Tuesday October 24, 2017
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Ghar-Wapsi will help disadvantaged SC/ST Christians to reclaim cultural and financial benefits

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By Nithin Sridhar

The Kerala High court has ruled that people belonging to Schedule Caste/Schedule Tribe who have been converted to Christianity can claim their SC/ST benefits if they return back to Hinduism according to a report published in The Times of India.

The court was hearing a petition filed by 46-year-old MA Chandraboss of Ramapuram and his 18-year-old daughter Alida. They were born as Christians, but their ancestors belonged to Hindu Cheramar community. It was their father who had converted from Hinduism into Christianity. But in 2009, the whole family returned to Hinduism by undergoing “Shuddhi” (purification) ceremony conducted by Arya Samaj.

This year when Alida sought admissions through Common Entrance Examination under SC/ST quota, her claim was rejected. The Kerala High court which heard the case upheld the claim of Alida for reservation under SC/ST quota.

The court observed that: “The 2nd petitioners (Chandraboss’ daughter) definitely was brought up in her father’s house, maybe as a Christian, but a Christian-Cheramar. There being generally no accepted caste discrimination in Christianity, the identity in the Cheramar community was essentially retained.

The judgment gains significance in the backdrop of conversion and ghar-wapsi (return home) activities that are happening across the country.

Baptism of a convert to Christianity at an undisclosed village in India. Photo Credit: http://morningstarnews.org
Baptism of a convert to Christianity at an undisclosed village in India. Photo Credit: http://morningstarnews.org

 

The Christian Evangelism: At the root of all conversion activities carried out by various Christian missionaries and evangelists is the belief that it is their duty to spread the word of Gospel across the whole world i.e. to Christianize the whole world.

The introduction to the document “Lausanne Occasional Paper 14: Christian Witness to Hindus” released by Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization in 1980, starts by saying: “We give thanks to God Almighty for his gracious act of salvation in Jesus Christ, which has made possible the entrance into the Kingdom of God for over 565 million Hindu people dispersed throughout the world, with the majority in the Indian sub-continent. We rejoice in the fact that the saving Word of God preached faithfully by God’s servants has brought about a Christian population of about 19 million people in India alone. However, we are conscious that God longs for the whole Hindu people to know Jesus Christ and live under his Lordship (Isa. 17:7, 8). We regret that, after so many years of sincere effort by so many faithful people, the number of Christians in India is still less than 3% of the population.” It is this faith that drives all activities of Christian evangelism be it in India or Africa.

Conversion per se is not wrong when a person willingly and out of conviction in specific doctrines accepts those doctrines. But, it can turn into a social menace that breaks the society, when conversions are carried out by employing force, financial incentives, medicines, miracles, and other unethical means.

The doctrines of Christianity is rooted in monotheism which is unlike Hinduism and various Hindu traditions including that of tribals. Therefore, an unethical conversion of a person will lead to family conflict and if the conversion is of the entire family or many families then it creates fault-lines within the society. It will further isolate such families from their ancestry and cultural identity.

But various evangelists are known to practice these unethical tactics including the practice of “inculturation or indigenization”.

According to Kaj Baag, in Pioneers of Indigenous Christianity: “Indigenization is evangelization. It is the planting of the gospel inside another culture, another philosophy, another religion.” This means in the Indian context, the implanting of Christian theology into Hindu culture and traditions by adopting symbols that are unique to Hindu culture. While discussing on the methodology to be adopted to convert, the Lausanne report says “Communicate the gospel through indigenous methods such as bhajans, drama, dialogue, discourse, Indian music, festival processions, etc.” This and other attempts like using Hindu symbols like Aum, Ochre robe etc. are nothing but Inculturation tactics.

Further, Lausanne document suggests various tactics to be adopted to convert Hindus. It speaks about Rural Evangelism, Urban Evangelism, and Student Evangelism. It says how the missionary people must train Christian students to befriend Hindu students (so that they can be influenced) or how Christian missions must financially help poor students (in order to attract them towards Church).

