Two of the largest religions, Christianity and Islam are competing on the world stage to spread across the globe. Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world according to some recent studies while Christianity remains as the largest religion in the world. Christianity has already spread also across Africa while there are more than fifty Islamic countries in the world today. With India having more than 100 crores of Hindus, this undoubtedly becomes the land of opportunity for both these monotheistic faiths to spread their wings.
Mass conversion campaigns are happening in many parts of India to convert Hindus. Broadly three different tools are used for the task; 1). By force, 2). by Lure or 3). by making one feel apologetic for being a Hindu. By force, is something which is self-explanatory. It is forcing an individual or a group to get converted to another religion by threatening them. This is unlawful and is something to be dealt with the law. For the same reason this cannot be done on mass scale at least not in a regular interval; it creates too much visibility. The other two ways mentioned above arguably give better results.
The lobby feeds into the social, financial, medical, educational or other problems faced by the people to pull them in. They are promised light if they choose the new path. As an individual, one has all the rights to choose their faith. Be it any faith, the primary purpose of its existence is to support mankind in difficult times. Faith was created by mankind only for the good of mankind. One’s faith is supposed to support them spiritually, to fight their battles. However mass conversions or systematic conversions do not serve that purpose. These are the lobbies who are desperate to spread and with the help of huge funding, most of the people are actually being bought in. The price one must pay to get the support is their consent to convert.
Conversions due to social issues are not new to India. This has been happening for hundreds of years now, thanks to Hindu caste discriminations. The most recent episode of mass-conversion was reported from Coimbatore in the state of Tamil Nadu where 430 Dalits were converted to Islam citing Injustice.
News on conversions happening across the country has become regular today. The conversions been happening in the North-east India is very much visible. There are more than a thousand churches only in the state of Arunachal Pradesh. Based on a report of ET Bureau we can understand that innocence, poverty, health-sickness, prospects for better education etc. are the common root causes for many of the tribal people to give up their rich culture and accept Christianity. Some people are also affected due to superstitious practices followed in the tribal culture. While the Church denies any coercion or alluring from their end to get people converted to Christianity, the Sangh-parivar and natives who work for the preservation of indigenous faith accuse that the church backed by strong funding from outside are able to easily provide to the needy which helps to pull them in.
This is exactly what happened in Africa also. In an article titled “Conflicts between African Traditional Religion and Christianity in Eastern Nigeria: The Igbo example” written by Chukwuma O. Okeke, Christopher N. Ibenwa, Gloria Tochukwu Okeke, it has been detailed how conflicts arose between African natives and missionaries, the core difference between the two religions, the opportunity that Christian missionaries saw in Nigeria to spread their faith, how it progressed, what all it lead to, what was the scale of destruction in lives and property etc. The take-away from the study is that the missionaries first understands the local issues which natives missed/failed to address and then puts forth solution or support. The failure of these native tribes to address the problems of their people by bringing timely changes in their religion was capitalised by the Church.
Mission: Create apologetic Hindus
Here, apologetic-Hindu is a person who is ashamed of himself for being a Hindu. Once they lose self-respect, it is easier to convert them. This is achieved by constantly reminding an individual or a group of the dark phases of discriminative-Hinduism. Lobby representatives bully or intimidate a Hindu individual or Hindu community using dark sides of Hinduism. The intention for doing this is nothing but sowing the idea of conversion into the brains. This campaign is pretty much visible in social media today. With half-baked truths and a truck-load of hypocrisy, there are paid and unpaid lobby reps trying to bully, shame, insult and intimidate Hindus in social media, work-place, schools, colleges etc. The unpaid lobby usually consists of overzealous converts who think they now can hurt the sentiments and values of Hindus with impunity. They try to inflict guilt into Hindu minds by pestering them about how their ancestors were discriminated and manipulated by the ancestors of caste Hindus.
History teaches us that inequality, mistreatment, exploitation and discrimination in the name of caste was the primary cause of conversions in India then also. Casteism which was merely a social administrative tool centuries back, was misused by one group of people to treat the other group unfairly and with indignity. The latter group were denied equality in every strata of societal life. Arguably the biggest blow to Hinduism was the manipulative practice of deciding one’s employment based on one’s birth while it should have been based on virtue. Hinduism believes in rebirth. The manipulated person was convinced by the caste society that he was born in low-caste because of his deeds in previous life and he must live by the guidelines allotted to him. He was made to believe that if he lives by the way he is supposed to, then he will get to reborn in a better caste in the next birth. This was nothing but exploitation of the innocence and illiteracy of so-called low-caste people so that the so-called high caste can enjoy all the privileges of social life.
When foreign faiths started to appear in India, it created an opportunity for the manipulated to not wait until the next birth to enjoy the social privileges but in this life itself. This was their opportunity to finally be treated equally and with dignity. This thought provoked a lot of conversions. To add fuel to the fire, there were many people who were badly affected by the superstitious practices followed in the Hindu culture.
