I had made this map a long time ago on Community Walk to make it easier to see where all the churches were located. If you do not see your church listed, drop me a line with the information and I will update it for you.
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I had made this map a long time ago on Community Walk to make it easier to see where all the churches were located. If you do not see your church listed, drop me a line with the information and I will update it for you.
This article is written by Mr Vishal Mangalwadi. The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and not necessarily subscribed to by me. I have published this article to expose you to some great thought provoking writing by christian authors.
December 4, 2008
“If conversion activities are allowed unhampered, this will ignite a mighty reaction from the Hindus. Shourie characterizes this as a forecast?” India Today, January 17, 2000
“Settle matters quickly with your adversary . . . Do it while you are still with him on the way . . . “
The Lord Jesus, Matthew 5:25
For Indian Christians, Christmas ‘08 could become bloody like the original Good Friday. On November 15, about 100,000 Hindus issued an ultimatum that if the Government failed to arrest the [Christian-Maoist] murderers of Swami Laxamananda Saraswati by December 15, then Hindus would enforce a state-wide Bandh (closure) in Orissa. Translation: Murderous mobs, not Santa Claus, will visit Orissa this Christmas. If police interfered, then anger will be exported to the rest of the country.
The Church in India may experience a level of persecution no one thinks could happen in a democracy. An important reason for this is that no individual or forum has made it a national priority to pursue Jesus’ advice to make peace with one’s adversary while there is still time. Many Christian leaders have invested much time and energy in responding to the Orissa crisis. Some have negotiated peace at private levels. There are beautiful stories of true discipleship, but there has been no Esther-like leader to turn away the tidal wave of expected tsunami.
Different Stars Are Aligning this Christmas
Arun Shourie is a highly respected Hindu writer. In the 1980s, he headed India’s then largest Newspaper chain, Indian Express, and five years ago was a Minister for Disinvestment in the Pro-Hindutva BJP Government. (“Hindutva” wants Hinduism(s) to be India’s state religion(s).) In his book, Harvesting Our Souls (2000), Mr. Shourie shared his assessment that some Hindu forces were ready to launch a major, violent attack on Christians to try and stop conversions. He was not issuing a threat. He was, he said, making a forecast. Only the ignorant would ignore Shourie. He knows what he is talking about:
· For three years Shourie had predicted a major attack on the Sikhs before it came in 1984: the Hindus killed thousands of Sikhs and burnt their homes, businesses and Gurudwaras (During those riots they also burnt down the community my wife and I had founded.)
· Shourie had predicted a massive attack on Indian Muslims which came following the demolition of the Babri Mosque in December 1992.
· Shourie’s writings played a decisive role in the bloody riots that followed V. P. Singh’s 1991 decision to implement the recommendations of the Mandal Commission to grant Reservations to the Other Backward Castes (OBCs) and “Reservation” or Affirmative Action is a critical issue in Orissa conflict.
· Several factors delayed Shourie’s forecast re the massacre of Christians: three important reasons are:
(a) The BJP was ruling the Central Government and he was a part of it. I would like to believe that ministers like him would not have permitted major riots during their reign.
(b) In any case, soon after his forecast the Hindutva movement began to be demoralized by the Anti-Hindu party – the BSP – and Udit Raj’s daring step to initiate a mass conversion movement in November 2001
But this Christmas, devilish stars seem to be aligning for Shourie’s forecast to come true:
(i)Conversions out of Hinduism have become a social revolution. At the epicenter of the recent violence against Christians, as many as 30% of the population has quit Hinduism to become Christians. Many have also become Maoists.
(ii)The Ambedkarite, Maoist and Christian campaigns of the last decade have made Hindus restless and insecure.
(iii)The terror attacks in Mumbai have set those restless hearts on fire and many Hindus feel the need to show their anger and their strength.
(iv)The Church happens to be both the softest target as well as the biggest long term threat: No one is converting to Islam; Buddhism is a minor irritation; the army will eventually handle the Maoists.
(v)Christianity, they think, can only be stopped by mobs since anti-conversion laws, police and courts have already failed and the army cannot be sent against evangelists and social workers.
(vi)It has become a political necessity for Hindutva to re-invent its hard line image to try and win the ‘09 General Elections.
(vii)Christian leadership’s response to the Orissa crisis has given to Hindutva the perfect excuse it needs to launch its bloody crusade to try and stop conversions throughout the nation.
The last of the above three – the inadequate Christian response to the Orissa crisis – is the primary concern of this article. I repeat this is not the cause of the anticipated attack, it is the excuse.
Was Orissa Violence “Religious Persecution?”
Phrase “Religious Persecution” suggests that someone is being abused for choosing, practicing or propagating a faith. None of these triggered the violence in Orissa in December 2007 or August 2008, even though conversion is the underlying issue and the innocent do have the right to describe their unjust suffering as “persecution.”
An important (though not the only) source of violence that began in December 2007 was the fact that in certain districts of Orissa the Dalit or Scheduled Caste (SC) converts to Christ had become an economic threat to the Scheduled Tribe (ST) Animists. For example:
· The law prevents non-Tribals from buying lands belonging to Tribals. If a law is unjust, mechanisms exist to change that law. But individual Christians were using fraudulent means to get lands they were not entitled to own.
· Laws governing Affirmative Action programs allow an ST (i.e., Animist) to become a Christian or a Muslim and retain the benefits of these programs, but the law does not allow a SC (Dalit) to become a Christian and also take the benefits meant to bring SCs out of their backwardness. The law appears to be unjust and the matter is in the Supreme Court.
