My grandfather was a Muslim, my mother a Christian, and I am a Hindu – Nalini Rathnam

Seventh Day Adventist Publication

Nalini RathnamShortly after my baptism, on entering my teens I had lots of questions about Christianity which I would pose to my parents, siblings and the pastors in church. Suffice to say I got no answers save the proverbial, “Have faith. Do not question. Just believe.” – Nalini Rathnam

I hail from the most nationally integrated family I know. My maternal grandfather was John Ali Baksh. (John? Ali Baksh? … Yes!) Ali Baksh was a zamindar in Lahore—in pre-partition India. He was 17 when the missionaries gave him refuge in the church when he was being targeted by his uncles and step brothers for his father’s property. Ali Baksh was considered a real “catch” for the missionaries: he was not poor or downtrodden, he was heir to his father’s vast lands and wealth, and above all, a Muslim. My mother was born a Christian, her full name was Margaret Olive Mehrunissa Ali Baksh.

My father hailed from Kolar Gold Fields in Karnataka. His ancestors were weavers. There was a time when a worm got into the cocoons and the crops were lost. Dad’s ancestors were Hindu—but, of course! Dad was poor as a church mouse and studied under the proverbial lamppost to complete his education. He was a bright student and a phenomenal stenographer. The missionaries got to him. He converted and served the mission as an evangelist and the best stenographer the church had ever seen. My father was a Seventh-Day Adventist. Like the Jews, the Adventists consider Saturday the 7th day of the week, hence the Sabbath—following the Gregorian calendar. That is pretty much where the similarity ends. Adventists believe in Jesus being the Savior unlike the Jews.

Dad saw Mom in a church ceremony in Lahore and fell in love with her. They married, had 8 children—the last one being yours truly. We were raised as Seventh Day Adventists.

As a toddler and later when I was well into my teens, my memories are vivid of being taught “you are in the light and all your Hindu friends are in the dark … you must bring them into the light.” I remember how in school, I used to feel sorry for all my Hindu friends (many of them are friends till date)—as they were in the “darkness”. Our banter used to be—me saying, “God and Jesus created the world in 7 days”, and my Hindu friends saying, “How silly … Brahma created the world”. So on and so forth. I remember how much of a “sinner” I felt growing up as I was not able to bring a single friend “into the fold and into the light”. I was very confused, angry and guilty. I could not preach.

At age 11, after attending Sabbath school regularly—I took a decision to get baptised in the Seventh Day Adventist church in Spicer College Pune … then Poona. That was a really holy day. Being baptised by my favorite pastor—Pastor Crump was the most liberating and awe-inspiring experience of my childhood. Our baptisms are carried out in the exact same way as John the Baptist used to, except not in a river, but a huge tank filled with water. We wore long grey robes, stepped into the tank, and the Pastor said, “In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit I baptise you”. Then he covered our mouths with a clean white handkerchief, dipped us in the water and pulled us back up after a few seconds. Lo and behold! We were now free of our past sins and we were pure. As an 11-year-old, I now wonder what “sins”?

Shortly after my baptism, on entering my teens I had lots of questions about Christianity which I would pose to my parents, siblings and the pastors in church. This is not the time or place to go into them, suffice to say I got no answers … save the proverbial “Have faith. Do not question. Just believe”

Over the years, I was drawn more and more towards the tenets of Hindu philosophy. (Can we stop calling it a religion, please?) I must say here that my mother always had the Bible, Bhagavad Gita and the Quran next to her bedside table. She told us about the good things in all religions and her knowledge of Islam as a religion and as a culture was manifold. Except for the fact that she was a Christian, her upbringing was more along Islamic traditions, and her language was Urdu. She could not read Hindi. She was a Montessori teacher and in her spare time taught Urdu to hundreds of students till the day she died.

She believed though that her saviour was indeed Jesus.

I married a Hindu and had an Arya Samaj wedding. I consider myself Hindu and have long ago stopped worshipping in a church. I have conversations with Ganesh, Ganapati … and in my heart I am a Hindu. I do not visit temples regularly nor do I want to convert anybody to my way of thinking.

I wish as Hindus, we would stop being apologists.

I thoroughly understand evangelism, and my problems with all missionaries is: Why do I have to change my first name or add a Western name to my birth name to prove I am Christian? Why can I not retain my Hindu or Muslim name and still “be in the fold” as it were? Why do many brides wear gowns to their weddings instead of the sari? Or like many, wear the sari but with a veil? Why does religion interfere with culture? Why interfere with the tribal culture in the North East under the garb of religion?

Why is Mother Teresa considered selfless?

Her bigger agenda like all Christian missionaries was to convert and bring people to the fold. That is the whole purpose of being a missionary for God’s sake! Pardon the pun! It’s almost like a vow you take when being ordained a priest or pastor.

Jesus told his twelve disciples the following and I quote from the Bible:

Mark 16:15 — And he said to them, Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.

Mathew 28:19-20 — Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

Romans 10:10-17 — For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the scripture says, Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame. For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?

Why is it wrong if Mohan Bhagwat or any other says it like it is? I am not holding a brief for Mohan Bhagwat, so even before you all who are reading this … start to smirk … stop right there! I am Indian first and last! No faith, no religion, no belief, no tenet can alter the fact that I am well and truly Indian. I hold a brief for no one, against no religion—but I have the fundamental right to question.

