably on the decline in the new Federalist Nepal, they are still there, especially in rural areas. Dalits are still barred from Hindu temples and from sharing drinking or eating utensils with upper caste Nepalis. “They are converting because they are treated like animals,” M. J. Shah said. “We have to change the structure of our society … then no one would convert.”

The earthquake and aftershocks of April 2015 provided another fillip for the country’s “Christian soldiers.” The quakes, which destroyed more than 800,000 homes and left thousands dead, offered an opportunity for Nepal’s growing Christian community to do what Christians do best—provide charity to the poor and neglected in the name of “brotherly love.” Christian charities managed to distribute relief packages in some of the country’s most remote areas, which the government’s operations failed to reach due to lack of funding or manpower.

“I think the earthquake was one of the reasons for the growing popularity of Christianity,” said Chandra Man Nepali, FNCN’s vice general secretary. “Where the government was not able to reach, there were the Christians. We went to the hard-to-reach districts with food, water and medical supplies. We had funding from the churches outside. In this way, Christians were more helpful to society.”

The earthquake also gave rise to fears that Nepal’s fledgling Christian community was using the natural disaster to help proselytize their faith. Nepalese media reported several cases of Christian charities, notably South Korean ones, passing out Bibles with the relief provisions. Local Hindu politicians were quick to jump on the Christian charities for exploiting vulnerable populations.

New Constitution of NepalBan on proselytizing

Under Nepal’s new constitution, pushed through in September 2015, people have the right to practice their religion but are barred from proselytizing. In fact, the charter implies that the country’s original religions—Hinduism, Buddhism and the animistic beliefs and practices of the Kirat minority (the indigenous race) should be protected. “Secularism means protection of religions and cultures being practiced since ancient times, and religious and cultural freedom,” reads the constitution. Christianity clearly does not qualify as an “ancient” sect in the former Hindu kingdom.

Legal experts argue that the constitution has good reason for banning Christians from advocating their beliefs. “The basic difference between Hinduism and Christianity is that in Hinduism you don’t have the concept of the church, and secondly you don’t have the concept of proselytizing,” said Bipin Adhikari, dean of the school of law at Kathmandu University. “The Hindus, Buddhists and Kirats don’t have the institutional apparatus to convert others so obviously they would like to see some reciprocity.”

Nepali Christians, however, see the anti-proselytizing clause as a form of discrimination. Another source of complaint is that Christian churches are not permitted to register as religious institutions but must do so as non-governmental organizations. Christian-run schools and medical clinics are often visited by local authorities to ensure they are not secretly converting students and patients.

Trying to keep a lid on proselytizing among newly-converted Christians goes against the tenets of the religion, which has from ancient times been about going out and “saving the world.” In modern Nepal, Christianity inspires the same evangelistic fervour it does elsewhere.

“When someone becomes a Christian they can’t shut their mouths from speaking about Christ. That is fundamental,” said Padam Parajali, a FNCN board member.

To date, Nepal’s Christian community has been spared the outright persecution and violent communal outbursts faced by other religious minorities such as Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims. Even so, some Nepali Christians claim they face discrimination, for example in the jobs market or in general social attitudes. The overall sense of religious coexistence however may be due to the national character of tolerance that the Nepali people are renowned for. Nepali Christians might be wise to partake of that tolerance, at least in the short term.

“There is a sea-change going on in Nepal,” Adhikari said. “First, the monarchy is no longer there, second, the country is no longer a Hindu state, and third, the political system is being adapted as a federal system. So people are getting more educated and they are given more opportunities. The problem is that things move very slowly in Nepal.” – Nikkei Asian Review, 4 December 2016

» Peter A. Janssen is a prize-winning editor and record-setting publisher of US magazines and media.

Christian baptism in Nepal

The politics of religious conversions in Jharkhand – Raksha Kumar

Conversion to Hinduism

Raksha Kumar“The worst thing that conversion does is takes away our identity,” said Mr. Kujur. “We are Christian one day and Hindu the next. There is an erosion of self in all this.” – Raksha Kumar  

Ara, Jharkhand—Early on an idle Sunday morning in late August, Ram Singh Kujur perched on the solitary broken wooden chair outside his mud hut, sipping tea from a disfigured steel tumbler. Sundays never used to be such in the Kujur residence. Seven years ago, the Kujurs would have excitedly woken up early, put on their best clothes and head toward the village church. Now, the family of seven bathes and duly assembles in front of Lord Ram’s idol, positioned in the corner of their single-room house.

