‘Inculturation’ – A danger to communal amity!
Saturday, 21 June 2008, 01:38 PM
By: B R HARAN
Religious conversion has been a subject of dispute for ages and the Church has been well known for conversion activities to spread Christianity through out the world in its pursuit of souls for harvesting. It mostly follows the strategies of allurement and pressure to convert the people following other religions. Pope John Paul, when he visited India, had openly called for the evangelisation of Asian continent and ordered his Padres to harvest maximum number of souls in Asia in general and India in particular. The renewed campaign, which started then with full force, has increased manifold with the development of a close relationship between the Church and the Pseudo-secular political parties. This relationship has been possible due to the considerable chunk of Christian vote bank and the Church’s involvement in education and health sectors
The old style of the Church with regards to conversion has been to influence the elite class of a society first, and in India it did attempt to propagate and influence the Brahmin community during the initial stages. But, as the Brahmins have been the protectors of the Vedic philosophy and practitioners of the Vedic traditions, which have been the hallmarks of the cultural heritage of this great nation, they strongly opposed the moves of evangelizations. Later on, as it realised that the focus on Brahmins would be a waste of time and resources, the Church started to focus on other castes and in the process it drove a wedge between the Brahmin and non-Brahmin elites. As a last resort, it forced its way into the so-called lower denominations, which also formed the major chunk of the society. As its target group was gullible, the Church easily exploited the innocence, thereby earning huge dividends.
The three hundred years of British rule helped the Church to establish its missionaries at various pockets of the country, particularly in tribal areas and rural India and since then the harvesting has been going on slowly and steadily. After Independence, the Constituent Assembly’s noble intention of giving room for ‘propagating’ one’s religion’ helped the Church to score brownie points. This is evident from the fact that the Northeast, which was predominantly Hindu at the time of independence, has become almost totally Christian within fifty years. Similarly in the south, where the Portuguese onslaught paved the way for the establishment of Christianity, conversions have been rampant. Goa, which was the focus of Christian Persecution during the Portuguese invasion, has turned out to be predominantly Christian. As the Portuguese landed in the coastal areas of Tamilnadu too, the state has witnessed laborious activities by the missionaries, which was helped by people like G.U.Pope and Bishop Caldwell. Later on the Church and Missionaries were, and are still, aided and abetted by the Dravidian Movement, with an ulterior motive of isolating the Tamil people from the Hindu fold. Kerala has a few districts, which are dominated by the community, particularly Syrian Christians, who form 80% of the 22% Christians in the state. After achieving a considerable harvest in Goa and Kerala, the other three states of TN, AP and Karnataka have become the focus of missionaries.
With stiff opposition from the Hindu religious, cultural and social organszations, the Church has been adapting different strategies to achieve the objective of soul harvesting. As the nation was reeling under poverty, illiteracy and ill-health due to the thousand years of looting by the Moghul and British Invaders, the education and health sectors came in handy for the Church and Missionaries to strategise and channelise their conversion methods. Apart from Health and Education, they also started applying a novel method called ‘Inculturation’, which dates back to as early as the 17th Century.
Robert de Nobili, a Jesuit from France, who came to India in the early 17th century, wanted to pose himself as a Brahmin from Rome after learning Sanskrit and a few Vedic scriptures too. He wore saffron robes and conducted discourses living in a hut and claimed that the Bible was one of the lost Vedas! As he gave a Hindu colour to himself, he was quite successful with a large gathering of followers, until when the people realised his dubious motives (Refer: The Portuguese in India, Orient Longman, Hyderabad, 1990). As the European religious leaders were not convinced of his methodology, they didn’t apply his strategies elsewhere.
Moreover, as Hindu leaders like Swami Vivekananda, Gandhiji, Ambedkar and Narayana Guru had thorough knowledge of Christianity and its motives of evangelisation, the Church and missionaries could not extend their activities beyond a certain limit and confined their operations to rural and tribal areas. Even during the time of Nehru, who made no bones about his sense of vagueness for Hinduism, the Congress government in Madhya Pradesh constituted the Niyogi Commission (1956), which confirmed the dubious methods adopted by the Churches & Missionaries for harvesting souls and it also recommended a ‘ban’ on conversions. Despite Nehru’s mistake of failing to table the Commission’s report, the Congress government in MP went on to enact the anti-conversion law called the Madhya Pradesh Dharma Swatantraya Adhiniyam in 1968 following Orissa, which passed the Orissa Freedom of Religion Act, 1967. Later in 1977, the Supreme Court of India upheld the Constitutional validity of both the laws through the Stainislaus v. State of Madhya Pradesh (AIR 1977 SC 908) case. Now, Gujarat has an Anti-Conversion Law in practice and other BJP ruled states have also followed suit.