Hence, I have the right to question critics of Hinduism, or the critics of Hindus, when they argue, “the Christian missionaries are at least looking after the poor and needy. Why do the Hindus not do the same for their own”? I always believed that the basis of Hindu philosophy was the theory of karma. Am I wrong?

No, I don’t think so. So that answers that question.

The Bible also says “as you sow so shall you reap”, but with a difference—that whatever you sow you will reap in this one life only. You only die once is the theory.

The Bible rejects the idea of reincarnation; therefore, it does not support the idea of karma.

All those holding a brief for the good lady Mother Teresa, I admired her too. But I am not into Hindu bashing nor do I have my blinders on. I know her agenda was conversion. She was a Christian missionary—if she did not convert others she would be going against the very tenets of what Jesus said.

I end with her quote at the Scripps Clinic in California below:

Mother Teresa encouraged members of her order to baptise dying patients, without regard to the individual’s religion. In a speech at the Scripps Clinic in California in January 1992, she said: “Something very beautiful … not one has died without receiving the special ticket for St. Peter, as we call it. We call baptism ticket for St. Peter. We ask the person, do you want a blessing by which your sins will be forgiven and you receive God? They have never refused. So 29,000 have died in that one house [in Kalighat] from the time we began in 1952.” 

I rest my case. – Opindia, 26 February 2017

» (Ethel) Nalini Rathnam is a theatre actress, script consultant, and award-winning casting director in Mumbai. This article is her personal story and represents her own views. Images have been added by the editor.

Seventh-Day Adventist Baptism IndiaSeventh-Day Adventist Mass Baptism India


 

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Popular Front of India: Kerala’s conversion factories unmasked – Sushant Pathak & Jamshed Adil Khan

 

Zainaba A. S.

India TodayWe have lifted the veil off the Islamic non-profit organisation Popular Front of India (PFI), securing stunning confessions of its top functionaries about its mass proselytising and religious conversions, illegal financing, and about its ultimate goal to turn India into a theocratic Islamic state. – India Today Reporters

In public, it proclaims to be a champion of diversity and equality. Kerala’s Popular Front of India (PFI) has consistently denied accusations of religious conversions, hawala funding, murderous assaults and terror links.

But India Today has lifted the veil off the non-profit organisation, securing stunning confessions of its top functionaries about its mass proselytising, illegal financing and about its ultimate goal to turn India into a theocratic Islamic state.

The PFI, already under NIA investigation, is accused of brainwashing Hindu women and marrying them off to Muslim men.

“All these allegations are baseless,” claimed Zainaba A. S., the head of the group’s women’s wing, on Monday (Oct. 29), responding to accusations that she “mentored” non-Muslim women into conversions.

She is suspected of playing a key role in what has come to be known as Kerala’s own love jihad case—the marriage between Hadiya, previously known by her Hindu name as Akhila Asokan, with Shafin Jahan.

In May, the state high court annulled their matrimony after the woman’s father challenged it as an act of forcible conversion for terror recruitment.

The couple’s appeal is now being heard by the supreme court.

“I contacted Hadiya only after she came to Sathya Sarani (the PFI’s sister organisation) for admission. Actually, she embraced Islam two years before. In 2013, she embraced Islam,” insisted Zainaba on Monday. “It’s no love jihad (but) an arranged marriage.”

But before Zainaba issued this denial relating to one high-profile case, she had already shared the PFI’s dark secrets with India Today’s undercover reporters.

Herself a member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, she was caught on tape telling how the Popular Front of India and its sister organisation Sathya Sarani in Kerala’s Manjeri carried out massive conversions.

“(In) that institute of ours … around 5,000 people have converted to Islam over the past 10 years now,”  Zainaba revealed. They, she admitted, included both Hindus and Christians.

Conversions, an emotive issue in Kerala, are banned in Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha if carried out through force or allurement. Recently, Jharkhand’s assembly also passed an anti-conversion bill recently.

At their home in Malappuram, Zainaba and her husband, Ali, spoke candidly about their involvement in proselytising several non-Muslim women into Islam.

They didn’t speak specifically about the Hadiya case though.

“We had a schoolteacher with us. She was an M.Sc. in mathematics and B.Ed,” said Ali. “Now she’s converted to Islam. She converted four years ago,” added Zainaba.

“Did you proselytise her?” the reporter probed.

“Yes,” confirmed the PFI’s woman leader. “Four years ago.”

The converted woman was previously called Shubha, Zainaba disclosed. “She’s now Fatima.” “How many non-Muslims have you proselytised?” the reporter asked.

“There are many,” replied Zainaba.

She also explained the entire modus operandi for proselytising, emphasising conversion centres have to be disguised as charitable or educational establishments in order to prevent any backlash.

“We don’t have to officially declare it to be a conversion centre. It’s an educational institute,” Zainaba admitted. “A lot of preparation goes into it. We need resources. We have to create a trust first.”

She disclosed such secret centres have to have at least 15 members to qualify for registration as a trust.

“Later, we need to figure out a place for the campus. That campus should house all facilities, such as a mosque for namaz, accommodation, a well-furnished institute like this (Sathya Sarani),” Zainaba explained. “Then we have to get it registered by the government under the Societies Registration Act.”

Further, Zainaba revealed how the PFI outsourced name-change certificates after converting inmates.

“There are two ways. Getting a certificate from some institutes that such and such person has embraced Islam. Then there’s another system of having it notarised on a declared affidavit,” she said.