“We used to pray once in a week; now we pray every day. I am not sure the God is listening to us though,” said Mr. Kujur, 38, a farmer who owns two acres of land in Ara, 20 kilometers (12 miles) east of Ranchi, the capital of Jharkhand state.

Mr. Kujur and his family converted to Hinduism seven years ago. As a member of the Oraon tribe, his grandfather had converted into Christianity. But in 2006, the late Bharatiya Janata Party leader Dilip Singh Judeo arrived in Ara with the sole agenda of converting 300 Christian families to Hinduism. Mr. Kujur’s was one of them.

Most of the 450 families in this village are adivasis, or tribals, who had converted into Christianity a generation or two ago. The Kujurs decided to convert as they were “fed up” with what they called the Christian double standards.

Mr. Kujur vividly remembered the day he was baptized. “I was 8 years old. The priest sprinkled holy water on my head and named me Gerald Kujur,” he said. From then on, he spent days of the week waiting for Sunday and the months of the year waiting for Christmas. “There used to be beef served in the church on Sundays, and several sweets distributed during Christmas,” he said.

Mr. Kujur was educated in a convent. “They call it missionary school here,” Shashikala, his 32-year-old wife, said. There, Mr. Kujur learned mathematics, science, English and Christianity.

Just as Mr. Kujur began to enjoy the school, the principal of the school, who was also the chief priest of the village, wrote a letter to Mr. Kujur’s father asking him to pay a few hundred rupees as fees. The Kujurs realized that the promise of “free education” expired six months after baptism.

Mr. Kujur remembered bowing in front of a statue of Jesus Christ that day, inhaling the sweet smell of the incense, angry at the injustice. “Is it fair to ask a poor farmer to pay for education when he has nothing to eat?” he had asked.

Two months after Mr. Judeo of the Bharatiya Janata Party converted 300 families in Ara by washing their feet with holy water from the Ganges River and declaring them Hindu, at least 600 tribal people were converted to Christianity in the Vishnupur locality of Gumla district, about 140 kilometers southwest of Ara. The local parish claimed this to be a counter to the Ara conversions by the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Jharkhand has been the center of a religious tug-of-war since the 18th century, when a predominantly tribal state saw a flurry of Christian missionaries set up base there. The first Christian missionaries to arrive in the Chotanagpur plateau, which is most of Jharkhand today, were not the Catholics but German Protestants who traveled through Chakradharpur and Khunti to Ranchi. The Anglicans and the Catholics followed.

In the late 19th century, Christian missionaries converted a large number of people, especially tribals. Despite several years of close coexistence, the tribals had maintained their identity separate from the Hindus. The tribals were mostly hunter-gatherers, worshipped their ancestors and nature, ate simple food and celebrated festivals of their own.

According to several scholars, Hindu right-wing organizations like the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh came to Jharkhand in the 19th  century to counter the conversion drives of the Christian missionaries.

“We used to have a unique identity,” said Dilip Oraon, a tribal whose family refused to be converted to Christianity or endorse Hinduism. “Today, we are forced to choose between Christianity or Hinduism. We are Sarnas—those with a distinctive identity, independent of both.”

In 2006-2007, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, or RSS, asked the Bharatiya Janata Party government in Jharkhand to bring a law to ban conversions to religions other than Hinduism in the state. Their allies in the Janata Dal (United) Party were opposed to the bill, and so it was stalled. There are still calls by members of the Bharatiya Janata Party and the RSS to consider such a bill and to deny government benefits to tribal converts to Christianity.

As per the 2001 census, the latest available, 68.5 percent people of Jharkhand’s 32.96 million people follow Hinduism. Islam is followed by 13.8 percent and there are 13 percent animistic Sarnas. Only 4.1 percent of the population is said to follow Christianity.

These figures are hotly debated by all sections of the population. “The adivasis are Hindus,” claims Lallan Sharma of Vikas Bharti, a nonprofit organization that believes in what it calls the preservation of Hindu values and culture.

Mother Mary RanchiThe Christian organizations counter the claim. “We are Christians by religion and adivasis by race,” said Naman Topno, whose family converted five generations ago.

The debate over religion was revived four weeks ago when a statue of Mother Mary wearing a red-border sari and holding Jesus Christ in a way tribal women of Jharkhand hold their babies was erected by the local church in Singpur village in Dhurwa.

Bandhan Tigga, the dharmguru, or the priest of the Sarna society, said to local media, “The red border means a lot in the Sarna culture. Our women wear white sari with red border during auspicious times. If the idol of Mother Mary is shown in the get-up of a tribal woman, then 100 years from now people will think that Mother Mary was a tribal from Jharkhand,” he said.