It is with respect to such unethical activities that the Niyogi Commission Report on Christian Missionary Activities in Madhya Pradesh published in 1956 notes: that the largest number of converts is from such backward classes living in areas where due to various causes only Mission schools and hospitals exist. Most conversions have been doubtless insincere admittedly brought about in expectation of social service benefits and other material considerations

It is these attempts at using unethical means to convert innocent people that has become a contentious and problematic issue in India.

Ghar Wapsi program arranged by VHP in Kerala. Photo Credit: http://www.thehindu.com
Ghar Wapsi program arranged by VHP in Kerala. Photo Credit: http://www.thehindu.com

 

The “Ghar Wapsi”: Certain Hindu organizations like VHP and Arya Samaj have been carrying out “Ghar Wapsi” (returning home) program across India including Kerala. There has been a lot of criticism especially in the media regarding these programs but a complete silence regarding evangelism practiced by missionaries. The fact is that a ghar-wapsi or returning to home is only possible when a person went out of the home in the first case. In this case, the re-conversion of Christians into Hinduism has been only possible because, they or their ancestors were once converted from Hinduism into Christianity by ethical or unethical means.

Therefore, this calls for a deeper introspection of the whole issue. In this context, the decision of the high court is very significant. The judgment has shown that returning back to Hinduism will be beneficial to many families who were converted into Christianity by giving incentives and false promises of upliftment. This is not to suggest that there is no caste menace in the society.

Instead, it points towards the fact that many evangelists only utilized the weaknesses be it poverty or caste to convert innocent Hindus into Christianity without delivering any real benefit to them. Those who converted retained their caste identities even after converting to a religion whose theology recognizes no caste system.

High court has also made this observation: “It is to be noticed that Christianity, as it is generally understood, does not have any caste discrimination and the very fact that the 1st and 2nd petitioners (Chandraboss and his daughter) were all along issued with community certificates as belonging to Christian-Cheramar would indicate that they had their origin in the Hindu-Cheramar community.”

In another incident that was reported in December 2014, 30 year old Mr. Selvam revealed that he and his family had converted to Christianity 16 years ago as they were promised a better life and better means of livelihood. Therefore, they returned back to their ancestral Hinduism.

The High court decision to allow SC/ST’s claim quota benefits will help many families who were converted out of their Hinduism in the past under false pretext of better life, but who continued to live a disadvantaged life devoid of both financial benefits and ancestral culture and traditions, to return back to their ancestral faiths and practices and also avail all financial benefits available for their upliftment. It is for a similar reason that even the Supreme Court had given a similar judgment in February.

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Reliving Christ Through Yakshagana : Is Evangelist Christianity Sneaking into Hindu Culture?

The book by Mulia Keshavaiah has caused a stir in the religious Indian diaspora. Is it a mere literary piece or there is more to the story?

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Yakshagana is mainly found in parts of Karnataka, and Kerala
Yakshagana is a traditional theatre form combining dance, music and drama. Wikimedia
  • Yakshagana is an ancient form of theatre, predominantly performed in the Kannada regions
  • The art form has come under scrutiny following a book by writer Mulia Keshavaiah
  • Questions about the dominance and operation of Christian Missionaries have come up in the Indian landscape. 

Mangaluru, August 2, 2017: Yakshagana – a scholastic name used for the last 200 years meaning the song (gana) of the yaksha (nature spirits).

Originating in Karnataka around 500 years ago, Yakshagana acquired a theatrical form in the coastal belt by combining dance, music, and dialogue with a unique style and form. The themes for the show usually took inspiration from the Hindu Mythology, until noted writer Mulia Keshavaiah changed the course of the gana forever.

While the life of Jesus Christ has been told innumerable times previously through songs, films, poems, and stories, the tale had never been told in the form of a Yakshagana.

Keshavaiah combined the two, much to the amusement of the people. The shows then began to narrate stories of Jesus, Satan, Joseph and Mary among others.