In the last three to four decades, the Church and Missionaries have developed a close rapport with the pseudo-secular political parties by showing its vote bank as a trump card. The Church has now revived the process of ‘Inculturation’ with an aim to adopting the well-established Hindu cultural practices to make a changeover in the minds of the gullible masses.
The Church has started setting up Hindu type of buildings and called them as ‘Catholic Ashrams’ controlled by ‘Saffron robed’ Padres projecting themselves as ‘Swamijis’. The Hindu style of architecture, construction, layout and interior designs are being followed. The buildings also have the Sanskrit ‘Ohm’ symbol in front of them and the saffronised Padres claimed that Ohm is not Hindu, but Vedic! Some Churches also sculpture the statues of Jesus in ‘meditating’ posture (Kerala), Jesus sitting cross-legged on a lotus (Hyderabad), Jesus emerging after a purification bath in Ganges (Haridwar) and they even claim that yoga and meditation are not connected to Hinduism and that they are universal, common to all religions! The ‘Ashtothram’ and ‘Sahasra Naamam’ (108 and 1008 names) have also been prepared for performing ‘Archana’ on Jesus and the ‘Aarti’ is also being performed.
In Tamilnadu, Churches have started ‘Padayatras’ for Velankanni Shrines, some times even with the ‘Irumudi’ (similar to the one taken for Sabari Mala Yatras). The Velankanni pilgrims have started wearing saffron robes. Many Churches have started giving ‘Chakra Pongal’ (Sweet Rice) as ‘Prashadams’ for the people. Apart from Velankanni in Nagapattinam, the Velankanni shrine in Besant Nagar, Chennai also follows these practices of inculturation. The seemingly deliberate setting up of ‘Mary shrines’ in street corners, next to ‘Vinayaga‘ enclosures / small temples, is a concerted effort to replace ‘Goddess Maariamman’ from the scheme of things as they exist now. Evangelists have been seen brazenly telling the village people that Mary (Mother) and Mari (Amman) are one and the same. During festival times one can find digital banners in the Santhome area of Chennai City near Marina Beach, claiming Mary as ‘Thiru Mayilai Annai’ (Mother in Mylapore), while the true ‘Thiru Mayilai Annai’ is Goddess Karpagambaal of Kapaaleeshwarar Temple, which was demolished by the Portuguese. The whole world knows that ‘Girivalam’ (Circumambulation of Hill Temples) is being performed at Thiruvannamalai every ‘Pournami’ (New Moon Day) and the same practice has been started by Churches at many places after erecting a huge Cross and a Prayer House on Hillocks. A Church on the hillock at a place called Achirupakkam near Melmaruvaththur Adi Parashakthi Temple is a classic example for Chrsitian Girivalam. The Church has adapted every Hindu practice and the only thing left is the replacement of ‘Hindu Murthis’ with Jesus and Mary statues, which is most likely to happen anytime if this inculturation continues. The Churches claim that this concept of inculturation has been aimed at bridging the divide between Indian Cultural Experience and the Western Character of Christianity.
Similar to the Christianising of Yoga and Meditation, fine arts like Baratha Natyam is also allegedly being Christianised by a few institutes in the country. The adaptation of practises of Hindu religion, culture and fine arts by the Church and missionaries with an intention of de-Hinduising them, have created havoc in the psyche of the Hindu majority provoking it beyond the limits of tolerance.
The only remedy lies in bringing a Constitutional Amendment. At present, the Constitution ensures ‘Freedom of Religion’ to practise & propagate and certainly doesn’t grant the right to convert others. The relevant ‘Article-25’, which ensures freedom of religion, is subject to public order, morality and health. But, the process of inculturation being practised by the Church now, violates all and calls for a total ban on such attempts and a legislation of a Central Anti-Conversion Law. Also, the Constitution must be amended, so as to remove the word ‘propagate’, which is deviously used by the Church. The minorities must be allowed to practice their religion. But it should not be done at the cost of national interest and communal amity