Cardinal Telesphor P. Toppo retorted in the local media that the tribal Christians have an equal claim to the sari with red border.

Telesphore ToppoMr. Kujur and his family were familiar with the recent controversy, but they said that in the end, no matter what god they worship, their economic state is the same. “We realize conversion is political,” said Mr. Kujur, “but sometimes we are left with no option.”

When conversions happen, entire villages convert. If only one family dares to convert to another religion, they are outcast by the rest of the families. Therefore, in Jharkhand, Orissa and Chhattisgarh, villagers convert by the hundreds.

Gladson Dungdung, author of Whose Country is it Anyway?, about the adivasi community in Jharkhand, said it doesn’t make financial sense for either the Hindu Right or the Christian missionaries to convert just a few families in a village, he said. A huge investment goes into staging a conversion ritual and the political parties would want to make the most of it. “The promised free food, free education and free medicines that lure the tribals also require money,” he said.

When Mr. Kujur was a boy, the church offered incentives to convert, which included rice and milk. However, these faded after about seven to eight months after baptism.

When Mr. Kujur was 22, a neighboring Christian family approached him with a marriage proposal. Mr. Kujur’s father was against the proposal, as marrying an adivasi girl would have entitled them to more benefits from the church.

“You got nothing by marrying a fellow Christian, but if you married an adivasi and converted them, you’d get rice and milk from the church,” he said, smiling. However, he married Shashikala Rajini Minz, the neighbor’s daughter.

It has been seven years since the Kujur family became Hindu, established Lord Ram’s idols in their home, began going to temples and reciting Hindu hymns. But their condition has changed little. They still depend on odd jobs to substitute their income from paddy farming six months out of the year. They still struggle to fortify their rice stew with lentils and carrots, and they still struggle to pay their children’s school fees.

Mr. Kujur’s family sat in a circle on the muddy floor to have their afternoon meal. It took them some months to remember to stop praying to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit before the meal, and switch to prayers for Lord Ram.

Mr. Kujur’s son, Dharma, 16, still remembered the Christian prayers and recited it without any prompting. “I used to be David, you see,” he said, winking, “but we have been told not to recite these prayers anymore before we eat. I don’t know why.”

When Mr. Kujur goes to his fields, he prays to the soil, the trees that surround his fields and the sun god. It is a very adivasi thing to pray to nature that protects your crops, he said. He said his becoming Hindu hasn’t prevented him from doing so.

However, there are several things that still confuse him and his family about what they can do and cannot. “When some RSS activists came home, they instructed us to remove our footwear outside the house,” he said. “They said it is what a good Hindu would do.” But their house has no flooring, so they have to walk barefoot on rough mud.

Members of Mr. Kujur’s family were promised jobs in various government bodies, by both Hindu and Christian authorities. “When my grandfather converted, he was told his son would be educated in a Christian school and then land a job in the government and enjoy pensions for a lifetime. But my father ended up farming and when he died, he owned only a few pieces of cloth,” said Mr. Kujur, with tears in his eyes.

In 2006, when Mr. Kujur converted to Hinduism, RSS officials had promised that his son would be educated in one of the best schools in Ranchi and would then land a job in a government body. Mr. Kujur was doubtful, but said he has few options now.

“The worst thing that conversion does is takes away our identity,” said Mr. Kujur. “We are Christian one day and Hindu the next. There is an erosion of self in all this.”

His wife added that they are so poor that the only thing they have left to sell is their pehchaan, identity. She was grateful that there are still buyers for that. – India Ink, 1 October 2013

» Raksha Kumar is a freelance journalist based in Bangalore.

Sarna tribals protesting against Mary statue, dressed as a tribal woman, at Singhpur in Ranchi, Jharkhand

Kolkata will take a century to recover from Mother Teresa – Aroup Chatterjee

'Saint' Mother Teresa

Aroup ChatterjeeMy own wish would be to reclaim Kolkata from Teresa—to sever the automatic connection of the two names as the whole wide world sees it. Kolkata’s image under the yoke of Mother Teresa will take a century to recover. In the last 50 years, the city has lost an unimaginable amount from the loss of international business and tourism and will continue to do so. But let us at least loudly, proudly proclaim that we have nothing to do with a medieval creature of darkness—not any more. – Dr Aroup Chatterjee

If Mother Teresa, to be canonised at the Vatican on September 4, is to be named a patron saint of anything it should be for “misinformation”. In the last 20 years of her life, truth became an unknown entity to her. The media aided and abetted her lack of integrity and in a way she cannot be blamed for believing in her own lies.