The troupe did not falter the tradition and successfully staged shows across the North and South Kannada districts, attracting an audience of both the faiths during the 1970s.

The art of Yakshagana essentially involves conveying stories through extempore dialogues. However, Keshavaiah soon noticed that characters from Ramayana, Mahabharata and other Hindu epics were beginning to creep into the Bible narratives. This was because most of the actors were Hindus who were unacquainted with the traditional tales of the Bible, he had told The Hindu.

In order to educate the artists and uphold the sanctity of the stories, Keshavaiah took to writing a book of prasangas (poetry) based on Christian stories from the Bible.

‘Yesu Christha Mahathne’, a major exodus from a tradition largely dominated by the Hindus, was completed in 1976 and accepted without any criticism. In fact, it became so popular that the book was also translated into English and German.

After almost four decades, Keshavaiah revised his book and launched Mahachethana Yesu Christha Mahathne’ again on May 25 this year at Mangaluru by adding dialogues and commentaries. “The commentaries have been written to keep the storyline intact and guide the artists”, said Raghu Mulia, Kashavaiah’s son, in a statement to The Hindu.

Calling it a “purely literary work”, Mr. Raghu believes the book is intended to attract the Christian community of the coastal region to the art form. Following the release of the book, their troupe also performed a Bible Yakshagana performance.

ALSO READ: Padma Bhushan David Frawley points out Christian Missionaries’ assault on Hindu Dharma

However, with the change in time, a change in the mentality of the people has also been observed, who are no longer as welcoming to Yakshagana’s Christian stories as they were in the 1970s.

A question that immediately comes to mind here is whether to see this as an attempt by Christian Missionaries to try and sneak into Hindu culture through camouflage?

Abrahamic religions, that include Christianity and Islam, are popularly believed to uphold their religions as the absolute truth and spread the ‘word of God’, which often takes the shape of Missionaries. However, the honesty and purity of this act remain debatable.

Why do Christian missionaries do ‘evangelisation’ in India?

Although missionaries cannot be stereotyped, they each have a calling.

The faith holds that God has sent a missionary to promote the religious or social beliefs of the organization they represent, which often takes the form of evangelism, discipleship, and church planting.

Previously, missionaries have had a lot of success in Africa, the South Sea Islands, and Latin America. And India remains an easy target because of its inherent flexibility. In such a situation, polarization continues to prove a threat to the innate Hindu design.

In the Indian landscape where religious opinions exercise an active presence, situations don’t take long to take a turn.

Social media and public discussion platforms have remained abuzz ever since the release of the book, as it received flak and disapproval from people affiliated with Hindutva groups over the traditional form of Yakshagana being used to ‘propagate’ Christian faith.

Public forums have at length discussed the purpose and effect the act can possibly have on the Hindu design, as questions on proselytization (convert or attempt to convert from one religion, belief, or opinion to another) are raised.

Keshavaiah is also believed to have been threatened by right-wing Hindutva groups for promoting religious conversions in Karnataka, who allege that he is beguiling Hindu believers to embrace Christianity using Yakshagana as a tool.

Yakshagana traditionally depicts stories from kavya (epic poems) and the Puranas (ancient Hindu texts).  Believed to have been strongly influenced by the Vaishnava Bhakti movement in its present form, its roots and ties to various aspects of Hinduism remain evident. In such a scenario, according to popular opinions, it was never appropriate in the first place to use the art for a ‘foreign’ religion.  Mixing the art form further holds a potential to result in religious confusions.

Yakshagana is usually based on tales from Hindu Puranas and kavyas
Yakshagana dancers performing a prasang on Jatayu, a bird-character from the Hindu mythology. Wikimedia

Kashavaiah and his family, who now carry the legacy of his troupe, however, maintain that the Yakshagana is a traditional art form of Karnataka that has never belonged to any one religion exclusively.

Calling it literature, Raghu Mulia told The Hindu, “No bias should be attributed to it. Those raising objections have not read the book and are not familiar with Yakshagana”.