In its dossier, accessed by India Today, the NIA has also accused the PFI of terror links and hawala financing, charges the group has denied vehemently.

But a founding member of the PFI, whom India Today reporters met in New Delhi under cover, admitted that the organisation aimed at creating an Islamic state.

Ahmed Shareef, the PFI’s founder member and the managing editor of its mouthpiece Gulf Thejas, also confessed to illegal funding.

“All over the world. That is the motive,” Shareef acknowledged when asked whether the PFI and Sathya Sarani worked on a hidden motive to establish an Islamic state in India as suspected. “All over the world. That is the motive.”

“Islamic state is the final goal?” the reported probed.

“Final goal,” Shareef replied. “All over the world. Why only India? After making India an Islamic state and then they will go to other states.”

He also revealed how he raised funds for the PFI in the Middle East five years ago and sent them back home through hawala.

“At that time, (Rs) 10 lakh or something,” Shareef said.

“Ten lakh? And how you sent it?” asked the reporter.

“Hawala,” answered Shareef. He admitted both the PFI and Sathya Sarani received funding through mainstream as well as illegal hawala channels.

Reaction to India Today’s Operation Conversion Factory

Ravi Shankar Prasad says PFI should be banned and these leaders should be prosecuted.

“Your investigation shows that there is a PFI, the Popular Front of India, which is having an organised racket employing people who are owning it up on your channel that they are creating a radical group by some kind of psychological brainwashing,” said law minister and BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad.

“These NGOs that profess that they stand for peace, stand exposed today at your channel. That’s a great job you have done. My greetings and congratulations to you,” said Prasad.

“I have to point out that unfortunately none of the reporting that has come out in the papers, one finds that they haven’t caught the gist of the argument which thankfully your channel seems to have through this entire exercise in a very very good manner caught,” said BJP spokesperson Nalin Kohli.

“These are glaring and extremely worrisome trends showing there is a well oiled machinery and psychological kidnappings as Mr Manindar Singh told the Court and as the investigation is revealing. This is not an ordinary case,” said Kohli.

“Upper caste Hindus are harassing lower Caste Hindus, that’s why they are converting to Islam for equality, justice and peace nowadays. ISI members were found in Madhya Pradesh. BJP should be banned for that and the parent organization RSS should be banned. Also follow the Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel’s footsteps who banned RSS once,” said the media coordinator Islamic Research Foundation Ilyas Sharafuddin.

“If someone violates the law of the land he should be punished, Islam does not oppose that,” said AIIA president Maulana Sajid Rashidi.

Meanwhile, NIA is monitoring India Today’s expose Operation Conversion Factory. The agency wants India Today to provide complete recordings of the investigation.

Sources say NIA will probe findings of India Today’s investigation. – India Today, 31 October

» Sushant Pathak and Jamshed Adil Khan are special investigative reporters for India Today. The article was written by Harmeet Shah Singh.


Why Nepal has one of the world’s fastest-growing Christian populations – Danielle Preiss

A Swiss missionary talks to a Nepali woman about the Bible in Kathmandu

Danielle PreissChurches mushroom throughout the Kathmandu Valley and across the terraced hills. Proselytizing remains illegal, but with political instability and weak law enforcement, that doesn’t stop it from happening. – Danielle Preiss

Famous for its high peaks and wind-whipped prayer flags, Hindu-majority Nepal used to be a nation unreached by Christianity.

Now the country has one of the fastest-growing Christian populations in the world, according to the World Christian Database, which tracks global trends in Christianity.

Bishwa Mani Pokharel, news chief at Nepal’s Nagarik newspaper, pulls out copies of the census to show the statistical gallop of Christianity across Nepal. It listed no Christians in 1951 and just 458 in 1961. By 2001, there were nearly 102,000. A decade later that number had more than tripled to more than 375,000. Pokharel and others think the increase is really much higher but inaccurately reported.

“Before, when the Christians had a party, they slaughtered a chicken. Now, they slaughter a goat,” says Pokharel, who has been reporting on the conversions. That extra meat, he explains, is necessary to feed all of the new people who’ve joined the guest list.

Much of this growth can be attributed to Nepal’s internal changes. Before 1950, Nepal was closed to foreigners. Mountain climbing changed that. And starting with the Maoist Civil War of the 1990s and culminating with the end of the monarchy in 2008, the country has transitioned from a Hindu kingdom to a communist-led secular republic with greater freedom of religion. Encouraging someone to convert to another religion was always illegal, but as Nepal eased away from its official Hindu status, the rules lightened up.

Churches now mushroom throughout the Kathmandu Valley and across the terraced hills. Proselytizing remains illegal, but with political instability and weak law enforcement, that doesn’t stop it from happening.

Meanwhile, the earthquake last year may have strengthened the Christian surge. Where the government—long mired in political instability—has failed to help poor villagers, aid groups have trickled in to fill gaps, some of them carrying a message of salvation.

Climbing for Christ (C4C), an evangelical group based in Rochester, N.Y., is one.

Pledging to bring the Gospel “where others cannot or will not go,” the group began its “Mission: Nepal” in 2008. In 2011, it dedicated the first church in the village of Dapcha, 25 miles east of Kathmandu. Today, Dapcha—with a population of just 1,000 families—is home to three churches.