Intellect was not her strong point and, for someone like her, to be surrounded by hordes of sycophants who were telling her if she said black was white then that had to be true, it became intoxicating. The media did spread the mega-myth about her, but she herself was the source. She repeatedly told the world she went around the city 24×7 “picking up” destitute from its squalid “gutters” (she did not), that she fed up to 9,000 in her soup kitchens (she did not), she never refused a helpless child (she did as a rule), that the dying destitute in her so-called home for the dying Nirmal Hriday died a “beautiful death” (they were treated harshly and often died a miserable, painful death).

Mother Teresa was an ultimate politician who worked on behalf of the Vatican. No, she was not an “agent” as that would be conspiratorial. She did not have to do much subterfuge or skulduggery in India itself, as Indians, particularly the media, were in awe of her and connived with her.

When she said in her Nobel speech that she created 61,237 fewer children from (slum) couples abstaining from sex, no one challenged her on her bogus and fantastic figure; neither did they ask her how at the height of the Cold War abortion could be the “greatest destroyer of peace” (said a thousand times, including in her Nobel speech).

I do not blame world media as much as I blame Indian and particularly Kolkata media. Here she was, a jet-setting celebrity—although appended with the epithet “of Calcutta”—spending six to nine months in a year in Europe and the US, making strange claims about her work and about the disgusting state of the city, but never to be seen in the city’s disasters—major or minor.

Why was she not asked why she re-used needles on her residents in Nirmal Hriday (it was official policy) when she herself received the finest care in the world’s best hospitals?

Even after her death, the Indian fear of blue-bordered saris continues. On August 1, 2005, UK TV showed a child tied to a cot overnight in her orphanage—one Kolkata newspaper grudgingly reported the matter with lots of “alleged”. During her lifetime, even that would be unthinkable. She was white, she hobnobbed with President Ronald Reagan (they were closest of buddies), and oh yes, she had the Nobel—so she had to be divine.

IOR (Vatican Bank) inside Vatican CityDid no one know that she hobnobbed with the Duvaliers of Haiti whose brutality was unsurpassed (whose opponents were often cut up and fed to dogs)? No one in India wanted to know. For the Western media, she was a metaphor, a set-piece, a stratospheric certainty of image in an uncertain and changing world. Conversely, Kolkata was the opposite metaphor of absolute degradation where “foetuses are given to dogs to eat” (as remarked by her “other self” Francis Goree).

It was beyond the West’s interest, energy or remit to robustly challenge these wrong stereotypes. But did Indian journalists not know that her main bank was the Vatican Bank, a dark cavern of corruption, intrigue and murder? Before she died, it was well known that she had accepted millions from Charles Keating, the notorious American swindler, but no one in India cared.

Mother Teresa MedalBengalis showed some rare guts when she was beatified through a “miracle” in 2003. Doctors, and even the then Health Minister, made statements that Monica Besra was cured by prolonged treatment, and not by an aluminium medal. Even Besra herself periodically said her cure was not a miracle. But the Vatican treated Indian opinion with the contempt it always has and proceeded with canonisation.

But what is so great about Catholic saints? People should realise a Catholic saint does not have to be saintly or nice in the secular sense, but has to be pure to Catholic dogma, especially on contraception and abortion. Jose Maria Escriva, a Fascist, is a Catholic saint; another Fascist, Cardinal Stepinac, is a “blessed”. “Saint” John Paul II actively shielded the prolific paedophile and criminal Marcial Maciel over many years. Mother Teresa also wrote a letter of support for a convicted priest Donald McGuire, asking people to overlook his “imprudence”.

If one looks around Mother Teresa’s homes in Kolkata today, one would find many of them acceptable. But one must not forget that this comes after 25 years of campaigning by me, and also persistent global criticism from Hemley Gonzalez, the American former volunteer who in 2008 was so utterly disgusted by what he saw that he founded the Stop the Missionaries of Charity movement and founded his own Responsible Charity. Moreover, in the last six months the order has spruced up a great deal, preparing for the canonisation on Sunday.

And yet, like obliging picaninnies, the Indian government is dutifully sending a delegation to the black-magic ceremony in Rome. (Hindus please note: the Pope is not allowed to wish Hindus personally even on Diwali.)