-prepared by Soha Kala of NewsGram. Twitter @SohaKala


 
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Pakistan Hindu women continue to undergo forcible conversions to Islam and face persecution

Muslim men kidnap a large number of Hindu women and forcibly convert their religion.

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Pakistan Hindu Women
Pakistani Hindu women hold earthen oil lamps on the occasion of Diwali, in Lahore, on October 26, 2011. During Diwali, people honor Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth. VOA

June 17, 2017: Conversion of Pakistan Hindu women to Islam has been creating torment amongst Hindus ever since the partition period of 1947 and emergence of Pakistan as a separate state for Muslims. Even though Islamic law condemns forcible conversion as per the Quranic principle which states – “no compulsion in religion”, but in the history of Islam, innumerable episodes of forced conversions were recorded.

Recently, a 16-year-old girl was forcibly converted to Islam following her abduction by the members of Syed community, which created upheaval among the minority community in Pakistan.

In a report by PTI, Ravita Meghwar was abducted from the Syed Community of Wanharo village near Nagarparkar in the southeast Sindh province on June 6. The girl was reported demanding protection for herself and husband Nawaz Ali Shah, claiming that she was not kidnapped but had absconded with Shah. However, her father called the marriage forceful saying the Syed community had kidnapped his daughter after giving sleeping pills to the family.

Her primary school certificate confirms that Ravita was only 16 years old. However, in a marriage certificate issued by the preacher Pir Mohammad Ayub Jan Farooqui, the girl is 18 years old and can marry the person of her choice, PTI reported.

Such dubiety of whether a person is forcibly converted or not is easily suppressed by an issuance of conversion certificate by the preacher which fiddles with the age of the girl.

Similar instances of forcible conversions were reported in the past. Last spring, Anila Dhawan was kidnapped from her home and was forcibly converted to Islam. Her abductor stated the girl had absconded from home, converted to Islam and married him. The girl was freed from the clutches of the man after her family mounted pressure on the court to probe into the matter.

Last year, a law against such conversions for those below 18 years was passed by the legislature in the southern province of Sindh, however, it was never implemented, calling back the law “anti-Islamic”.  Hard-line Islamic groups called the measure against Islam and part of the conspiracy of making Pakistan a secular country.

Every year, Muslim men kidnap more than 1000 girls – mostly Hindus and forcibly convert their religion. According to the Pakistan Hindu Council, about 5000 Pakistani Hindus leave every year for India to escape religious persecution.

One of the influencing factors causing persecution of religion is the Taliban insurgency in Pakistan.

Forced conversion and marriage propagates further violence as victims are subjected to sexual violence, rape, forced prostitution, human trafficking or sale, or domestic abuse, as indicated by a report published by Movement of Solidarity and Peace in 2014.

Not only this, the plight of Pakistan Hindu women is even graver. This year in March, Zania Kumari, a Hindu woman was axed to death in Pakistan.

Anything without the consent of a person’s will is immoral and is only getting bigger with such increasing malpractices. From the forced marriage to the recording of FIR by the Pakistan Hindu women to the courtroom, a conversion certificate is what overrides marriage laws.


prepared by Naina Mishra of Newsgram. Twitter: @Nainamishr94

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Timeline of Terror in Last 2 Years: Why Islamic Terrorism is on the Rise and What is leading to Islamophobia?

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Family members and friends of victims of suicide bombing at a wedding celebration attend their funeral ceremony in the southern Turkish city of Gaziantep, Turkey, August 21, 2016. VOA
  • Due to recent terror attacks, questioning Islam as the religion of peace has become a trend
  • Islamophobia has emerged where people supposedly “fear Islam” at large
  • Terror attacks in Europe are becoming increasingly common especially in the past couple of years

June 05, 2017: A recent security threat that has developed over the years, having affected and killed many, is terrorism. This post becomes necessary as part of the growing acts of violence that we read and hear about so often.

Terrorism is an act executed in pursuit of causing terror/ fear in the minds of the civilian population. It usually aims at bringing a change in the status quo. It is, however, unlawful.

