Tuesday, February 14, 2006

India's anti-conversion rally

Kumbh Mela in Gujarat. This is a first that I've heard of. Backed by the state government, with none other than the Butcher of Ahmedabad, Narendra Modi, pontificating.
Supported by the state government, the religious heads wanted all induced conversions—poaching, as they term it — stopped. Calling the missionaries and their supporters pakhandis and hypocrites, Morari Bapu chose to remind them of the teachings of Jesus Chris.

Addressing a crowd of more than two lakh devotees, Morari Bapu quoted from the Gospel of Luke in the Bible to say that even Christ’s word forbade conversions. ‘‘It is hypocrisy to not follow what you preach. When the Bible says do not convert, please don’t. It is great that you are good doctors, and have the money to help poor and ailing. But once they have been healed, let them go back home (re-convert) as good doctors do.”
[Jesus Chris? Must be another incarnation of Buddy Jesus]. Which passage from Luke though? And what the frig? "Good doctors?" Where does one even begin.
Raising the rhetorical pitch, Morari Bapu went on to ask, ‘‘Are induced conversions are good but is coming back home bad? Plane-loads from the Vatican can come here and carry out conversions, but if we organise a ghar vaapsi, it is bad. Let everyone be clear that this programme is about peace and tolerance as characterised by the Hindu ethos. No one should be scared of it,’’ he said.
Wow. Planeloads. From the Vatican no less. Which has, what, 500 citizens?

Goes to illustrate the huge, wide gulf on the issue. Say "conversion" and rational, secular (in the Indian use of the word), reasonable Indians foam at the mouth. No distinctions made. Every conversion is bad by definition, because, you know, how on earth could anyone deny the glories of Sanatana Dharma?

In a democracy, there ought to be freedom to practice and propogate one's religion. No one ought to be forced or "induced" (sounds like a procedure one would hear of in the maternity ward) to any faith. But that freedom has to exist. This sham of attacking Christians as purveyors of spiritual violence masks what may be the underlying reality that's being threatened here. That Christians have a vision of human dignity, especially of the poor and downtrodden that may be lacking otherwise, and are willing to sacrifice their lives in service of it. And if this prompts Hindus and others to re-examine their attitudes and beliefs in this regard, so much the better. [I don't think it would be entirely unfair to say this is what lead to many of the 19th century Hindu reform movements of folks like Dayanand Sarasawati and Vivekanada.]

At least the Sangh Parivar's propoganda piece passed off peacefully.

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