Be that as it may, my own wish would be to reclaim Kolkata/Calcutta from Teresa—to sever the automatic connection of the two names as the whole wide world sees it. Kolkata’s image under the yoke of Mother Teresa will take a century to recover. In the last 50 years, the city has lost an unimaginable amount from the loss of international business and tourism and will continue to do so. But let us at least loudly, proudly proclaim that we have nothing to do with a medieval creature of darkness—not any more. – The Economic Times, 3 September 2016

» Dr Aroup Chatterjee was born and brought up in Calcutta. He now lives and works as a physician in London. He was, if anything, positively inclined towards Mother Teresa while he was living in Calcutta, though he knew little about her. Upon coming to the West he was appalled at the Teresan mythology and at the gruesome image that his home city had in the world. He has done research on Mother Teresa for over twenty-five years and can be called the world’s foremost authority on the late nun. He is the author of the famous book Mother Teresa—The Untold Story.

Sushma Swaraj & Pope Francis (Sept. 2016)

Hindus protest Mother Teresa's criminal activities in New York City

How religion can lead to violence – Gary Gutting

Saint Etienne Church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, near Rouen, France

Prof Gary GuttingThe path of modern tolerance has proved more difficult for Islam than for Christianity, and many Muslims still do not accept the ethical constraints that require religious tolerance, and a significant minority see violence against unbelievers as a divinely ordained duty. – Prof Gary Gutting

The latest victim is a French priest, murdered in his church by killers shouting “Allahu akbar! ”Following such attacks, Muslim leaders assure us that, as Tariq Ramadan said after the Paris massacre, the murders are “a pure betrayal of our religion.” After the shootings in Brussels, the leading Sunni university, Al-Azhar, issued a statement saying,

“These heinous crimes violate the tolerant teachings of Islam.” Similar responses followed recent attacks in Orlando and Nice. We are told that the fanatical fringe groups who do these terrible things are at odds with the essential Muslim commitment to peace and love. I understand the reasons for such responses, but they oversimplify the relation of religion to intolerance and the violence it can lead to.

Both Islam and Christianity claim to be revealed religions, holding that their teachings are truths that God himself has conveyed to us and wants everyone to accept. They were, from the start, missionary religions. A religion charged with bringing God’s truth to the world faces the question of how to deal with people who refuse to accept it. To what extent should it tolerate religious error? At certain points in their histories, both Christianity and Islam have been intolerant of other religions, often of each other, even to the point of violence.

Yahweh / JehovahThis was not inevitable, but neither was it an accident. The potential for intolerance lies in the logic of religions like Christianity and Islam that say their teaching derive from a divine revelation. For them, the truth that God has revealed is the most important truth there is; therefore, denying or doubting this truth is extremely dangerous, both for nonbelievers, who lack this essential truth, and for believers, who may well be misled by the denials and doubts of nonbelievers. Given these assumptions, it’s easy to conclude that even extreme steps are warranted to eliminate non-belief.

You may object that moral considerations should limit our opposition to non-belief. Don’t people have a human right to follow their conscience and worship as they think they should? Here we reach a crux for those who adhere to a revealed religion. They can either accept ordinary human standards of morality as a limit on how they interpret divine teachings, or they can insist on total fidelity to what they see as God’s revelation, even when it contradicts ordinary human standards. Those who follow the second view insist that divine truth utterly exceeds human understanding, which is in no position to judge it. God reveals things to us precisely because they are truths we would never arrive at by our natural lights. When the omniscient God has spoken, we can only obey.

For those holding this view, no secular considerations, not even appeals to conventional morality or to practical common sense, can overturn a religious conviction that false beliefs are intolerable. Christianity itself has a long history of such intolerance, including persecution of Jews, crusades against Muslims, and the Thirty Years’ War, in which religious and nationalist rivalries combined to devastate Central Europe. This devastation initiated a move toward tolerance among nations that came to see the folly of trying to impose their religions on foreigners. But intolerance of internal dissidents — Catholics, Jews, rival Protestant sects — continued even into the 19th century. (It’s worth noting that in this period the Muslim Ottoman Empire was in many ways more tolerant than most Christian countries.) But Christians eventually embraced tolerance through a long and complex historical process.

VoltaireCritiques of Christian revelation by Enlightenment thinkers like Voltaire, Rousseau and Hume raised serious questions that made non-Christian religions—and eventually even rejections of religion—intellectually respectable. Social and economic changes—including capitalist economies, technological innovations, and democratic political movements—undermined the social structures that had sustained traditional religion.

The eventual result was a widespread attitude of religious toleration in Europe and the United States. This attitude represented ethical progress, but it implied that religious truth was not so important that its denial was intolerable. Religious beliefs and practices came to be regarded as only expressions of personal convictions, not to be endorsed or enforced by state authority. This in effect subordinated the value of religious faith to the value of peace in a secular society. Today, almost all Christians are reconciled to this revision, and many would even claim that it better reflects the true meaning of their religion.