What has led to Islamophobia?

Needless to say that these series of attacks, the majority of the attackers were believers of Islam and therefore this led to Islamophobia in people belonging to other communities.

The term ‘Islamophobia’ was coined first in the UK. It was quickly popularized all over Europe and the West in general. The term means fear of Islam and was aimed at popularizing the fights against Islamic nations. The western society now strongly questions if Islam actually promoted peace.

Nationalists and Conservatives at large claim that Islam is a religion of hate, violence and absolute barbaric nature. It sponsors war in the name of God and seeks to force its religion upon others. They rightly state that European and Western culture is very different, and signing up to be a part of their country or seeking asylum there demands you surrendering part of your identity in the name of acculturation.

Leftists and liberals promote tolerance. They make a valid point that generalizations are to be avoided at all costs. But what we see is a pattern that must be accepted in order to counter terrorism. The terror attacks are taking place in a broader sense by followers of Islam.

In the name of religion, adherents of Islam are radicalized. They are given a wrong notion of God, religion, and heavens. It is brainwashing in the most remarkable of senses. But it is a duty on the part of the adherent to interpret the scriptures and teachings in a right and ethical problem and to question any ideas that are worth contesting.

ISIS has been a major player in the growing Islamophobia. It has radicalized hundred of youth and has tried to spread its strict religious ideologies. It spreads the wrong ideology based entirely upon violence and brutality.

Timeline of Terror

September 11, 2001, attacks on the twin towers marked the beginning of the ongoing war we see… Click To Tweet

  • September 11, 2001- Attacks on the Twin Towers: The attacks on the twin towers in New York marked the beginning of the ongoing war we see today. The US was quick to respond by declaring a “war on terror”. Osama bin Laden was the mastermind behind the worst attack that the country has seen.

In the past recent years, we have seen numerous terror acts in Europe. France, Germany and the UK have particularly felt the impacts of terrorism. This combined with the growing power of ISIS in the middle east is seen as a threat to global security.

  • January  07, 2015- Charlie Hebdo Attack: This was a horrific act by the Islamic extremists who sought to suppress the very idea of freedom of speech. Two gunmen carried out shootings against the French weekly newspaper ‘Charlie Hebdo’. The two gunmen were the Kouachi brothers (Said and Cherif Kouachi) killed 12 people. The next day on January 08 a policewoman was killed. On 09 January 4 people were taken as hostages and killed.

Charlie Hebdo is a weekly satirical magazine. VOA.

  • November 18, 2015- Paris Attacks: A series of attacks took place in Paris and were considered the deadliest assault on French soil since world war II. The Stade de France stadium was targetted by a suicide bomber. More shootings and explosions followed in restaurants and other places. 

France marks one year anniversary of the November 2016 Paris Attacks. VOA.

  • March 22, 2016- Brussels Bombings: The capital of Belgium, the city of Brussels, felt the brunt of two suicide bombings. 32 people were killed and 300 others injured. The Brussels airport and Metro station were the targetted areas.

Belgium mourns the Brussels Bombings. VOA.

  • July 14, 2016- Nice Terror Attacks: France was celebrating the Bastille day on July 14, 2016. Nice became the target to spoil the day. Civilians had just watched the grand fireworks display when a terrorist lorry over speed and mowed them down. The attack claimed 84 lives. The terrorist was identified as Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, a Tunisian-born French citizen. The 41-year-old attacker was shot dead by the police. 

A memorial to honor the victims of the Nice attack. VOA.

  • July 2016- Germany Attacks: Germany witnessed a series of terror attacks in the week of July. On July 18, a terrorist with an ax hacked passengers on a train. On July 26, a doctor was killed in the Berlin Hospital. On July 22, an Iranian gunman went on a deadly rampage. On July 24, a pregnant woman was killed by a machete attacker and another man blew himself up in Ansbach. 

