A senior Hindu RSS leader told me in an interview for Deccan Herald a couple of years ago: ” The incidents of violence against Christians are a reaction to the aggressive propaganda and mindless evangelism, abusing the Hindu Gods and indulging in similar activities. The incidents are bloated out of proportion. We have decided not to tolerate intolerance of other faiths. Let the Church declare that there can be salvation outside the Church also, and the whole atmosphere will undergo a radical change…”
The statistical approach implied in the words “the unreached millions” is derogatory to neighbours of other faiths. ” Unreached “ by whom? When Indian Christians themselves use these phrases, which have originated outside the country, to describe their neighbours living next door to them in the community, Christians should not be surprised if the nehigbours are offended. (Dr. Samartha).
The real source of danger to the Indian Christian community is not the handful of Hindu extremists. Most of the violent incidents have been due to aggressive evangelising. Other than this there have been few attacks on Christians. Finally the sensitive and sensible Christians must realize that acts of certain “born-again” varieties of Christian evangelists who denigrate Hindu gods and abuse Hindu rituals as barbaric are the root cause of tension between Christian and Hindu communities. Christian leaders known for their erudition, equipoise and empathy should come out in the open to disown such acts of intolerance.
The best and perhaps the only way Indian Christians can bear witness to their faith, is by extending their unconditional love to their neighbours and expecting nothing in return as Jesus Christ showed the world. As such, most of the Indian Christians are against aggressive faith marketing by any religious group because such efforts discredit India’s tradition of respecting all religious thought and also runs counter to the true spirit in which the Constitution grants people the right to profess, practice and propagate their faith.
Many of the Indian Christians were born into Christianity and some others others freely chose to embrace it. They also believe that the Great Commission in the Gospel according to Matthew unequivocally calls us to witness Christ in a pluralistic setting without violating the right of the others to preach, practice and profess his/her faith. Witnessing Jesus cannot in any case be done by questionable means, whether by exploiting people’s socio-psychological vulnerabilities or by running down other religions.
The Christian injunction to make disciples of all nations in today’s context is best honoured by the bearers of the Good News living exemplary Christian lives and showing respect for the nation’s commitment to pluralism, for the larger public good in a civil society. Conversion of faith, given its life-changing nature, stems from a considered personal experience and is less likely in this day and age to be the stuff of dramatic immediacy.
When India’s Supreme Court ruled, in 1977, that a citizen’s right to “profess, practice and propagate” one’s religion does not include the right to convert another it was merely reaffirming both tradition and the Constitution. We believe that every nation should give primacy to maintenance of public order by ensuring safety and security to the life and property of its citizens. India’s all-encompassing culture and secular Constitution allows not only its citizens but also visitors the freedom of religious practice. But, Article 25 of the Constitution which guarantees that right also subjects it to the maintenance of “public order, morality and health” of the citizenry.
Militant Islam and evangelical Christianity are the two remaining Neanderthals who are still committed to proselytization and religious conversions. India will continue to remain hospitable to all religions only if the Muslim fanatics and the Christian fundamentalists will accept the pluralistic tradition of Hindus which is to consider all religions as equal. Pluralistic Christians and liberated Muslims of India have done that. The overwhelming majority of Hindus practice it.
Fundamentalist Christians assert that they alone are the holders of valid visas to heaven and paradise! Many preachers of the Gospel lay enticing traps for people whom they think must be “saved” at all costs. It is worse still that their attitudes, though they (Christians) are a tiny minority in India, often create counter-reaction from among militant Hindus who sometimes incite violence against Christians. The Hindu fundamentalism is a reaction to the provocations of Christian proselytizers. The fanatics among the Christian faith will soon realize that theirs is a losing battle even if they derive their financial and other means of support from the wealthy nations overseas.