R L Francis
16 Nov 2011
Vatican’s thinking about Indian Christians is not based on facts and that is why the Pope’s Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue issued a message for Hindus on the eve of Dipawali. The message urged Hindus to fight against anti-Christian propaganda in the country. The appeal says that Dipawali is the festival of the conquest of the forces of light over darkness. It says Hindus and Christian should jointly fight and pave the way for religious freedom.
The Vatican’s appeal is very shrewd; it justifies Conversion in the garb of freedom of religion.
The Vatican is well aware that the Catholic Church in India enjoys equal freedom to Hindus. The representative of Pope Benedict XVI, Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio, directly appoints Bishops in India without any problem. The Church is continuously building new churches and schools in the name of minority rights. How much more freedom does the Vatican truly need?
The Vatican maintains that Christians have been victimized by Hindu extremists in the last few years and that this has posed problems for missionaries. But Vatican needs to understand that the main reason behind these conflicts is Conversion.
Many enquiry commissions set up by various states in Odisha, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh have pointed fingers towards this direction. At the same time, all Christians enjoy the right and freedom to follow their religion in India.
The problem arises only when and where missionaries try to increase the empire of the church. Is this not a fact that poverty stricken areas of tribal regions are the target of these missionaries? Why do missionaries help only those who accept their religion? “Jesus had said that if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly father is perfect. (Math. 5:47-48)”
Missionaries face problem only at places where they try to convert the populace. This has increased tensions in tribal regions. Hindu organizations believe that the Vatican is preparing the ground for conversions on the basis of huge foreign funds. The fact is that these funds are received for social activity. But there is no improvement in the conditions of those who have already converted.
Ten percent of the total population of Catholic Christians in India lies in the Chotanagpur region. Even church documents accept that 91.47 percent of domestic girl workers are Christians, while the non-Christian (Sarna) comprise merely 1.3 percent. Sixty percent of the converted SC (dalit) Christians comprise the total population of Christians in this country. Yet the Church is currently trying to include them in the list of Hindu dalits.
It is a clear admission that conversion does not open the doors of liberation. The opposite seems to be true.
Kanchi Shankaracharya Swami Jayendra Saraswati and some other spiritual leaders met with Cardinal Jean Louis Pierre Tauran, President of Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue for Communal Harmony in 2009, in Mumbai. Here everybody accepted that conversion is the main obstacle in the path of religious harmony. Now Pope Benedict XVI is meeting the world’s spiritual leaders in Asisi, Ital,y and they are again discussing communal harmony.
The problem is that the success of evangelical activity has been linked with an increase in numbers. India is no exception. In the north-east region, Protestants and Catholics are fighting among themselves. The local Catholic Bishop Jose Mukala says that Protestant Christians are forcing Catholics to become Protestant in the Kohima region. Properties of Catholics are being subjected to arson. They have appealed for their safety to the United Nations! Some years ago, Catholic and Protestant missionaries had agreed that they would not convert each others’ members; but the question arises, from where will the numbers come?
In October 2011, hundreds of tribal representatives from nine states were called by the Catholic Church to Bhopal, for an Adivasi Mahotsava. The motive was to liberate them from social, economic and political exploitation. They were indoctrinated that they were not Hindus and were free to chose their religion. The motive is obvious.
Two years ago, the Catholic Church had told the Vatican that the church is still in infancy stage among tribal people. The meaning is obvious. But now, the rift between tribal Christians and non-Christians is getting wider.
The Vatican appeal to Hindus talks about anti-conversion laws in some Indian States and the problems these pose for missionaries. But the Vatican must be made to understand that the Indian constitution permits citizens to follow any faith of their choice.
The Indian constitution allows citizens to propagate any religion. But there is a thin line between Conversion and Propagating a religion. It is the duty of the State to restrict the freedom of those whose only goal is to just convert people.
It is well known that wherever people have been converted, social tension has increased. Now, the onus of establishing social harmony lies on the shoulders of the Church. The Church should spend the money it collects in the millions on the welfare of those who have already been converted and are now being exploited inside the Church. The Vatican should think about their genuine liberation.
The writer is President, Poor Christian Liberation Movement