By Atam Vetta in Oxford
Shri K.S. Sudarshan is concerned about the activities of Muslim and Christian missionaries to convert Hindus (Organiser, issue dt. October 9, 2005, ?Conversion is a menace?). He identifies a serious problem but, regrettably, gives no guidance on how to cope with this menace. A few weeks ago, he said that a swayamsevak can make suggestions for the consideration of the RSS leadership. I hope this invitation is also open to every Hindu in the diaspora whether a swayamsevak or not. Perhaps, he would allow me to draw his attention and that of other Hindu leaders in the diaspora to a possible solution so far as Christian conversions are concerned.
In the last 50 years the world has become rather small and each country and religion needs ?friends?. Buddhists and Buddhist countries are natural friends of Hindus and Indians. The behaviour of some Sri Lankan Buddhists is an exception. The ?Look East? policy of the last NDA government, in particular, the reaching out to Buddhists countries was a step in the right direction. I have no doubt that India'srelations with these countries will strengthen. Today, however, I wish to say to the Hindu diaspora that it needs to make a serious effort to initiate and develop good relations with Christians in the West and, in particular, with the neo-conservatives (NeoCons) in the US. I hope that Shri Sudarshan and other Hindu leaders will consider my suggestion seriously.
Good relations with NeoCons will not necessarily stop the conversion activities of missionaries immediately, but its long term advantages to India and to the Hindu diaspora are obvious as the US is likely to remain the most powerful nation for the next few decades. It might also have a positive effect on Christians in the North-East in India.
Hindu leaders living in India need to be aware of the revolution taking place in western Christian thought. The Hindu media needs to explain this transformation to Indians. There will then be less Hindu victims of close minded Christian missionary predators who operate in India.
Traditionally, Christians believe in the Virgin Birth and Resurrection (the concept that Jesus ?rose? from the dead). The late Anglican Bishop Robinson in his book Honest to God published in the sixties argued that shorn of the Virgin Birth and resurrection, Christianity is like Hinduism. Today, only a few British Anglican Bishops believe in the Virgin Birth and Resurrection. (Anglican Church is the Church of England and the Church of India is its counterpart in India). I suspect that most bishops of the Church of India still believe in the Virgin Birth and Resurrection. This is because their knowledge of science and modern Christian theology lags behind that of Anglican bishops. Thus, a modern British Anglican bishop is closer to Hindus than the less knowledgeable Indian bishop. Currently, many Anglican bishops are busy propagating the myth ?Christians, Muslims?bhai bhai?. It may be sometime before like the late bishop Robinson, they realise that they are very close to Hindus.
What about the Catholic Church? In the past, the Catholic Church has been strong on doctrinal issues. Now a change seems to be in the offing. For example, the main story on page 5 of the Times (London) on October 5, 2005 was ?Catholic Church no longer swears by the truth of the Bible?. It stated that the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in Britain ?has published a teaching document instructing the faithful that some parts of the Bible are not actually true?. By any standards this is a revolutionary change. Such a change takes time to filter through to the masses and it may be some time before it reaches Catholics in India.
A ?real? Christian believes in the absolute truth of the Bible. ?born again? Christians believe in the literal truth of the Bible. NeoCons in the US are born-again Christians. President Bush is also a born-again Christian. It was the NeoCons? efforts that increased the Bush vote by nearly eight million in the 2004 Presidential election. They are a powerful and rich lobby in the US and are likely to remain so in the next few decades. A dialogue with liberal Americans has been going on for a few years now and we are seeing some of the benefits of this dialogue. Now the Hindu diaspora needs to open a dialogue with NeoCons also.
Good relations with NeoCons will not necessarily stop the conversion activities of missionaries immediately, but its long term advantages to India and to the Hindu diaspora are obvious as US is likely to remain the most powerful nation for the next few decades. It might also have a positive effect on Christians in the North-East in India.
This dialogue will be difficult, more so because some of the NeoCons? money is used for conversion of Hindus in India. In my view a dialogue is not only necessary but is essential if the Hindu diaspora wishes to have political clout in the international arena.
How can the Hindu diaspora initiate this almost impossible task? I hope Shri Sudarshan and other Hindu leaders will deliberate on this question and then provide an answer to the diaspora. As the task is almost impossible it will need the same clear vision and determination that the Jews have shown since 1956 to achieve a similarly impossible task.
For quite a few centuries Christians used the verse in the Bible (Matthew xxvii, 25) which says ?His (Jesus) blood will be on us and on our children? to blame Jews for the crucifixion of Jesus (Jesus and his disciples were Jews). Jews were discriminated against and disliked by Christians for centuries. The only ?good? Jew was the one who converted to Christianity. The US was not particularly in favour of Israel. Indeed, to convince President Truman to vote in favour of the resolution to create Israel some American Jewish leaders presented him a list of Jewish voters in New York about a day before the vote in the United Nations. President Truman was impressed and the US voted in favour of the resolution. A vote against that resolution by the US would have vetoed Israel'screation.
In 1956 when Israel at the behest of Britain and France invaded Egypt, President Eisenhower forced it to give up all ill-gotten gains. Jews then realised that the real power has shifted from Europe to the US. They launched a well co-ordinated and single minded campaign for friendship with the American people. The rest is history.
Leaders of the Hindu diaspora need to plan a road map to launch a campaign ?Christians, Hindus bhai bhai? in the US. I suggest Shri Sudarshan should take the first step on this long, difficult and treacherous road.
(The writer can be contacted at [email protected])