“They found some sick people and broken families and talked to them and prayed for them, and miraculously these people were convinced and began to follow Christ,” said Tej Rokka, pastor of the C4C partner ministry, Savior Alone Redeems Asians. “They distributed some food for the people, and clothes. Because of that, people began to listen to them.”

After the earthquake, C4C sent relief materials such as tents and money for food and first-aid items to congregants in Dapcha and other affected areas. Gary Fallesen, C4C’s founder and president, and a team were also in Nepal in October helping rebuild the earthquake-damaged house that belongs to the family of Sumitra Pariyar, a young woman who believes she was healed from paralysis and seizures by her acceptance of Christ.

Lauren Leve, a professor in the religious studies department at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is researching women who have converted to Christianity in Nepal. She found that as in the case of Pariyar, many of these conversions were related to illness.

Others point to the Hindu caste system as an impetus. Though outlawed in 2001, caste discrimination is still widely practiced, particularly in rural Nepal, where people on the lower rungs suffer systematic abuse passed on between generations. Many converts come from these lower castes, and missionaries point to Christianity as a way to escape. “It’s the only way out,” says Fallesen. “Socially there’s nothing they can do to change that and then we come along and we share about Jesus and the love he has for them.” The system still exists, Fallesen says, but no longer has power over them.

Nepali leaders aren’t happy about the Christianity boom. Before the release of the country’s first constitution this September, debates swelled over whether to scrap secularism and go back to an official Hindu designation. While Christians and other religious minorities feared a clampdown on religious freedom, the Hindu right insisted secularism would allow Christianity to take over. The British ambassador in Nepal ran afoul of this sentiment in 2014 after telling Parliament the right to change religions should be included in the constitution. Pro-Hindu groups accused him of supporting proselytizing and called for his resignation. When lawmakers did ensure secularism in the constitution, police needed water cannons and tear gas to dispel angry Hindu protesters.

Leve thinks laws against proselytizing aren’t the best way for the Nepali government to keep conversions down. “What it needs to do is ramp up the public health and social support infrastructure so that its citizens are getting what they need from the state,” she says. “When public hospitals start to provide effective health services, when there’s a social safety net in place post-earthquake or any other time, you will see fewer people expressing any interest in Christianity.”

For Fallesen, this need for material goods can be a foot in the door to a conversation about Jesus. He said his team starts by building relationships with villagers to find out what their problems are. “Usually the solution to those needs is to share about Jesus,” he says.

Rokka, the Nepali pastor who is also C4C’s country representative, shows off the audio Bibles the team uses to minister to the illiterate in Nepal. People think the local language recordings of the New Testament are cellphones or MP3 players, he explained. He said that even when they find out what the gadget is, they’re still excited to get a new device.

Few avenues exist here for the rural poor to better their situation. For more than a decade, many parents have sent their children to “orphanages” in Kathmandu, where they hope they’ll get better resources and education than what’s available in their villages. The problem of false orphanages has grown so out of control that the U.S. and other countries banned international adoptions from Nepal in 2010. There were simply too many “orphans” with parents.

C4C supports an orphanage, too. Not all the kids are orphans in the western sense, Fallesen explained, but they come from families that don’t have the ability to properly care for them. How do these families feel about their kids getting baptized? “Some are happy, some are not. Some now want to take them out from the home,” said Rokka, whose ministry runs the orphanage. But the parents don’t typically act on their concerns, he added. “They have no way to help them. Anyway [the children] are getting help here, so [the parents] think, OK, let it be.”

Rokka came to the faith as a child after his mother died. He says some people convinced his father to send him and his brother to an orphanage run by an Indian missionary. Rokka estimates that 90 percent of the children he grew up with have since started their own ministries.

Sitting outside their Dapcha house, an elderly couple expresses disdain for the churches popping up around them. “We don’t go there,” the woman says, waving her hand dismissively and mimicking someone in Christian prayer. She then pretends to handle Buddhist prayer beads. “We say ‘om mani padme om,'” she says, using the Buddhist mantra to declare her faith.

To Christian relief workers like Fallesen, the importance of bringing Nepalis to Christianity outweighs the concerns expressed by nonbelievers. “If I have a choice between possibly offending you or saying OK, whatever you believe is fine, but I believe in my heart if you don’t believe in Jesus, you’re going to go to hell, well, then I’m going to take the risk of offending you,” he says.

So C4C has its sights on more remote areas of Nepal. Land was just purchased for its newest church in the hard-to-reach far west district of Humla, where Fallesen says the Nepali population of seven Christian men has grown to 150 men and women. The church will be strategically placed at the point where Hindu and Buddhist pilgrims begin the trek to Mount Kailash, a holy site for both religions. – NPR, 3 February 2016

» Danielle Preiss is an American radio and print journalist in Kathmandu.

 


 

Arunachal Pradesh: Aggressive proselytisation is killing indigenous faiths – Aravindan Neelakandan

Christians in Arunachal Pradesh

Aravindan NeelakandanConversions in Arunachal Pradesh are not mere problems of religion but of utmost strategic importance given the presence of Christian terrorist organisations in the region. … Losing ‘souls’ to aggressive religious bodies is a dangerous threat to the vibrancy and survivability of India’s mutli-religious fabric. – Aravindan Neelakandan

In August 2017 the Pema Khandu led BJP government in Arunachal Pradesh approved the establishment of the “Department of Indigenous Faith & Cultural Affairs” at a meeting chaired by the Chief Minister.