The same is not true of Muslims. A minority of Muslim nations have a high level of religious toleration; for example Albania, Kosovo, Senegal and Sierra Leone. But a majority—including Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, Iraq and Malaysia—maintain strong restrictions on non-Muslim (and in some cases certain “heretical” Muslim) beliefs and practices. Although many Muslims think God’s will requires tolerance of false religious views, many do not.

A Pew Research Center poll in 2013 found that in Iraq, Malaysia, Pakistan and other nations in which Islam is officially favored, a large majority of Muslims think some form of Islamic law should be the law of the land. The poll also found that 76 percent of such Muslims in South Asia and 56 percent in the Middle East and North Africa favored executing Muslims who gave up their religion, and that in 10 Muslim counties at least 40 percent favored applying Islamic law to non-Muslims. This shows that, for many Muslims, the revealed truths of Islam are not only a matter of personal conviction but must also have a central place in the public sphere of a well-ordered society.

Ibn Sina / AvicennaThere is no central religious authority or overwhelming consensus that excludes such Muslims from Islam. Intolerance need not lead to violence against nonbelievers; but, as we have seen, the logic of revelation readily moves in that direction unless interpretations of sacred texts are subject to nonreligious constraints. Islamic thinkers like Ibn Sina accepted such constraints, and during the Middle Ages Muslims were often far more tolerant than Christians. But the path of modern tolerance has proved more difficult for Islam than for Christianity, and many Muslims still do not accept the ethical constraints that require religious tolerance, and a significant minority see violence against unbelievers as a divinely ordained duty. We may find it hard to believe that religious beliefs could motivate murders and insist that extreme violence is always due to mental instability or political fanaticism. But the logic (and the history) of religions tells against this view.

Does this mean that Islam is evil? No, but it does mean that it has not yet tamed, to the extent that Christianity has, the danger implicit in any religion that claims to be God’s own truth. To put it bluntly, Islam as a whole has not made the concessions to secular values that Christianity has. As President Obama recently said, “Some currents of Islam have not gone through a reformation that would help people adapt their religious doctrines to modernity.” This adaptation will be long and difficult and require many intellectual and socio-economic changes, some produced by outside forces, others arising from the increasing power of Islamic teachings on tolerance and love. But until such a transformation is achieved, it will be misleading to say that intolerance and violence are “a pure betrayal” of Islam. – The New York Times, 1 August 2016

Ten serious accusations against Mother Teresa – Adrian Asis

Mother Teresa

Adrian AsisIt’s easy to dismiss the criticisms against Mother Teresa as the biased rantings of anti-Catholic skeptics who aim to discredit her. But perhaps, it is wiser to look into the evidence these critics present before making a judgment on the life of a woman once dubbed “the living saint.” – Adrian Asis

Mother Teresa is commonly depicted in such a saintly manner that it’s difficult for most people to imagine she has even one bad bone in her body. After all, the religious sister is responsible for founding the Missionaries of Charity, a religious congregation that provides free care for the sick, the hungry, the orphaned, and the dying. Moreover, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 and was beatified as “Blessed Teresa of Calcutta” by the Catholic Church in 2003. And yet, to this day, eighteen years after her death, numerous critics still insist that Mother Teresa is not the saint many people believe her to be.

Of course it’s easy to dismiss the criticisms against Mother Teresa as the biased rantings of anti-Catholic skeptics who aim to discredit her. But perhaps, it is wiser to look into the evidence these critics present before making a judgment on the life of a woman once dubbed “the living saint.” Here are ten of the most serious accusations that have been brought up against Mother Teresa of Calcutta:

10. Forced Catholicism on others

Because Calcutta (now “Kolkata”) is composed predominantly of Hindus, they are responsible for many of the criticisms against Mother Teresa, most especially with regard to her conversion of Calcuttans into Catholics. An example of such a critic is head of an Indian Hindu nationalist group Mohan Bhagwat who, in a public speech, said, “It’s good to work for a cause with selfless intentions. But Mother Teresa’s work had ulterior motive, which was to convert the person who was being served to Christianity.” In support of Bhagwat’s claim, researchers revealed that nuns at Mother Teresa’s institution secretly baptized the dying regardless of the patients’ religious affiliation. More specifically, Mother Teresa was said to have taught nuns how to ask the dying if they wanted a “ticket to heaven,” after which a positive reply would be followed by cooling the dying’s head with a damp cloth while the nun softly uttered the words for Catholic baptism.