· However, the (debatable) injustice had little practical bearing because the vast majority of SC converts to Christ remain Hindus on paper and therefore are able to take the benefits of the quota system called “Reservations.”
· The SC leaders in some parts of Orissa decided not to wait for the Court verdict but launch an agitation demanding to be reclassified as STs partly because they believe that to classify them as SC was an injustice. Also, the ST status would entitle them to several benefits (e.g. land rights) that they would not get even if the Supreme Court were to change the laws governing Reservations for SCs. This socialist agitation by Christians became a threat to the STs who feared that if SCs are reclassified as STs, then, better educated Christian children will get the admissions, scholarships, jobs, bank loans, lands and other opportunities that come to them at present.
· Christian leaders allowed this socialist approach to end poverty to turn into a fight for entitlements between two communities (SCs and STs). In this conflict Swami Laxamananda Saraswati saw an opportunity to get some traction for his anti-conversion agenda. Let me explain:
How do you keep hundreds of thousands of people in the Hindu fold as “low caste” and “untouchables?” It is not easy to appease so many slaves. The Tribals are Animists, not Hindus. Most Tribals see themselves as victims of socio-economic dominance of Hindus. In this part of Orissa, however, their immediate threat came not from High Caste Hindus but from Hindus-turned-Christian Dalits. This enabled the Swami to mobilize the Tribals against the converts. The Tribals responded to him favorably for several reasons including,
(a) The followers of Christ had been insensitive to Tribals who are poorer and less educated than Christians and
(b) Getting rid of Christians enables Tribals to possess their properties and take their jobs.
A genuine “saint” would have tried to win poor Christians into the Hindu fold by empathizing with their poverty and need. He would have used his position to reconcile the warring groups and fight their common enemy – poverty. In order to reconvert people to Hinduism a Hindu “saint” would have championed poor Christians by asking the Government to consider their plight. But those are Christian ideas of sainthood. The Western Church supports missionaries to serve poor Hindus, but sadly, many rich Hindus pay their leaders to harass the poor who convert to Islam and Christianity.
Be that as it may, Christian leaders played into the Swami’s hands and made his strategy work. On Christmas Day 2007, their political conflict turned bloody. The Swami alleged that a group of Christians attacked him. Hindus believed him and responded by killing Christians and burning their homes and churches.
Is it possible that Christians may have attacked the Swami in December 2007? Christian investigators have confirmed that during those riots Christians did kill a few Hindus/Tribals and burn some Hindu/Animist homes. Therefore, it is not unthinkable that some Christians may, in fact, have attacked the Swami. (This is not to say that Hindu leaders and police officers do not fabricate false cases to harass, arrest, and even kill innocent people. I was arrested a few times myself. Once, a Superintendent of Police – an IPS officer – spent two hours telling me that he would personally kill me if I did not cancel a public prayer meeting. Responsible public figures have claimed that the Indian police killed hundreds of innocent Sikhs in cold blood in Punjab in fake “encounters with terrorists.”) So, while it is possible that the accusers are lying, the unfortunate truth remains that investigators have confessed that some “Christians” did kill Hindus in the winter of 2007-‘08.
Fresh violence erupted after 23 August 2008, because a gang of 20-40 people armed with AK 47 rifles, pistols and grenades went into a girls’ Ashram and killed the Swami and four of his associates. Maoists, who are a dreaded force in that area, took the responsibility for murdering the Swami in defense of helpless Christians. The Hindus held Christians responsible for the murder partly because the Swami (apparently) had no history of a quarrel with the Maoists.
On 16th October, Mr. Arun Ray, the Inspector General of Police said in an interview with the Press Trust of India that there was evidence that “Maoists were given money to train certain youth of a particular community [i.e., Christian] to eliminate Saraswati.”
So, did Nero set Rome on fire and then blame the Christians to mobilize mobs against them? Many Christians believe that history may be repeating itself in Orissa because there is evidence that Hindu gangs had been brought from Gujarat at least for December ’07 violence. Whatever the truth, my point is that most Hindus did not attack Christians for practicing or propagating their faith but because they believed that Christians had eliminated a Hindu leader who was serving Tribals and standing up in defense of the poor. Militant Hindus needed an excuse and Christians or Maoists gave it to them. This leads me to the heart of the matter:
Who is Responsible for the Swami’s Murder: Individuals or a Community?
Normally individuals who go out to murder and those who support them directly are responsible for a crime. The law has to deal with those individuals. Sometimes, however, a crime is committed on behalf of a community. For example, two Sikh bodyguards killed Mrs. Indira Gandhi even though they had no personal quarrel with her. They killed her on behalf of the Sikh community. No Sikh leader may have asked them to do so, but ordinary Sikhs celebrated the murder by distributing sweets to their neighbors, just as many Muslims danced on the streets when terrorists struck the Twin Towers in New York.
When crimes are committed on behalf of a community then the community has to respond appropriately. The Sikhs in 1984 and the Muslims on 9/11/2001 responded inappropriately. Sikh saints and Muslim Mullahs did not come out publicly mourning Mrs. Gandhi’s murder or the attack on innocent civilians in New York.
Communal crimes have dimensions that go beyond legal matters. While lawyers and courts continue to have vital roles, community crimes require that community leaders take the responsibility to lead. Sikh and Muslim leaders failed their community and innocent Sikhs and Muslims paid for crimes committed by a few.