The Chief Minister had stated that the indigenous communities of Arunachal Pradesh need to take “specific steps to preserve and protect them from disappearing into oblivion”.

According to news reports Christian lobbying organisations quickly began opposing the government move. They alleged that “through its move to create a department to protect the indigenous faiths, the state government was taking aim at the Church.”

The secretary of the Arunachal Christian Forum (ACF) was quoted as saying that the government’s aim was “to target the Church by putting pressure on it, but the government should not interfere in religious matters and treat all religious groups equally”.

Demographic data—as pointed out by many—has been largely pointing to an increasing number of conversions in the state.

In 2001 Christians formed 18.7 per cent of the population in Arunachal Pradesh. A decade later, in 2011 this number has been reported as 30 per cent, officially. The actual number is likely to be much higher.

The increase in Christian population is also accompanied by the diminishing of local spiritual traditions like Donyi-Polo, Rangfraa and Buddhist tribal groups. The Christian claim is that the teachings of Jesus Christ attract the tribals who face a lot of problems. Christianity is said to have “reformed” the tribes.

A look into the incidents of past one decade shows another picture which is not just different but much scarier than the benign picture provided by lobbyist groups.

In August 2004, months after the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) had come to power at the centre, four tribal villages in Tirap—Changlang district in Arunachal Pradesh had some visitors. The visitors carried assault automatic weapons and told the villagers that they should either convert to Christianity or face execution. The visitors were secessionists belonging to the two rival factions of NSCN—appropriately named National Socialist Council of Nagaland, a terror group fighting for a Christian socialist theocracy. The villagers had to flee fearing torture and death. They belonged to the indigenous religious streams of Arunachal and a syncretic tradition of Buddhism. (The Assam Tribune, 23 August, 2004)

Such gun-point conversions were condemned by the joint Buddhist session of the Purvanchal Buddhist Bhikkhu Sangha and Purvanchal Buddhist Association of both the states of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. They strongly condemned “the heinous atrocities committed by the militants on the peace-loving Buddhists and tribes” and issued a press release saying that aggressive proselytism in Arunachal Pradesh was a violation of human rights guaranteed in the Constitution.

What followed was a deafening silence from both the mainstream media and the government. Throughout the UPA government’s decade-long stint, aggressive proselytising continued in Arunachal Pradesh, so much so that in 2010 when Tikhak Buddhists of Changlang district in the state celebrated Buddha Purnima, security forces had to provide them protection. The NSCN had issued a threat to Buddhist villagers to convert to Christianity. They were also warned not to celebrate Buddhist functions and if they did, they would face dire consequences.

An agonised Venerable Aggadhamma, the highest Buddhist leader of the province, told reporters that the NSCN terrorists were setting seven day deadlines for villagers to convert to Christianity. Ven Aggadhamma even sent a memorandum to then prime minister Manmohan Singh, the Union Home Ministry, the President as well as the Minority Commission (The Indian Express, 28 May, 2010).

It is a telling comment on the nature of mainstream media that nothing except minimal reportage happened. No outrages, no op-eds and no cartoons were published against such aggressive attempts to convert people of indigenous faith. That the hyper-proselytisation drive in Arunachal Pradesh correlates with the UPA regime period may not be accidental at all. The rate of conversions has been high despite there being legal restrictions against aggressive conversions in the state.

The current Khandu government, meanwhile, has been made to bow to the pressures of international lobbying groups and bodies such as the ACF. It is apparently toying with the idea of using a different name for the body being set up for protesting indigenous culture and faiths.

That a strategically important border state of India has to go through such issues is a cause of deep worry. Conversions in this state are not mere problems of religion but of utmost strategic importance given the presence of Christian terrorist organisations in the region.

When we lose territory there is a possibility that we can regain it. But losing ‘souls’ to aggressive religious bodies is a far more dangerous threat to the vibrancy and survivability of India’s multicultural, mutli-religious fabric. – Swarajya, 27 October 2017

» Aravindan Neelakandan is an author, economist and psychologist. He is a post-socialist thinker of cultural evolutionism and Indian ethnogenesis. He is known for the book Breaking India, which he co-authored with Rajiv Malhotra.

St Joseph's Cathedral, Itanagar, Arunachal PradeshCatholic priest Itanagar Arunachal PradeshTribal Christian converts in Arunachal Pradesh

See also


 

Christian perception manipulation vis-à-vis Hindus – Vinay V. Joshi

Catholic priests meet Yogi

Vinay JoshiWith a tight grip on Indian media and Indian intelligentsia, Christian groups carefully and tactically plant news about religious persecution, which does not always reflect the ground reality. They have a strong global network of media houses and web portals, which they fully utilise to spread the word globally, – Vinay V. Joshi

“Déjà vu feeling once again!” wrote a user on microblogging social media platform while posting a photograph of Catholic Christian leaders meeting UP CM Yogi Adityanath at his office in Lucknow. The media covered the meeting on April 22, 2017 with the headline, “Catholic priests meet Yogi, request freedom to worship without fear”. The Catholic leader Fr. Gerald John Mathias told the media that, “We requested the chief minister to ensure the safety and security of our places of worship, and the freedom to worship without fear” But what makes that social media user to feel “déjà vu” in this simple visit? Nothing abnormal in expecting freedom to worship, isn’t it?