9. Substandard quality of medical care

Mother Teresa established the Kalighat Home for the Dying in 1952 by converting an abandoned Hindu temple into a free hospital. As the name of the facility suggests, its main purpose is to provide its patients with an opportunity to die with dignity. However, in 1991, the editor of the medical journal The Lancet paid a visit to the hospice and observed that conditions there were far from ideal. More specifically, Robin Fox described the quality of the care provided to dying patients as “haphazard,” including unacceptable practices like the reuse of needles and the mixing of tuberculosis-infected patients with the uninfected. Worse, no distinction was made between the dying and the curable, thus leaving even curable patients to waste away. Furthermore, other critics pointed to the hospital’s disregard for modern medical practices, including the most basic of diagnosis procedures. However, Mother Teresa’s defenders countered the accusations by pointing out that the facility was only meant to serve as a refuge for the dying.

8. Support for the suspension of civil liberties

“The Emergency,” which took place from June 25, 1975 until March 21, 1977, is one of the most controversial intervals in India’s history. During the period, then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi imposed a dictatorship whereby civil liberties were suspended and most of her political enemies were imprisoned. Furthermore, the press was heavily censored, and a shocking mass-sterilization campaign was said to have been carried out by the Prime Minister’s son. Mother Teresa, however, seemed to have failed to recognize the oppression present at that time. Of the period, she commented, “People are happier. There are more jobs. There are no strikes.” Well, the Indians of the time certainly seemed to disagree with Mother Teresa as during elections in 1977, Gandhi and her son lost their seats in parliament, and the opposition was overwhelmingly swept into power.

7. Warped understanding of suffering

The Catholic Church is often criticized for allegedly teaching its followers to revel in suffering, and Mother Teresa is said to have been among the teaching’s most prominent purveyors. During a Washington, D.C. press conference in 1981, for example, Mother Teresa was asked, “Do you teach the poor to endure their lot?” and she replied,

I think it is very beautiful for the poor to accept their lot, to share it with the passion of Christ. I think the world is being much helped by the suffering of the poor people.

This response is said to exemplify the crooked mentality behind Mother Teresa’s insistence on keeping her facilities substandard despite the availability of funding to improve their services.

6. Inconsistency in teachings and actions

Perhaps even worse than allegations of her warped understanding of suffering are accusations of Mother Teresa’s hypocrisy. These are rooted in the advanced treatments she received for her illnesses despite her supposed appreciation for the value of suffering. More specifically, in 1985, Mother Teresa underwent cataract surgery, including the implantation of an artificial lens, at the St. Vincent’s Hospital in Manhattan. Then later, in 1989, the “Saint of the Gutters” received a pacemaker at the Woodlands Nursing Home in Calcutta. Furthermore, Mother Teresa has been accused of being selective in her values, such as when she openly opposed the legalization of divorce but supported Princess Diana when she divorced Prince Charles.

5. Questionable associations and silence on abuse

Mother Teresa has been documented to have associated with several individuals whose records of uprightness are questionable at best. In 1981, for example, she visited Michèle Duvalier, then the wife of Haiti president Jean-Claude Duvalier, who was later overthrown by popular uprising because of the terrible abuses of his regime. However, Mother Teresa instead ended up singing praises for the people’s familiarity with the First Lady and even accepted a national award from the government — all the while remaining silent on the numerous human rights violations of the regime. Another similar encounter took place in 1989, when Mother Teresa visited communist Albania. At that time, the government there was widely perceived to be openly oppressive to anyone who opposed it, and yet, Mother Teresa met with the nation’s leaders without commenting on their abuses.

4. Accepted donations from criminals

Connected to Mother Teresa’s questionable associations is her practice of keeping donations from criminals. One example involved Robert Maxwell, a British Member of Parliament who donated to Mother Teresa’s charities but was later found to have misappropriated the pension funds of his media company. Even more infamous was the case involving Charles Keating, a moral crusader who donated millions of dollars to Mother Teresa’s charities and even had her use his private jet. Later though, despite Mother Teresa sending the court a letter to attest to Keating’s kindness and generosity, he was found guilty of multiple counts of fraud that deprived thousands of people of their life savings. Then, after Keating had been convicted, the Deputy District Attorney wrote Mother Teresa a letter asking that the money she had received from Keating be returned. She did not reply.

