What is wrong with Christianity in India? Everything! It is a foreign religion. It came with the foreign invaders. It runs institutions to convert people. School children are influenced by their teaching and preaching. Hence, there is a danger of their falling in the net of Christianity. Tribals and Dalits are taken advantage of for their poverty and ignorance. All their activities, including the so-called charitable works, are aimed at conversion. Mother Teresa wasn’t an exception. It hasn’t contributed anything to Indian culture. A depressing scenario! Hence, its activities should be stopped. All the more so, its reliance on freedom of religion! This is how the Hindu Rashtravadi nationalists look at Christianity with their coloured glass.
With this blinkered view, they are on a crusade. Their vigilantes are leaving no stone unturned to dig out the roots of Christianity and throw them across the Himalayas. They are given a free hand to function as extra-legal task force. Their sadhus and sadvins are spewing venom against Christian missionaries. The attack against Christian believers is reaching unparalleled levels. The Rashtravadi politicians are stirring the cauldron of religion and politics spiced with lies and rumours. The Sangh Parivar is burning the midnight oil to bolster its anti-Christian and anti-minority propaganda machinery.
In fact, what is ‘wrong’ with Christianity is that it preaches a religion that is love-in-service oriented. It believes in human fellowship. It is not a static or theoretical religion. It is dynamic. Its dynamism is seen and felt across the length and breadth of India. Its 2.3% presence in the country is so gripping that it baffles those who wear their religion on their sleeves by confining it to an occasional shrine visit to invoke blessings from the presiding deity. Service minded religious belief or a life in fellowship is not on the agenda of such people. Their religious service or benevolent deeds have a business or political tinge.
Therefore, when such people see the miniscule Christian community runs prestigious quality institutions, charitable service centres irrespective of caste, class or creed, they cannot stomach it. However, the anomaly here is that most of the same people who conspire against Christianity and Christian institutions want to take advantage of the quality education offered by them.
The children who have passed out of these institutions have only praise and respect for their Alma Mater. They would not stand up to give any evidence of coaxing anyone to get converted. In fact, the respect for the Christian principles and values they have absorbed without being coached or coaxed is ample evidence that Christian values are human and universal. They have to do with respect for the other as a human being irrespective of colour or caste, class or creed. They have to do with also human service devoid of corruption, injustice or oppression.
One sees such old students spread out in different walks of life without hatred or rancour in their minds for Christian teachers, pastors or against Christian way of worship. This is noticeable in the Old Students’ Associations, or in their interactions with people who do not belong to their own religion. Amitav Biswas is not a Christian. He passed through a Christian school in 1980s. Today he is a very successful eye specialist. But, because he has absorbed certain humanitarian principles while at school he offers free camp for the poor. He is not an exception. There are many such students who have passed through Christian portals and become successful engineers, business managers, doctors, professors, nuclear scientists etc. who cherish and practice the humanitarian values they absorbed in Christian schools. No one can forget late President Abdul Kalam, ex-student of St. Joseph’s College Trichi in Tamil Nadu. His affectionate remembrance of his Alma Mater and his respect for the priests who enriched him is proverbial. What he did as a rocket scientist or as the head of the Indian nation had a touch of human values and genuine principles.
Appreciation for Christian service is in the hearts of many Hindu brethren too. It is often unexpressed in public. However, there are some who dare to express the worth of such service. UCAN quotes an indigenous leader Gulzar Singh Markam in Madhya Pradesh saying that ‘our children get fair treatment in Christian schools. Many have come up in life because of Christian schools … we need more such schools.’ (UCAN, Oct.03)
But the sinister propaganda against Christian religion is unleashed by a group that is suffused with fundamentalist hate ideology and political opportunism. According to UCAN reporting, Bishop Gerald Almeida of Jabalpur sees the attack on Christian institutions as a scripted agenda of tarnishing the image of Christians through organised campaign of Hindu nationalist groups. Particularly Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh have been becoming more and more the target for attacking Christian institutions such as schools, churches or personnel. The cancer is spreading into Jharkhand and other states.
It is a known fact that politicians with vested interests and fundamentalists with skewed thinking unleash terror through hired freemasons. These are the anti-national elements creating terror in the minds of people in order to make them submit to their ideology. In the present dispensation it is the minority religious communities, the Dalits and the Adivasis, who are becoming the victims of their violence. That is where Christian missions and Christian personnel are facing persecutions consistently.
Let no one think that Christianity in the Indian subcontinent will be terrorised so that its activities could be road-blocked. People of such thinking do not want to accept the contribution Christianity has made to Indian life and culture for the last few centuries. Already in 1590 Jesuit priest Anthony Montserrat, a Spaniard contributed to the knowledge of India’s geographical stretch by being the first Geographer to complete a map of India. The first printing press in India, first time use of telescope on Indian soil (1689), noble contributions to taxonomy, botany, indology, tissue culture, literary works in Tamil, Telugu and Sanskrit, award winning postal service, deciphering Harappan writings etc. are but a few of Christian missionary contributions to Indian culture and development. One wonders if any of the fire spitting sadhus or sadvins or Christian baiters know that the best thesis on Ram ever written and acknowledged as such was Ram Katha written by Fr. Camille Bulke, Belgian and Chotanagpur missionary of happy memory? Nor can one write off the great contribution of Indian priest Jerome D’souza as a member of the Constituent Assembly and four times Indian delegate to the UN. Can anyone obliterate from history Christian contributions in the fields of education, health care, legal awareness, social development etc.? The feeling of worth and dignity, fellowship and equality one feels while in association with Christians is not a figment of imagination. That is where Christianity can be seen as a threat to those who want to keep people enslaved and condemned to caste-class entities.
Christianity is not foreign to persecutions. Its founder was crucified by those who could not accept his acts of fellowship. How could Jesus touch a leper to bless him with a healing touch, asked his ritual-peddling opponents. He was a threat to the establishment for his stand with the poor and the downtrodden. His disciples down the centuries have been lynched, massacred or burnt alive. The Neros of yesteryears live on in the present day scenario too. If Christianity has not only survived but thrived in the face of such persecutions, its life and service will still continue because Christian service is based on the eternal principles of love and service.(Published on 16th October 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 42)