The reason behind the sense of déjà vu is simple, but very hard to find out. Such statements and carefully manufactured narratives are part and parcel of Indian Christian groups’ Perception Management Mechanism. They are masters in developing convenient narratives, manufacturing perceptions subtly demonising their opponent i.e. Hindu organizations.

BJP registered a colossal victory in Uttar Pradesh assembly elections in March 2017 with 325 seats, it was a brute majority in the recent past. Everyone in BJP- NDA camp was celebrating it and opposition was busy in finding all new excuses and developing narratives for the pitiable electoral debacle. But highly professional and ruthless executors, the Catholics in India, were busy in their time-tested game of delivering subtle message to their followers and to Hindus in India. The message was loud and clear, that the newly elected BJP government in Uttar Pradesh, headed by Yogi Adityanath is going unleash state terror against Christians in the state. Keeping in mind the same, they met UP CM Yogi Adityanath and ensured ample media coverage was given to the event. The central, but subtle message of the meeting was that the Christians are never safe under a BJP rule and Hindutva groups are likely to attack Christians in UP.

Before we delve into the so called cases of Christian persecution in India; either under BJP’s Hindutva rule or by Hindutva groups under non-BJP rule, let us look at the hypersensitive, propagandist and the malicious rhetoric by Christian leadership in India, solely aimed at manipulating perception about the so-called atrocious acts and deeds of India’s Hindu groups and BJP.

Whenever any Hindu organisation announces a programme, or any elections approach wherein the BJP is likely to emerge victorious, then the well-established Christian leaders, denominations and groups indulge in aggressive media propaganda, expressing concerns about the safety of common Christians in India. The whole swathe of mainstream Indian media gives prominent place to such manipulative propaganda by Christian groups, helping them to establish clear edge over Hindu groups in the battle of perception. Without proper knowledge and exposure to the issue, the bystanders develop a negative attitude towards Hindu organisations, while simultaneously believing Christians as the poor victims of majoritarian violence.

How Perceptions are manipulated?

With a tight grip on Indian media and Indian intelligentsia, the Christian groups carefully and tactically plant news about religious persecution, which does not always reflect the ground reality. They have a strong global network of media houses and web portals, which they fully utilise to spread the word globally, once the news is published in the Indian media. It makes cascading effect globally, reporting and publishing the same story in a different form. Then, the so-called social activists, human rights groups and tribal rights bodies jump into fray, to seek stringent action against Hindu groups. Veteran author, journalist and researcher Mr. Arun Shourie has coined a meaningful term to this well-oiled propaganda machinery (ref: Harvesting Our Souls). He used to call it as the “eco chamber” in which the false news of Christian persecution or anti-Christian violence continues to make rounds locally and globally for months together.

Here we have compiled a list of a few incidents wherein the Christian groups have used their propaganda machinery to create a false persecution narrative by accusing Hindu groups of perpetrating incidents in which they had no role in reality. Let us have a brief look into each of these incidents.

Case 01: When 2004 general elections were approaching and the BJP led NDA under Vajpayee was seeking reelection, The Baptist Press published a report on April 26, 2004 with a heading, “Indian Christians apprehensive as general elections proceed”. The report says, on the one hand, BJP is wooing Christian voters by inducting Christian leaders in its fold, especially in Kerala and on the other hand, it is supporting militant Hindu organisations like RSS and Bajrang Dal! The article also has strong objection to the BJP manifesto, which makes a reference to legislation of anti-conversion law for putting a stop on unethical conversions. It says, though BJP is seducing minorities for electoral gains, “BJP’s national leadership leaves one in no doubt that the party and the NDA are wedded to the communal politics of the RSS”.  Also the report has expressed its reservations to re-conversion programs held by VHP, though there was neither force nor inducement in it and has branded the reconversion programs as anti-minority.

The report also claims that violence against Christians in Jhabua, Madhya Pradesh were orchestrated by BJP, interestingly no organisational connection could be established by independent probes and investigating agencies. Yet, Christian groups keep repeating these allegations.

Manipulated Perception: What they wanted to convey to Indian people and the world audience was that BJP and its ideological mentor RSS conglomerate are not safe for Christians and there would be an existential threat to Christians if BJP returns back to power after general elections.

Case 02: Sangh affiliated organizations arranged grand Shabari Kumbh in Dangs tribal area of Gujarat in 2006 to create awareness about rich tribal traditions among tribals mostly falling prey to deceitful conversion tactics of Christian missionaries. The program was on positive note and it had nothing to do with violence or coercion. Yet, the All India Christian Council (AICC) and All India Confederation of SC/ST Organisations launched scathing attack against Shabri Kumbh and demanded ban on it

The All India Christian Council (AICC) President, Dr. Joseph D’Souza demanded central government’s intervention to ban Kumbh, since, according to him, Sangh Parivar was conspiring to create another Godhra type disturbance. What does it mean? Who was the perpetrator of Godhra? Who conspired to burn the train packed with karsevaks? Was it Sangh Parivar?

AICC also created a propaganda saying RSS was trying to “Hinduise” the tribals inhabiting the Dang region, which was a Congress bastion, politically!” Subtle argument in this propaganda was that, if tribals get proselytised then it is OK, but they must not be mainstreamed into larger Hindu society!

To further reinforce their propaganda, they even brought in the non-existing environmental concerns! As per AICC, Kumbh would have inflicted irreparable damage to Dangs environment. They reminded RSS of the noble Hindu tradition quoting that there are only four Kumbh Melas as per Hindu traditions. While at other times, these same people have ridiculed traditional Kumbh Melas, now they invoking the sanctity and traditional validity of the Four Kumbh Melas to discredit RSS Kumbh!