· In the present case, the Hindus and Tribals hold the Christian community responsible for the Swami’s murder because the Swami was not killed for a private quarrel. He was killed in part for defending the socio-economic interests of poor Tribals, threatened by a Christian community that had organized itself to harm the interest of the poor, to take what belongs to the Tribals.
· Christians have not mourned his murder committed on their behalf but have gone on to condemn Hindus, the police and the government as fascists. This is building up the volcanic pressure that is expected to erupt on Christmas Day.
· The Hindus have reasons to be upset that Christian spokesmen have represented them as monsters in order to mislead national and global Christian community into supporting a group of Christians who are bent on harming poor Tribals.
· The Hindus fear that at least some unscrupulous Christian leaders would raise money in the name of relief but pass it on to Maoists to murder more Hindus.
Why Do the Maoists Support Christians?
For nearly a century, Communists of many shades persecuted Christians wherever they could. Consequently, our generation grew up on stories such as Tortured for Christ and perceived all Communists as enemies of the Gospel. That Communism is virtually dead. In Nepal and in India the Maoists believe that Hinduism is the opium of the masses.
According to journalist Sumanta Ray Chaudhuri, the latest amended draft of the Maoist Constitution in India calls for a total boycott of sacred symbols of Tribal worship such as stones, trees and animals as well as boycott of Hindu religious epics such as Mahabharata and Ramayana. “The Maoists” she says, “have called for action against those who propagate such religious sentiments or popularise such epics.”
Besides launching a Jihad against Animism and Hinduism, the Maoists are also active in supporting evangelists. At times, Maoists escort evangelists into remote villages where police officers are afraid to go. They summon everyone to hear the Gospel. The evangelists may show a film such as the “Jesus Film”. Half-way through the film the Maoists would stop the film and give a lecture on Maoism. Then they would resume the film and ask an evangelist to give Alter Call. Following a fellowship meal the evangelists would be escorted back to their base! I have heard at least one credible report that Christians and some Maoists spent 2 days together fasting and praying!
Christian leaders have not reported these stories to their supporters because (a) many of them can’t make sense of what they are hearing and (b) they are also embarrassed by the fact that their mission is supported by “terrorists.” What are they to do?
So, what exactly is happening?
1. At the simplest level, Maoists and the evangelists may come from the same ethnic group (caste or tribe) and may even be related. It is not unusual for one brother to follow Mao and the other to follow Christ.
2. Many Maoists accept the Ambedkarite belief that not Capitalism but Hinduism is the root of India’s backwardness. Since everyone cannot follow Maoists into jungles, the least Maoists want people to do is to get out of the socio-religious systems that have enslaved them.
3. The Maoists know that the Marxist economic theory has failed. Like the Communists in China and Nepal, they suspect that Christianity has something to do with the relative success of the West, even if neither the evangelist nor the Jesus film can explain to them what Christ has to do with the West’s incredible progress. Therefore,
4. Maoists have invited some Christian agencies to start schools and community development projects in their villages. They have given protection as well as practical support to Christians. These relationships have tremendous redemptive potential. The following anecdotes illustrate the changing face of Communism:
5. China: Recently, I participated in a secular conference in a Western nation along with several Chinese scholars. The eldest Chinese professor was also a senior member of the ruling Communist Party in China. On the last full day of this secular conference he asked for and was baptized by his Chinese friends. He told us that before coming for this conference he had started formal discussions within his party to open up to religion.
6. India: For decades the Communist parties in India had identified the Congress Party as their Enemy # 1 and the West as their Enemy #2. Four years ago, they voted in favor of making Mrs. Sonia Gandhi – an Italian born, Roman Catholic woman – the Prime Minister of India. Why did they do so?
Obviously, many factors favored that decision, but for me the most amazing explanation came from an Indian software engineer who called from Chicago. “You do not know me, Dr. Mangalwadi,” he said, “but I have tracked you down because I have interesting news for you. Several years ago I was working for a software company in Hyderabad and I used to be in and out of the Parliament House in Delhi for work. I bought 70 copies of your book Missionary Conspiracy: Letters to a Postmodern Hindu” and gave them to the Members of Parliament that I met.
“Now I work for a US Company and I was back in the Parliament House on behalf of this Company. I ran into Mr. [xyz], a General Secretary of a Communist Party. He asked me, ‘Are you the gentleman who gave me a copy of the letters to Arun Shourie?’
“When I told him, I was, he said, ‘You know it was because of that book that we decided to support Sonia Gandhi. That book told us how good Christianity has been for India and we thought may be, as a Christian she too will be good for our country.’”
7. Orissa: All observers are aware that various Communist parties and forums are visiting Orissa and issuing statements in favor of “persecuted Christians.” Is it just because the elections are around and they are fishing in troubled waters? Some of them may be doing nothing more than that. But it is also possible that like their counterparts in China, Indian Communists and Maoists are also looking for their soul – a religious worldview that will save their souls and emancipate India from her shackles.
Several Christians have said to me that the news that a growing nexus is emerging between some Maoists and Christians should not be made public as that add fuel to the fires. That risk is genuine. But the larger problem is our Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is right when he says that the Maoist movement has become the single biggest internal security threat in India. For a while, it is likely to become a problem bigger than Islamic terrorism. The Maoists are creating a Compact Revolutionary Zone in Eastern India from Nepal all the way down to Kerala to launch a national revolution. The army will have to engage with this problem. But crushing our youth who really care for issues of justice and poverty will be a moral defeat for Indian democracy. A Spiritually strong and intellectually informed Church can redeem the situation, while a carnal Church will be corrupted and destroyed by the Maoists.