3. Lack of transparency with funding and expenses

With all of the positive attention that Mother Teresa commanded and still commands, it is uncontested that her charities have received millions in donations from various sources. And this has led her critics to ask, “Where is all the money?” In fact, even Susan Shields, a former nun at the Missionaries of Charity, has asked the question. Shields claims she was assigned to record donations at the institution, and despite the fact that she regularly wrote receipts for donations of up to $50,000, the nuns continued to beg for supplies and reuse syringes. Furthermore, Stern, a German magazine, exposed that despite Indian laws requiring charitable organizations to publish their finances, the Missionaries of Charity never did. Stern also reported that only 7% of the 5.3 million Deutsche Marks donated in England in 1991 had been used for charitable purposes. The rest? Head of the Missionaries chapter in England, Sister Teresina, insisted, “Sorry, we can’t tell you that.”

2. Doubtful miracle attributed to her

This item is not an accusation directed at Mother Teresa but rather at those responsible for her beatification. However, the issue does raise doubts on the integrity of those defending her legacy. The matter in question has to do with Mother Teresa’s beatification, which like all those before her, required the documentation of a miracle performed with the candidate’s intercession. In the case of Mother Teresa’s beatification, the “miracle” certified by the Vatican as genuine involves the healing of Monica Besra, a woman from Calcutta.

On September 5, 1998, exactly one year after Mother Teresa’s death, Besra applied a medallion bearing Mother Teresa’s image over what she believed was a tumor in her stomach, and this act purportedly caused the growth and the pain it caused to disappear instantly. However, the doctors who handled Monica’s case over several months claim that the growth in Monica’s stomach was not a full-grown tumor and that treatments they had administered could have been responsible for the cure. In fact, even Monica’s husband, Seiku, believes that his “wife was cured by the doctors and not by any miracle.” Adding to the mystery, the medical records of Besru’s case were taken away by a certain Sister Betta of the Missionaries of Charity, and a call to her by Time magazine simply had her responding, “No comment.”

1. False claims about the impact of her work

Even the harshest critics of Mother Teresa concede that she had a positive impact on some people’s lives, but how many lives, really? Aroup Chatterjee, an atheist who performed extensive research on Mother Teresa, claimed that “the living saint” deliberately misled the public several times about how many people the Missionaries of Charity were helping. For example, Chatterjee noted that Mother Teresa repeatedly changed the figures—from as low as 1,000 to as many as 9,000—relating to how many people her charities in Calcutta had fed, sometimes in speeches delivered within just days of each other. Then there’s Mother Teresa’s claim of a “modern school [in Motijheel]. . . with over 5,000 children in it” even if no such school established by her with such a large number of students actually exists. – The Richest, 7 May 2015

» Adrian Asis is a freelance writer from the Philippines.

Academics condemn Mother Teresa

The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice

Petitions

There are two petitions at Change.org requesting Prime Minister Narendra Modi not to send official government representation to the controversial canonization ceremony for Mother Teresa on September 4th at the Vatican. Official Indian government representation for this sectarian Catholic religious function is deemed to be highly inappropriate as India describes herself to be a modern, science-oriented secular republic that does not favour one religious group over another. See the petitions HERE and HERE.

See also

  1. Kolkata will take a century to recover from Mother Teresa – Aroup Chatterjee
  2. How Mother Teresa became a saint – Christopher Hitchens
  3. Mother Teresa’s troubled legacy – S. Bedford
  4. Mother Teresa ‘a friend of poverty, not of the poor’ – Carol Hunt
  5. Living and working with the Missionaries of Charity – Amy Gigi Alexander
  6. Mother Teresa: More dirt on the saint of the gutters – Jayant Chowdhury
  7. Aroup Chatterjee: Revealing the whole truth about Mother Teresa – Kai Schultz
  8. St Teresa: The hypocrisy of it all – Jayant Chowdhury
  9. The scandal of Mother Teresa’s sainthood – Canterbury Atheist
  10. Mother Teresa defended notorious paedophile priest – Nelson Jones
  11. Mommie Dearest – Christopher Hitchens
  12. Nobel Prize acceptance speech – Mother Teresa
  13. To many critics, Mother Teresa is still no saint –  Adam Taylor
  14. Mother Teresa and her millions – Susan Shields & Walter Wuellenweber
  15. The ‘miracle’ that makes a saint out of Mother Teresa – Jaideep Mazumdar
  16. Mother Teresa was “anything but a saint” say research scholars – Kounteya Sinha
  17. Indian Rationalists question mother Teresa’s ovarian miracle – Sanal Edamaruku
  18. Mother Teresa brainwashed Hindus and fuelled an insurgency, claim BJP leaders – Andrew Marszal
  19. Is canonising Mother Teresa the Vatican’s strategy to gain ground in India? – Sandeep B.
  20. VIDEOS: Mother Teresa and her cult of suffering – Christopher Hitchens, Aroup Chatterjee & Others