Manipulated Perception: RSS does not respect Hindu traditions, The Kumbh arranged by RSS is going to destroy tribal culture by forcefully Hinudising them and the function will cost local environment dearly.

Case 03: The Evangelical Alliance Foundation published a report titled, “Shabri Kumbh Mela threatens 800 Christians in Dangs”.

The said report is concocted assertions, singularly focused at tarnishing the image of RSS and its affiliates. The report says, “Hindu nationalist groups and their militant factions will hold Kumbh (Hindu festival) in Gujarat, called ‘Shabri Kumbh Mela’, to deal a death-blow to Christian missions”. As per Evangelical Association, the two aims of Kumbh were, “to convert tribal people to militant Hindu nationalism, and to emancipate them of Christianity, as it challenges the status quo and threatens to liberate the enslaved tribal”. One would like to ask them, who is enslaving the Indian Tribal? Which status quo is Christianity challenging? Who has assigned this “noble” task to Christians?

The report notes that RSS has invented whole new mythology of Shabri Goddess and deliberately developing the pilgrimage site in the name of Shabri!

The report further mentions that Act Now for Harmony and Democracy (ANHAD) had filed a petition in Supreme Court against a CD which was getting sold in Gujarat and Maharashtra, openly appealing for killing and beheading Christians. As per ANHAD petition, the CD was produced by Kumbh Committee. The question is, despite the SC directing the state and central governments to investigate the matter, why did the investigation stop as soon as the Kumbh concluded? Why did ANHAD silently pulled out its SC petition? The answer is obvious.

Let us not forget to mention that ANHAD is the same organization which was vocal during Godhra riot cases and were trying to grill then Gujarat CM Modi and Amit Shah. They also share a clear bonhomie with Christian missionaries in Gujarat’s tribal belt.

Finally, the EA Foundation report ends with an appeal for urgent prayers to safeguard 8000 Christians of Dang to save them from Hindu fury!

Manipulated Perception: While reporting the news of Shabri Kumbh, the report repeatedly used terms like fanatic, radical, militant Hindu groups arranging Kumbh in Dang. Uninformed readers would definitely get an impression that the RSS is hunting and killing Muslims and Christians everywhere in India!

Case 04: Let us take another interesting news, third in Kumbh matter. The newspaper DNA has published this news with title, “Activists demand ban on Kumbh“. The activist in the report is Shabnam Hashmi of Act Now for Harmony and Democracy who had demanded a ban on the Kumbh, as, according to her, it attempted to forcefully convert tribals into religion! But, the same activist, who apparently feels so strongly about maintaining the different way of worship of the tribal society, never showed similar concerns when Christian missionaries were carrying out conversion programmes in the Dangs region.

Though, the report makes a mention about the RSS plans to stop conversions by Christian groups, there is not a single word censuring conversion activities carried by Christian groups.

Manipulated PerceptionThis is one more example of managing perceptions. The report aimed to create an impression that tribals were different from Hindus and that RSS led Kumbh was trying to convert them to Hinduism.

Case 05: Christian Today portal declared that “Church fears BJP coming to power” before 2009 general elections, in which BJP actually failed to perform. The apex body of Catholic Christians in India, Catholic Bishop Conference of India (CBCI) declared, “The Catholic Bishops Conference of India expressed apprehensions over the electoral victory of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which it fears might continue its ghastly attitude over minorities”. What is the basis of these apprehensions? Which factors really compelled Christians to fear about BJP’s possible electoral victory? The CBCI statement says that BJP is accused of fanning communal feelings and pursuing Hindutva agenda, which instigates violence against minorities, the Kandhamal violence against Christians being evidence of it. The CBCI conveniently ignored the fact that it was the brutal murder of Hindu saint Swami Lakshamanananda Saraswati, the most revered figure among Kandhamal tribals, which triggered the violence that broke out in the aftermath of his murder and BJP was nowhere in the picture..

Another allegation made by CBCI was that Hindutva groups tried to amend the constitution to take away minority rights during the last BJP rule. The fact that BJP neither had majority on its own in the parliament nor had any tight hold over its alliance discredits any such allegations about ‘amending constitution’!

Manipulated PerceptionCBCI, which boasts of being a responsible body, carefully spreading lies that every incidence where a person belonging to minority community is a victim is due to RSS-BJP! At a time when BJP did not even have political strength in the parliament to touch the constitution, CBCI blames BJP for trying to tamper with the constitution. The CBCI openly blames RSS for violence against Christians in the Kandhamal region ignoring the fact that the violence was actually triggered by the murder of a Hindu religious leader and was a spontaneous and unorganized response. The underlying message in their report was that BJP and RSS commit violence against minorities and do not honour the constitution and hence defeating them in the 2009 elections was the need of the hour to safeguard Indian Constitution and minority community!

Case 06: After Sonia-Manmohan led UPA alliance wrested power for a second consecutive term in 2009, the portal of Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, CathNews declared, “Indian Christians rejoice at election of secular government”! On day one itself, Catholics declared UPA government as secular government, despite the fact that the Congress party has a dubious track record of tampering with the constitution in the famous Shah Bano case to appease minority vote bank.