The Maoists will not go into the arms of Hindu saints but they may listen to thoughtful, courageous and godly Christians. The Church could play a major role in reforming the Maoists and blessing the nation, provided it is open to a spiritual and theological renewal. In order to play a proactive role in this matter the Church will need the courage to embrace Maoists, which will require owning the moral responsibility for the murders the Maoists have committed in defense of the Church. As I will propose below, I think some Christian leaders need to go the Ashram where the Swami was killed, fast and pray for 24 hours for that sin and call upon the Maoists to repent.
Why Must the Church Make Peace with Her Adversaries?
Our Lord’s injunction:
I have no reason to doubt the Maoists that they killed the Swami in defense of the Christian community. Police says it has evidence that Christians collected money to pay Maoists to train some Christians and to accompany them on their mission to murder.
These assertions may not be proven for years, but the Hindus already believe them. No Christian has, as yet, offered an explanation for the murder better than the police. However, some Christians of great integrity are conducting private inquiry to find out if some Christians were involved in the murder. It is of utmost importance for Christians to seek truth in this matter, wherever it leads. Some Christian leaders have done good work for relief, others have (no doubt) misappropriated funds meant for relief the sad part is that we have had no Desmond Tutu focused on Truth and Reconciliation.
The Hindus have already acted on their belief that Christians planned and executed the murder along with the Maoists, and now they seem ready to launch a historic “crusade” which had been planned before Orissa was on the radar. So, what should the Church do? The Lord Jesus said in Matthew 5:23-25:
“If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. Settle matters quickly with your adversary . . . Do it while you are still with him on the way. . .”
The Moral of a Biblical Tragedy
“Christian-Maoists” some friends protest “are at best a handful of black sheep, why should we take them seriously?” The problem is that it was a small group Benjamites in Gibeah who raped and killed the Concubine in Judges 19. That small crime led to the massacre of virtually the entire tribe of the Benjamites because instead of mourning an evil committed by a few of their wicked men they practiced tribal loyalty.
Christian leaders have acted more or less like the Benjamite leaders who did not know that in Judeo-Christian tradition leading God’s people involves taking responsibility for their moral health and dealing with wickedness. These leaders should not murmur if Hindus decide to discipline their morally undisciplined followers. Hindutva can match Maoist brutality since it has never shown much interest in cultivating “godly” followers.
A Lesson from Contemporary History
Christian “leaders” who think that leadership role does not require them to inquire if some of their followers may have murdered the Swami are asking the government to prove to their satisfaction that some Christians were involved in this crime. This is not different then the Taliban Government in Afghanistan. When President Bush asked them to arrest Osama bin Laden for the attack of 9/11, the Taliban asked him to prove that Osama was responsible. Well, some Hindus are planning to respond like President Bush.
What Must the Church Do to Initiate Peace and Reconciliation?
Since the Swami’s murder has a community dimension, a group of Christian leaders need to take moral responsibility for the crime committed on their behalf and go to the Jalespeta Ashram where the Swami was murdered. They should spend 24-hours in fasting and prayer as an act of penance for the sins of the Maoists (some of whom may have been members of a Church at some time). Through the national and international media they should call upon everyone to repent who has killed the Swami or other Hindus/Tribals. Following a season of vicarious repenting and mourning Christian leaders should call upon some national leaders, public intellectuals and celebrities to help bring about reconciliation and peace.
The Church could ask national leaders such as Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Arun Shourie, Arjun Singh, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Sitaram Yechuri, Ratan Tata and celebrities such as Amitabh Bachhan to go to Orissa to meet with the representatives of the Government, Oriya Christians, Hindus, Tribals and the Maoists to initiate a process of reconciliation. Some Hindu leaders may choose to apologize for the violence committed by the Hindus and offer compensation to Christian families who lost loved ones. They could be encouraged to create a fund for the children orphaned in previous riots and managed by a Reconciliation Committee.
Church leaders should obtain from the government an assurance of safe passage for the Maoists to be able to meet with them first privately and then to organize meetings between the Government, national leaders and the Maoists to initiate a healing process and addressing the issues of poverty, corruption and inequality.
Christian leaders should also meet with the leaders of Dalit Christians, Tribals and the Government, to find either a resolution to the demand of Reservations for poor Christians or find credible alternatives to help them out of their poverty (e.g. establishment of good schools, colleges, technical education, universities and industries).
“Why should the Church repent for a murder it did not commit or ask for?”
Why did Jesus die for the sins that he did not commit? If Jesus could take our sin upon him, surely Christian leaders can consider taking the sins of the Maoists (who acted on behalf of the Church) upon themselves to bring forgiveness, healing, reconciliation and peace.
The Maoists have loved Christians enough to go out and kill on their behalf. Now the Church needs to love the Maoists enough to embrace them and reform them. It is foolish to see them as enemies. They are rejecting Hinduism for Marxist-Ambedkarite reasons. Some of them have been helping frontline evangelists and Christian service missions. They have threatened to kill more Hindu leaders and have released their hit list. There are credible reports that following the recent riots many Christian youth have joined them. Their actions will thrust the church and the nation into a far bigger mess. Therefore, both biblically and pragmatically it is necessary for the Church to become a proactive peace-maker even if no one’s job description requires them to do so.