 

  • July 26, 2016- Normandy Church Attack: Two men carried out an attack on a Church in Normandy, France. The Priest was murdered and people were taken, hostage. ISIS claimed responsibility. The terrorists were shot dead.

 

  • December 19, 2016- Berlin Christmas Market Attack: In December 2016, Europe was gearing up for Christmas celebrations. A Jihadi by the name Anis Amri capitalized on this situation and ran down a lorry in Berlin Christmas market killing 12 people and injuring another 60.

Flowers and candles in the form of tribute to the Berlin Christmas Market. VOA.

  • February 03, 2017- Louvre Knife Attack: A Knifeman tried to attack a group of soldiers who were on duty guarding the Louvre in Paris. The attacker shouted “Allah Akbar” and took out his machete but was shot before any damage could be inflicted. It was an attack of “clearly terrorist nature” according to the then Prime Minister Cazeneuve.

Men guarding Louvre, France. VOA.

  • March 22, 2017- Westminster Terror Attack:  2 women and 2 men were killed and many people were injured by London Attacker Khalid Masood as he mowed down the pedestrians on Westminster Bridge. He also stabbed a police officer when he crashed his car outside the Parliament and ran into New Palace Yard. Later, he was shot dead by armed police.

Woman injured in the Westminster attack. VOA.

  • April 7, 2017- Stockholm Terror Attack:  4 people died and at least 15 people were injured when a man drove a truck in the busy shopping street of a Stockholm market in Sweden. Rakhmat Akilov who was responsible for the attack was a failed asylum seeker from Uzbekistan. The 39-year-old admitted being a member of ISIS terrorist group. On being arrested, he said told police investigators that he had “achieved what he set out to do”.

Stockholm, Sweden stands in solidarity against terrorism. VOA.

  • April 20, 2017Champs Elysees Terror Attack, Paris: ISIS claims the responsibility of this attack that killed a policeman and injured 2 others just days before the French Presidential election. The gunman was identified to be 39-year-old Karim Cheurfi who served 15 years in prison for 3 attempted murders.
  • May 22, 2017- Manchester Terror Attack: The city of Manchester was attacked by a lone suicide bomber at an Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena on Monday, May 22. The explosive went off when people were leaving the concert. 22 People were killed and 59 people were injured in this terror attack. The attack took place around 10:33 pm.

Manchester Sikh Community condemns the terror attack. VOA.

  • June 2, 2017- London Bridge Attack: Just one week after Manchester terrorist attack, two attacks took place in London and where terrorists went on stabbing innocent civilians. The London terror attack injured 58 people and killed 7 people on the London Bridge and in a nearby Borough Market. 3 Knifemen were on a killing Spree at restaurants and pubs at 10 pm and also mowed pedestrians at the bridge, but were shot dead by the Police. There have been numerous other attacks on the European soil by Islamic fundamentalists. On most occasions, ISIS has claimed responsibility.

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, speaks to media on the terror attack. VOA.

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Negative impact of Islamophobia

Due to rise in terrorism and with the belief that majority of attackers are from the Islamic community; the majority of the population in the world has become skeptic to the religion and as a result, the other half of the Islamic community has become the victim of hate crime.

Conversion (both religious and culture) has resulted in the emergence of insecurity on the part of both the distinct groups. While native European population is going down, the Muslim population in Europe is at an all-time high.

Another reason for this is the refugee problem. People choose European land to take refuge or seek asylum due to the instability in their lands. Some migrants have known to be associated directly or indirectly with ISIS. Migration must, therefore, be done on strict background checks.

Immigration is seen as one of the most important aspects of political campaigns (Thank you POTUS). The debate of wearing hijab or anything remotely of religious value has emerged in European parliaments.

Questioning Islam and its teachings is a process where the justification of which lies in subjective thought. But from a broader perspective, it must be questioned in the right manner and solved through dialogue. If Islam really is peaceful, then the majority of the adherents need to come out more openly and say that, so that brainwashing of young minds by terrorist groups become tough.

– by Saksham Narula of NewsGram. Twitter: @Saksham2394