The current scenario
Money, political-power, religious-stature and media-influence make these Conversion-lobbies very powerful. There are accusations that thousands of crores of foreign funds flow into the country to carry out the job. Few years back when the Modi government notified all the NGOs across the country to reveal the source of incoming foreign funds, there were hardly any response from most of them. FCRA licenses of more than 20,000 NGOs have already been cancelled by the Modi government. Out of these 20,000 NGOs, Christian organisations involved in forced conversions are also included. Reason for license-cancellation was due to financial irregularities. These kind of response from the government can only help in slowing down this lobby. Governments will change and laws & restrictions etc. may be amended or lifted tomorrow.
How to resist, the attack and efforts to insult Hinduism: What may not work and what will
Ghar-wapsi (Coming back to home) campaigns are happening across the country. This is the process of bringing back people to Hinduism who once were converted to other religion. Thousands of people and families have been brought back to Hindu-fold over the years. Sangh-parivar organisations has always denied any accusations that this was done by coercion. They maintain that creating awareness among the public is what they are doing and if people are ready to come-back, they are merely organising a platform for the same. However, these are patch-works only. This cannot be a permanent solution to the problem.
Organised efforts to address the root-cause of the conversions with effective corrective-actions can only be the solution to the issue. For the same, Hindus as a whole should throw away casteism from their mind and should treat everyone with respect and dignity. In today’s world education is what determines the employment or path of every individual. Caste has lost its purpose. Understanding the problems and concerns of fellow-men and help bring a solution or relief as a community or through the government is enough. Hindus should also strengthen the hands of organisations like Vishva Hindu Parishad, whose main objective is to protecting Hindu Dharma and defending Hindus and Hindu rights around the world. VHP do not believe in caste systems and is also active in social welfare works.
Current and the future generations of Hindus should be taught the values of Hinduism and what it represents. This timeless culture is capable enough to be embraced by the entire world for its liberal, positive, inclusive and plural nature. This civilisation of Sanatan Dharma has stood for over 10,000 years now. Over these centuries, it surely did face threats of cultural imperialism from across the world but it could not be wiped off from the face of earth is because it was defended strongly by strong men and women. It not only did resist the aggressive imperialist forces but also was flexible enough to make appropriate and timely social corrections within it. The conscience of a learned and proud Hindu will not be easy to shake.
Discrimination is everywhere
It is incorrect to believe that discrimination do not exist in Islam and Christianity. Muslims and Christians have divided themselves into various types. Catholicism, Protestantism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Anglicanism, Oriental Orthodoxy, and Assyrians are some of the types of Christians in Christianity. Sufism, Shia Islam, Sunni Islam etc. are some of the types of Muslims in Islam. They don’t agree with each other on various topics. There are different types of Mosques and likewise Churches for each sects. A Shia Muslim will prefer to pray in a Shia Mosque. Likewise, other Muslims will prefer to pray in their type of Mosques. A Catholic Christian will prefer to pray in a Catholic Church. Likewise, other types of Christians will prefer to pray in their type of Church. At some places, entry into the shrine will not be allowed if they are from a different sect. Allowing and disallowing largely depends upon the extremity nature of a country or head of that particular shrine.
The social-corrections done in Hinduism
In Hinduism low caste people were once regarded as untouchables citing impurity and were not allowed to enter temples. Today every Hindu is allowed in every temple. The dark practice of Untouchability does not exist anymore. Dalits who once were considered as the lowest of castes have been appointed as priests in some of the temples today. From governments, reservations are allotted in the field of education and jobs to speed-up the social-upliftment of the discriminated sections. These are some of those remarkable social corrections which are performed in Hinduism over the years. Even though there is still scope for lot of improvement, arguably Hinduism is in the forefront of doing such social correctness comparing to any other religions in the world.
Sanatan Dharma (Hinduism). What and Why
Hinduism is a way of life. Some of the many materialistic contributions of Hinduism to the world are The first ever university, Yoga, Jewels, Vedas, Colour, Songs, Art, Wealth, Science, Medicine, Architecture, Clothes, Bricks, Numbers and Sanskrit. Some of the non-materialistic contributions of Hinduism to the world would be Faith, Philosophy, Knowledge, Morality, Purpose, God and Guru. This is an inclusive culture, not exclusive. This culture embraces all, excludes none. Hindus pray not only for all of human life but also for animals, plants and nature. This culture teaches to not only worship the creator but also serve the creation. Nowhere in the Hindu scriptures does one even find the word Hindu — the term used to describe these ancient yet timeless teachings is Sanatan Dharma — or eternal way of life. Hinduism emphasises the very oneness of Creation and of paths to the Divine.
Hindus as a whole need not feel apologetic just because some of their ancestors displayed attitude of poor self-righteousness. Learnings from history has always guided mankind to not repeat the same in future and will help to march towards greatness.
It’s high time Hindus realise if they do not listen to the problems of their fellow-men, if they fail to organise and bring solutions to their fellow-men, if they fail to treat everyone equally, then someone else will. At the same time, while each individual has the freedom to choose their own faith, the collective, organised and systematic effort of conversion-lobbies to conspire against the Sanatan Dharma culture with force or coercion should be called-out loud, named, shamed, discouraged and also is to be dealt with iron-fist of law.