The Church has condemned the murder of the Swami and the Hindus have dismissed those condemnations as hypocrisy. Condemning the murder implies condemning those who risked the gallows in order to defend Christians whom neither the Government nor the Church was able to protect. Condemnation appears hypocritical to the Hindus and alienates the Maoists who have rejected Hinduism and are in search of a new home.
Public repentance and mourning for the murders would imply owning the murderers, while disowning the murder. It could give to the Church a unique opportunity to embrace Marxists of various kinds and seek to reform or educate them. The Church cannot approve of the violence, but it cannot establish peace without embracing the Maoists as Christ embraced sinners and social outcasts.
In embracing and owning the Maoists the Church would not do anything different than what the Hindus and the Congress did in embracing say Subhash Chandra Bose or Shaheed Bhagat Singh. Both Bose and Congress opposed British Raj. Bose attempted to kill the British; the Congress was commitment to non-violence. Nevertheless, the Congress chose to honor him and helped rehabilitate his army. India Inc has driven Maoists into jungles. The Church can serve the nation by bringing them back into mainstream by embracing them and talking to them and finding creative solutions to their just grievances.
Is this proposal biblical?
Vicarious repentance and atonement are not significant dimensions of contemporary “evangelical” theology, but they are very biblical.
Exodus 32: 30-32:
The next day Moses said to the people, “You have committed a great sin. But now I will go up to the LORD; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.” So Moses went back to the LORD and said, “Oh, what a great sin these people have committed! They have made themselves gods of gold. But now, please forgive their sin—but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written.”
Exodus 34: 8-9
Moses bowed to the ground at once and worshiped. “O Lord, if I have found favor in your eyes,” he said, “then let the Lord go with us. Although this is a stiff-necked people, forgive our wickedness and our sin, and take us as your inheritance.”
Job 1: 4-5
His sons used to take turns holding feasts in their homes, and they would invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would send and have them purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, “Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s regular custom.
Daniel 9: 1-6
In the first year of Darius. . . I, Daniel . . . turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes. I prayed to the LORD my God and confessed . . . we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. . . . We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our fathers, and to all the people of the land. . . . but because of your great mercy. O Lord, listen! O Lord, forgive!
Isaiah 53: 4-5
Surely he [The Messiah] took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
Philemon vs. 17-19
So if you consider me a partner, welcome him [Onesimus] as you would welcome me. If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me. I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back
Should Christians Stop Converting?
Admittedly, public repentance for the communal guilt will not take away the Hindu wrath against conversions. However, it will take away the immediate excuse that Swami’s murder has given to the Hindus to mount a national offensive against Christians.
Many Church leaders and theologians will no doubt ask all Christians to stop all conversions for the sake of peace. At that point peace-makers and peace-lovers will need to part company. The Lord Jesus has called us to be peace-makers, not peace-lovers. Fifty thousand lower-caste “Hindus” have chosen to become homeless and live in jungles and refugee camps in order to follow Christ. They can have a kind of peace and return to their homes, fields and businesses if they reconvert to Hinduism. But they have preferred suffering over the slavery of Hinduism and the Church has to suffer with them. Suffering for the sake of righteousness and His kingdom is “religious persecution” and we have to find grace to rejoice in such suffering. A Christ-like peace-maker is also a trouble-maker.
In the long run the only way to establish just peace and prosperity is make disciples of the Prince of Peace. Persecution will become impossible when a substantial section of the Other Backward Castes (OBCs) begin to follow Christ. They constitute 52% of India and are beginning to accept Ambedkar’s analysis that Hinduism is an important source of their backwardness.
Understanding Conversion Revolution:
Why are the lower castes quitting Hinduism in such large numbers that Hindus have become alarmed?
Those who believe that all religions are the same, refuse to come to terms with the fact that Hinduism is not built on the teaching “love your neighbor as yourself.” Many Christians do not love their neighbors, but Hinduism requires its followers to treat some of their neighbors as “low caste” if not “untouchable” and “polluting”. For example, when he was a child Mahatma Gandhi’s mother taught him that Uka – the boy who cleaned their lavatories – was “untouchable”. Any accidental contact with him required a cleansing bath. While studying in England, Gandhi experienced the beauty of a different culture, one built on the biblical assumption that human beings were created equal. He was liberated by white families affirming his human dignity.
This “English” Gandhi revolted against inequality when the racial arrogance of white South Africans violated his dignity. He devised his weapon of Satyagraha – passive, non-violent resistance – to use his opponents’ biblical view of human equality against their routine violation of the Bible. Gandhi liked the biblical ideas of human equality and the dignity of a sweeper so much that he forced his wife to host untouchables in their home. While he rejected his parent’s faith privately, he felt it necessary to compromise with caste perspective in order to carry the Hindu elite with him. His ambivalence expressed itself vividly in controversy over conversion:
In 1935, Newspapers reported that in village Kavitha in Ahmedabad (in Gandhi’s native state of Gujarat) the upper caste Hindus had committed horrible atrocities against some “untouchables”. Columbia University educated Untouchable leader, Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar, had been thinking about conversion for a while. In a Depressed Classes conference in Yeoli in Maharashtra, on October 14, 1935, he made his famous announcement that he was born a Hindu and had no choice, but he will not die a Hindu because he does have a choice. Ambedkar’s resolve initiated a national debate on conversion.