But, the Catholics portal declared that UPA is a secular government, for the singular reason that they would turn a blind eye towards the rampant evangelisation of the poor and gullible Indians by Church!

The ecumenical All India Christian Council (AICC) joyously saluted the Indians for their “consummate and decisive” rejection of divisive and sectarian (read BJP) political forces in the elections. Another Christian leader Fr. Hector D’Souza, who heads the Jesuits in South Asia, expressed hope that the new secular government would stop atrocities and persecutions of religious minorities in India, such as attacks on Christians in Kandhamal, Orissa and other states. Which are these “other states” where Christians are attacked? No mention of the incidences and states where it happened. To create fabrication, ambiguity is a must! It keeps people guessing.

Manipulated PerceptionThrough this report, they conveniently portrayed the Congress led UPA as the “secular” front, while insinuating that RSS-BJP were communal forces. Despite the fact that the Kandhamal riots happened when the UPA was at the centre, they manipulated the message to portray BJP as the culprit and to convey that minorities will not be safe under BJP, since RSS conglomerate is anti-minority with deep hatred for Christians and Muslims!

Case 07: When Narmada Kumbh was organized in Central India’s tribal belt of Mandla, the Christian Today website in one of its stories warned people to be “Beware of Sangh Kumbh Melas”. Since Narmada Kumbh, which to create awareness about the rich tribal culture, posed a threat to conversion activities of Christian missionaries, they declared the Kumbh as a political gathering and demanded the enforcement of anti-conversion laws against those doing Ghar-Wapasi!

Another argument in the report was that Hinduism “came” from outside and thus making a reference to the controversial Aryan Migration Theory, which has been repeatedly challenged by many scholars and archaeologists!

Yet another point made in the article is that the Sangh Parivar organizes all kinds of melas in areas legally protected to preserve the traditions and cultures of tribals and other aboriginals under Schedule Five of the Constitution. The question is, if that is the case, then what are Jesuits and Christian missionaries doing in those protected lands?

Manipulated PerceptionWhile Christian missionaries in India are encroaching upon traditional tribal areas and values by deceitfully evangelizing them in day light, they have developed a strong propaganda machinery and a tactical use of media to camouflage their own proselytisation activities and instead create a perception that it is the Hindu organisations like RSS who are involved in unconstitutional and communal activities! IndiaFacts, 27 September 2017

» Vinay V. Joshi  is the Director of Institute for Conflict Research and Resolution (ICRR), a defense and security think tank based in Guwahati.

Missionary Visa

NGOs received a whopping Rs 17,208 crore from foreign donors in 2015-16 – Vijaita Singh

Debit Card & Cross

Vijaita SinghThere are 33,000 NGOs registered under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) that are required to file their annual returns with the Home Ministry. … Of the 16 major donors, at least 14 are Christian organisations, most of them based in the U.S. – Vijaita Singh

Foreign donations to Indian NGOs have surged since the NDA government came to power.

As per figures available with the Home Ministry, which regulates the flow of foreign funds to NGOs and associations in India, the 2015-16 fiscal saw a flow of Rs 17,208 crore from foreign donors, the highest in five years. There were donations of Rs 14,525 crore in 2014-15 and Rs 13,092 crore in 2013-14. In 2012-13, the foreign donations received totalled Rs 9,423 crore, and in 2011-12, Rs 10,334 crore.

There are 33,000 NGOs registered under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) that are required to file their annual returns with the Home Ministry, but only 19,000 received funds last year.

Of the 16 major donors, at least 14 are Christian organisations, most of them based in the U.S.

Last year, the Home Ministry put Colorado-based Christian NGO Compassion International on its watch-list as it was accused of funding Indian NGOs involved in religious conversions.

The crackdown against the Compassion International, which also figures in the list of the largest foreign donors, led to a diplomatic standoff with the United States. The U.S. Embassy wrote to the Centre, asking it to share evidence to support the allegations.

World Vision International, which is also based in the U.S., sent Rs 300 crore to Indian NGOs last year. Another U.S.-based donor, Give2Asia, sent Rs 105 crore while Canada-based Gospel For Asia sent Rs 830 crore.

Before it was put on the watch-list, the Compassion International had donated Rs 292 crore.

Clean-up exercise

Soon after the NDA government came to power in 2014, a massive clean-up exercise was taken up against NGOs registered under the FCRA. In 2015, the Home Ministry notified new rules, which required NGOs to give an undertaking that the acceptance of foreign funds is not likely to prejudicially affect the “sovereignty and integrity of India or impact friendly relations with foreign states and does not disrupt communal harmony.”

Under the annual returns category, the NGOs were asked to give an undertaking that the foreign funds were utilised in such a way that it did not affect the “security, strategic, scientific or economic interest, public interest, freedom or fairness of election to any legislature or harmony between religious, social, racial, linguistic group, caste or communities.”

The Home Ministry has cancelled the registration of over 10,000 NGOs in 2015 for not complying with the norms.

The registration of Greenpeace International was cancelled on the premise that it compromised the country’s “economic security”.

The MHA also cancelled the registration of Sabrang Trust, an NGO run by Gujarat-based social activist Teesta Setalvad’s and that of noted lawyer Indira Jaising’s Lawyers Collective. Ms. Setalvad and Ms. Jaising are known for their critical stand against Prime Minister Narendra Modi. – The Hindu, 20 February 2017

» Vijaita Singh is a senior assistant editor at The Hindu in New Delhi.

NGO Funds

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