By Jayant Patel
Chalo Church Purab Ki Aur (Hindi), RL Francis, Poor Christian Liberation Movement, Pp 149, Rs 150.00
The advent of Christianity in India began with the arrival of St Thomas, a disciple of Jesus Christ. Despite making many families embrace Christianity in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, this religion could not spread much further. In the 14th century, the Portuguese traveller, Vasco da Gama and his companions who were propagators of Christianity try to enforce Christianity in Kerala, especially among the Syrian Christians who do not subscribe to the superiority of the Pope. It takes time for the Syrian Christians to accept that for spreading their religion, it is necessary for them to work in tandem with the Protestant Christians.
Without making much headway, in the 17th century, the Church decides to accept the Western system along with Hindu rites and rituals. Then came the British and they encouraged the Christian missionaries to propagate their religion by offering them land for educational and health purposes. This helped them substantially.
Seeing class and caste discrimination, the lower castes adopt Christianity, hoping to be rid of religious divisions but the caste system is so deeply entrenched that it cannot be destroyed. After Independence, the British leave their wealth with the various churches in India but still the Christians cannot become self-reliant.
Two years ago, the riots in Kandhamal district of Orissa led to great loss of property and life of the Christians and the Vanvasis. What had happened was that the relations between the Christians and other communities had turned sour. The author suggests that the Christians should ponder over how to maintain cordial relations with other religious communities and how to raise their living standard. He admits that though millions of Dalits, Vanvasis and other backward communities have chosen to adopt the Church, the latter has not done anything much for them. The Indian Church is till plagued by its Western mentality which was encouraged by the British rulers who were interested in spreading Christianity. The author says that still there is a large section of the Indian Christians which is giving importance to national interests rather than narrow sectarianism and wants to reduce the dependency of the Church upon the Vatican and other European nations and see it as the Indian Church.
This policy of the Church to spread Christianity wherever possible is making it cross swords with other religious groups and in some states, acquire a destructive tendency. The committees and organisations established by the government to look into the issue have been giving adverse reports but the Church is turning a blind eye to all this. Instead of following the Indian system and law, the Church is giving preference to what the Western organisations want. At times, it feels no qualms in alleging that the administrative machinery and the upholders of law are acting against the interests of the Christians.
This book presents quite a comprehensive account on how to understand the Christian society in relation to Indian nationalism and its movements in establishing an egalitarian society.
(Poor Christian Liberation Movement, A-262 DDA Flat, Ghazipur, Delhi-110 096; www.dalitchristian.conm)
By Jayant Patel
Indian Secularism – Real or Deceptive, K Damodar Reddy, K Anand Kumar, Pp 114, Rs 125.00
Secularism means ‘sarva dharma sambhava’, that is, all religions are equal and all religions should be respected. But, as the author Damodar Reddy says, in India, under a secular government, social and religious reforms posed a ticklish issue before the leaders after Independence. Secularism stood for Hindu-Muslim unity where the Hindu perceived it as tolerance, peaceful co-existence, equality and validity of all religions, whereas the Muslim looked at it differently. Here the author expresses his shock at what Mohammad Ali Jinnah suggested for solving the communal problem and for achieving Hindu-Muslim unity. He said that Hindu girls should be married off to Muslim boys. Another Muslim leader suggested that all Hindus should convert to Islam to achieve unity.
The author seems no less surprised at radical humanists and communists who equated secularism with atheism and agnosticism. He says that the radicals see religion as evil opium that needs to be eliminated from life and religion becomes a State subject to be practiced under the government’s guidance as was seen in Soviet Russia and China.
Here he points out that secularism, in India, is suffering from inner contradictions as there is no distinction between the secular and the sacred. “They are seen as two ends of the same continuum,” when secularisation of society should be the precondition for a satisfactory functioning of secular democracy. The tragic element of Indian secularism is that the “rise of BJP is projected as a threat to secularism. Hindu cultural renaissance is portrayed as the rise of communalism.
(K Anand Kumar, 9-6-365 Vaishalinagar PO, Champapet, Hyderabad-500 079).