John R. Mott, the American founder of the YMCA, asked Mahatma Gandhi if he thought it was wrong to “preach the Gospel with reference to its acceptance.” The Mahatma responded in his paper Harijan (19 & 26 December, 1936):
Would you, Dr. Mott, preach the Gospel to a cow? Well, some of the ‘untouchables’ . . . can no more distinguish between the relative merits of Islam and Hinduism and Christianity than a cow . . . If you must share [the Gospel] with the Harijans, why don’t you share it with Thakkar Bapa and Mahadev? Why should you go to the ‘untouchables’ and try to exploit this upheaval?
Dr. Ambedkar was not the only one enraged by Mahatma Gandhi’s view of the Dalits. Gandhi’s own follower Jagjivan Ram – a gifted, young, ‘untouchable’ Congressman from Bihar – registered his protest. Gandhi had demonstrated that Hinduism’s caste arrogance was worse than the racial arrogance of white South Africans: It assumes that most of the “untouchable” Hindus are an inherently lower species – like animals. Indeed the Hindu Law of Manu classifies Untouchables as “talking animals”!
This prejudice that marred Mahatma Gandhi’s legacy not only continues to this day, but is reinforced each time an educated, upper caste, “secular” Hindu argues that missionaries should not attempt to convert the “Lower Castes.” This condescending attitude drives militant Hindus such as Swami Laxamananda Saraswati to try and save the lower castes from Christian missionaries, if necessary by force. But why should anyone follow a Swami who believes that they are stupid animals, incapable of thinking for themselves and therefore have to be herded into the Hindu fold with a stick?
Hindus, secularists and Liberal Christians are opposed to conversions and they have every right to hold and propagate their anti-conversion views. Ambedkarites, Maoists and biblical Christians are pro-conversion and we have every right to practice and preach our ideas.
· Maoists along with the Marxists of various shades see Hinduism as the opium of the people in India and Nepal
· Ambedkarites believe that Brahminism is the cause of India’s backwardness; and
· The Bible teaches that false deities, doctrines and demons enslave, while truth liberates.
These three groups want everyone to have the liberty to seek truth.
These conflicting ideas about conversion do constitute a genuine controversy and it is the responsibility of the government to ensure that this controversy is carried out with civility and within a framework of law. If one party (e.g. some Hindus) decide to use force to impose their anti-conversion beliefs and the Government fails in its duty to enforce law and order then the Christian duty is to rejoice in persecution. Maoists may prefer countering violence with violence, but at that point a Christian will have to part company with the Maoists. However, when the government itself begins to kill innocent people as a matter of policy then a Christian as a citizen could legitimately consider joining a civil war as a moral option.
What about Reservations?
While the Swami was angry about conversions, Tribals became violent over the agitation concerning Reservations (among other things). Reservation is an explosive issue. In the case of Orissa it has also become an issue of group identity with layers of economic and emotional issues. Christian leaders have inflamed passions by issuing simplistic political statements about Reservations for Dalit Christians.
The reality in Orissa is that the Scheduled Caste Christians are not asking for Reservations for Dalit Christians, they want to be reclassified as Scheduled Tribes. Godly leaders who care about poverty need to engage with this issue seriously and mediate the conflict between Dalit Christians and Tribals.
Obviously, reclassifying the Scheduled Castes (Dalits) as Scheduled Tribes is one way to solve the problem. Even if this solution was to be accepted, the nation and the Church will need to find answers to the Tribals’ fears that Dalit-turned-Tribal Christian kids will take over the meager benefits Reservations give to the Tribal Children.
I am yet to understand the issues involved in the Orissa conflict, but I do know that the Church should not start out blaming the Government for denying Scheduled Caste Christians the benefit of Reservations. In my assessment, historically, 50% of the blame for the present poverty of the Dalits rests upon the Hindus, 40% upon the Church (including the British Raj) and only 10% upon the Government of India. If the Church had not kept the Dalits out of its educational institutions for two centuries they would have been governing free India.
Just 10 years ago I asked the Indian Principal of an English Medium Christian High School, “How many dalit children do you have in your school?”
He replied, “One – the son of our gardener.”
“Why?” I asked him, “Surely there are at least 50 Dalit families in the city who can pay the tuition? Besides, American sponsors are giving you fees for at least 75 students.”
“My predecessor,” the Principal explained, “(an evangelical, American missionary) started the tradition of interviewing the parents in order to admit the children. Children’s IQ or parents’ ability to pay the fee are not sufficient for admissions. Parents have to display a certain, minimum standard of culture” . . . (i.e. the kind of Sari and jewelry the mother wears or if their child is sent to school on a scooter or a bicycle) Happily this is changing and the new Principal of St. Stephen’s College (Delhi) has to be commended for his courage in Reserving a percentage of seats for the lower castes - a step of great symbolic value.
The pioneer of Protestant missions in India, William Carey, began by making children of all castes sit together. Later, the upper caste parents told the missionaries that their children would not sit with the lower caste kids. The Church and the British East India Company stopped admitting lower caste students. The Church could have said that our educational institutions will practice human equality, if the Brahmins do not want their children to learn this truth, then their children don’t need to attend Christian schools.
I do not as yet have the information needed to discuss this problem in depth, my point here is that the Church has played a major role in creating the present bloody problem and, therefore, the Church needs to engage with the issues seriously – not with cheap political statements demanding reservations.
Whatever one thinks about the affirmative action programs known as Reservations, the fact remains that the Government can eliminate an important source of conflict in several parts of India by choosing to treat the Scheduled Castes the same way it treats the Scheduled Tribes – i.e. by giving them the right to choose their faith and remain a part of their caste, deriving whatever “Reservation” benefits the law gives to their caste. Reservations may be a bad idea (and in principle, I don’t like the policy), but if Reservations are a part of the official remedy for backwardness, then they need to be implemented justly, not as a means of promoting a Brahmin cal social order.
Conversion is a Human Rights issue while Reservation for Scheduled Caste Christians has become a Justice issue because even a bad policy has to be implemented justly.
The Lord Jesus said that to be a child of God means to be a peace-maker (Matthew 5:9) and that the children of God will have the kingdom of God, if they accept persecution and suffering for the sake of righteousness (Matt 5: 10-12).
I have proposed only one step to start a nationally visible mission for peace. God’s kingdom will come and His will will be done on earth when thousands of peace initiatives are launched at the grassroots. These will require the power of the Holy Spirit to persevere in repentance and forgiveness, to repay good for evil. These creative initiatives will mend hearts and replace hate with love. They will make it possible for neighbors to live together in harmony, serving each other and their Creator.
This article is written by Mr Vishal Mangalwadi. The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and not necessarily subscribed to by me. I have published this article to expose you to some great thought provoking writing by christian authors.
Most people think of the Bible as a densely printed book with no pictures, but a version of the scripture that resembles a glossy coffee table magazine aims to change that. It’s part of a wave of radical presentations of the Bible, including a manga version and a Lego gospel. But how do Christians feel about these attempts to spread the word?
Follow this link to read an interesting article on the changing face of the Bible.
I got an email today encouraging me to read this book written by Deepak Chopra. Do not be misled by the title and do not be misled by the views expressed in the book. You need to read it and understand that being a follower of Jesus is not easy.
People like Deepak Chopra are constantly trying to dilute the life transforming power of Jesus into something that will be ‘acceptable’. For example - lets not talk about sin - Why? Well, it is annoying and it makes people feel guilty etc. etc.
Anyway, rather than rant on I will ask you to read the following reviews on the book.
Book review by Frank Desparrois, Jr
Skeptical of the ‘Third Jesus’
Many times a day I receive emails that frankly I could do without. I delete some without even looking at them and then there are others that i skim through. This one was entitled ‘Resume of Jesus’. Intrigued I opened it and here it is.
It is definitely ‘cheesy’ and is borderline creative in my books.
Anyway, here it is - think what you may and comment away…
Then when I came to Canada, my first job at The Strategic Coach I was reporting to Cathie, a Canadian. She shared with me everything about her job fully realising, in the back of her mind, that I could potentially take over her job. Ironically that is what happened, in a couple of years, she was let go and I was made the Financial Controller. What I appreciated about her is her willingness to share all the finer points of the job without having any concern about her own job security. By the way, for those of you who are wondering, we still keep in touch and are good friends.
When I started the website in 2003, it was the only website catering to the south asian christians here in Toronto. In the North American context, the website wasn’t a pioneer but I would say that it has certainly been a catalyst to start up many other websites. I have to tell you I felt deep resentment when a new website would be launched. I would be furious, I felt that I was entitled to be included in the decision. I did not want to share cyberspace with anyone. It started burning me up and then as I prayed and asked God to help me I was able to let go. I am in a position today that I am able to share information with other websites and have no problems in not being ‘exclusive’. I have learnt to share, to let go.
The reason I shared all of these experiences is to help you get a sense that ’sharing’ is often times painful. However it is a mark of maturity and it definitely contributes to your personal growth. So where is the winning in all of this? I lost my practice, Cathie lost her job, my website lost its exclusivity. The winning was intangible but very powerful.
My father’s giving heart touched many lives, particularly mine, letting go of Umesh taught me that I cannot grow by robbing others, it wasn’t the end of the world, infact it was the beginning of a brand new one. Cathie’s willingness to be open helped me pattern the training plan for my accounting team and by God’s grace they are responsible and accountable colleagues who are empowered by my willingness to share. My website is stronger than it has ever been, the openness forces me to be creative and I am able to stay true and focussed on what it is that I want to do rather than copy others.
I recognise that as a believer in Jesus Christ and having surrendered my life to Him, I am expected to be a sharing person. However, when we accept Jesus in our lives we do not change right away. What I mean to say is - we do not automatically become loving, caring, sharing & nurturing people from the very day that we invite Jesus into our lives. For some of us many of the fruits of the spirit take a long time to show up.
As our lives are gradually transformed and we begin to exhibit love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control and then we find it easier to let go of things that do not matter. At the end of it all - what is it all about? Its all about glorifying the Father through our lives, that is what we are here for. When we do that we teach others to glorify Him as well.
If you are holding on to something because it makes you feel powerful, remember, your power and strength is from the Lord, He is the giver of everything. Let go of the temporary and take a hold of the permanent and you will grow - guaranteed.
Sharing is something that we are all taught since childhood. Playing with our toys as kids, we are taught to let others have an opportunity to enjoy them with us as well. As we grow older sharing takes on a life of its own. Looking back at my own life experiences of sharing, I will be so bold as to say that it has contributed to my growth.
Let me share with you a couple of instances from my own life that will hopefully encourage you to make a concious effort to share:
During my growing up years, my father had to travel to Delhi as he was part of a Bible translation committee. The return journey would bring him to Lucknow early in the morning. Since our house was far from the railway station, and we did not have a vehicle in those days, Dad would hire a rickshaw. One particular cold and foggy morning Dad came in and without acknowledging our presence, went straight to his room and came out with a blanket, went out of the house. It was much too cold to venture out and see what he was doing. When he came back in, and after our customary hugs & kisses, we asked him ‘What was that all about?’ and he told us that the rickshaw puller had no warm clothes and it was terribly cold so I gave him our blanket. Well, he would do this regularly at one time taking off his jacket when he reached home.
Another sharing experience was not so pleasant. Dad had returned from a trip to UK, this was in the early seventies, and had bought me the matchbox cars - ‘dinky cars’ we used to call them, don’t ask me why. Now you have to understand that in those days these were a novelty, not many people were travelling to foreign countries to begin with and then I had these toys. I would take them out regularly and share them with my friends. Needless to say my collection slowly dwindled as they were stolen one by one.
Twelve years ago I was a practising CA and had two trusted workers. One of them was Umesh, very bright and a real asset to me. The practice was growing slowly and I was getting work. Umesh had come to me with no experience and since he was new in Lucknow he needed a job. He did have a degree in Accounting. I was a technology freak so naturally I had bought a computer when not many other CA’s were willing to invest in it. I taught Umesh everything, and to his credit he was a great student - creative and intelligent. During one of my visits to HDFC (a Housing Finance Company) a friend mentioned that he had a job opening and would I know someone who would be interested in it? This was the beginning of HDFC and it was clear even at that stage that it was poised for major growth, the environment was fantastic and it would be a great opportunity for anyone. Throughout the scooter ride back home I began to think - ‘This would be a fantastic opportunity for Umesh or my younger brother’. I shared it with my brother and he wasn’t interested, he wanted to complete his studies etc. Now I was in a bind - should I or shouldn’t I share this with Umesh. I talked about my dilemma with my family members, and everyone advised me against it. ‘You will be shooting yourself in the foot’, this would be an act of insanity.
I couldn’t sleep, I wasn’t at peace
and then against all advice I told Umesh about the opportunity. Well. he went for the interview, they liked him and he joined HDFC. That was the beginning of the end of my private practice and the beginning of the journey to come to Canada. …. more tomorrow
It was still early in the days of immigrating to Canada, I had settled down into a nice job. We did not have a lot but we were happy. The boys were small and my wife has opted to stay at home with them until they reached a good age. In those days we were living in a tiny basement apartment and things were moving along. However, my wife was beginning to get bored and I realised that staying at home with two small boys was going to drive her crazy. Her background was a B Ed in India and I was concerned for her state of mind.
Well, in travelling on the subways and reading the newspapers I often came across an advertisment - usually tucked away in a corner that would say ‘Earn money stuffing envelopes - you never have to leave home etc. etc.’ One day I had the bright idea to try it out, what harm could it do eh? I think you had to mail in a money order or bank draft for $25 to an address with a Post Box#. I did that and then we waited. Well, one day we got a letter in the mail. It was from these guys and here is what it said (this is in my words):
‘Are you stupid? Do you think that anyone would give you money just stuffing envelopes? If you want to make $500 per week here is what you do - Take out an advertisement in the newspaper, ask for an amount with the application and then said them a letter like this one and hopefully you will find 20 idiots responding to you in a week and you will have your $500/week. The only investment required is the advertisement.’
I was really embarrassed and thought ‘Oh my word!! How could I have ever fallen into this trap’. Fortunately it was not a lot of money but it was money and in those early days every penny counted. Actually I am not even sure that it was $25 or could have been more, it was ten years ago now and I don’t think about it if I can help it.
So hopefully if you had any similar ideas - Don’t do it. First of all - never pay up front without getting all the information. I have done that one other time and it cost me much more money. I’ll tell you about that one in another post.
In the past couple of weeks I have received numerous emails suggesting that Barack Obama is a Muslim. Considering that I am Canadian and this has nothing to do with Canadian politics, it is amazing that this is being circulated so much among Canadians. In addition to this, last week my aunt asked me ‘Do you know that Barack Obama is a Muslim?’ I replied ‘I don’t know’. That was the last straw, I made up my mind to investigate this a little further.
• I have no interest whatsoever in American politics
• I am not a Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton or John McCain fan
Within minutes of my searching the web I discovered that the stories about Barack Obama being a Muslim are factually incorrect. I would invite you to look at the facts supported by the stories. Here are a few of the many articles that you can peruse and form an opinion for yourself.
Is Barack Obama a Muslim?
Barack Obama doesn’t put his hand on his heart during the singing of the national anthem
Here is my pet peeve - emails and statements like this make us (Christians) look like idiots and display our paranoia in the worst possible way. I do not support the idea of the church and the state being one - if however a christian is elected to a political office then so be it.
Our fascination with Christians being in positions of authority also shows the others that we have no faith in the authority of God. God is not going to rule the world through ‘born again’ Christian presidents and Prime Ministers in all the countries of the world. God is going to rule the world when ‘all peoples from all over the world’ recognise His lordship and worship Him in spirit and in truth.
Leave Barack Obama alone and focus on bringing someone into the knowledge of God. Our countries will continue to be ruled by various people from various backgrounds and beliefs - it doesn’t matter we need to focus on the ‘mission’ that has been entrusted to us.
Please do not be a paranoid Christian and please research your story before you email it to a million people. Remember - the emails you forward say something about you as well.