One of my truly devout Christian friends wrote to me immediately after the disaster of Tsunami in January, 2005: 'While many people in Tamilnadu were rendered homeless and they suffered heavily during the tsunami disaster, Humanitarianism was found to take its huge avatar and India became very proud of the love and kindness that still pervade our society. On the other hand, (as there is a saying in Tamil that Erigira veettil pidungiyavarai laabam), some so called Christian missionaries visited the tsunami-hit and offered relief after converting the affected persons to Christianity. The irony is that most of the fishermen whom they tried to convert were already Christians. Is it necessary at this time of agony? The word 'conversion' itself (instead of the word 'change') is diabolic in nature'.
I understand that Pope Benedict XVI has come out with his emotional outburst against the Laws of Conversion in India because of his anger at the passage of the 'anti-conversion Bill' by the Rajasthan State Legislative Assembly. The Pope has the temerity to declare that the Bill goes against the provisions of the Constitution of India. In declaring thus, the Pontiff is only betraying his Himalayan Ignorance of the 'Law of the Land'! He gets his evangelical hope and buoyancy from the ludicrous pseudo-secular policy pursued by the Government of India under the control of what I call a Shikandin petticoat Christianity-coveting anti-Hindu leadership.
The Pontiff ought to know that he combines in himself the supreme position of the Head of the Roman Catholic Church at the Vatican and the Head of State of the Vatican. He should be aware of the fact that one of the fundamental principles of democracy is the separation of Church and State. The values and principles of democracy were enshrined in the American Constitution and both the British (1688) and American Bill of Rights (proposed in 1789 and ratified in 1791). As Head of the Vatican State he cannot speak on behalf of Catholicism just because he also happens to be the Head of the Roman Catholic Church. At any rate, one of the main axioms of International Law is that 'no country has the right to interfere in the internal affairs of another country'.
I view the statement of the Pope as a blatant interference into the internal affairs of India. Instead of worrying about the quantum, direction and framework of conversion in India, he would have done better to ask the questions – why is it that Christianity is declining as a faith in all the countries of Europe and in the West in general? Why is it that the percentage of attendance in all the churches and parishes has come down to an average level of less than 10 per cent today? Why is it it is becoming increasingly difficult to man all the churches and parishes on the simple principle of one priest for one church or parish? These problems in the West in the arena of Catholic religion cannot get resolved by adopting a violent attitude towards the Laws against conversions in India.
The idea of a separation of church and State was formulated by many Western philosophers like Locke, Spinoza and other philosophers of the Enlightenment. In his famous 'A Letter Concerning Toleration', Locke gave three reasons for adopting this principle:
a) First because the care of souls is not committed to the Civil Magistrate (the State) any more than to other men;
b) The care of souls cannot belong to the Civil Magistrate because his power consists only in outward force but true and saving religion consists in the inward persuasion of the mind, without which nothing can be acceptable to God. And such is the nature of the understanding, that it cannot be compelled to the belief of anything by outward force;
c) There being but one truth, one way to Heaven, what hope is there that more men would be led into it?
What reason is there to oppose the dictates of their own consciences and blindly resign themselves to the Will of their governors and to the religion which ambition had chanced to establish in the countries where they were born? In short, Locke makes it clear that it is not the business of the State to interfere with the freedom of conscience and thought of its citizens. The State cannot make people religious by force; at best, it may enforce outward observance, but at the cost of sincerity of belief. It is this fact which should weigh with all the missionaries in India and they should not view themselves as supreme authorities for communicating what they consider as the only right type of religion for all the heathens of India.
In his 'Memorial and Remostrance Against Religious Assessments' of 1785, Madison wrote:
'The religion of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man, and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate. The same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians in exclusion of all other sects. While we assert for ourselves a freedom to embrace, to profess and to observe the Religion which we believe to be of divine origin, we cannot deny an equal freedom to those whose minds have not yet yielded to the evidence which has convinced us'.
I have no doubt whatsoever that these considerations weighed with the Supreme Court of India when it gave its final verdict on the 'Law of Conversion' in India in 1977. In Rev Stainislaus Vs State of Madhya Pradesh (AIR 1977 SC 908), after delineating the dictionary meaning of the word 'propagate', and considering the arguments which had been urged, the Supreme Court held that –
"What the Article Grants is not the Right To Convert another person to One's Own Religion, But To Transmit Or Spread One's Religion By An Exposition Of Its Tenets. It Has To Be Remembered. That Article 25 (1) Guarantees 'Freedom Of Conscience' To Every Citizen, Not Just The Followers Of One Particular Religion, And That, In Turn, Postulates That There Is No Fundamental Right To Convert Another Person To One's Own Religion Because If A Person Purposely Undertakes The Conversion Of Another Person To His Religion, As Distinguished From His Effort To Transmit Or Spread The Tenets Of His Religion, That Would Impinge On The 'Freedom Of Conscience' Guaranteed To All Citizens Of The Country Alike.'
In their unanimous judgment, the five judges held that –
'We Find No Justification For The View That Article 25(1) Grants A Fundamental Right To Convert Persons To One's Own Religion. It Has To Be Appreciated That The Freedom Of Religion Enshrined In The Article Is Not Guaranteed In Respect Of One Religion Only, But Covers All Religions Alike, And It Can Be Properly Enjoyed By A Person If He Exercises His Right In A Manner Commensurate With The Like Freedom Of Persons Following The Other Religions. What Is Freedom To One, Is Freedom For The Other In Equal Measure, And There Can, Therefore, Be No Such Thing As Fundamental Right To Convert Any Person To One's Own Religion.'
Who were the five judges who gave this highly communal, highly saffronized, heathenish, anti-Arjun Singh, anti-Sonia, anti-Mulayam Singh Yadav, anti-Ram Vilas Paswan judgement? All the five Supreme Court Judges who gave this historic judgement in an unanimous manner against conversion were the specially chosen secular favorites of Indira Gandhi like Chief Justice A N Ray, Justice M H Beg, Justice RS Sarkaria, Justice P N Singhal and Justice Jaswant Singh. It should not be forgotten that it was in order to elevate Justice A N Ray to the position of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court that Mrs. Indira Gandhi used her executive might to supersede three other distinguished judges with no less a record of so called distinguished service than Justice A N Ray. It was this judge who acted as the personal Judge for protecting the political interest of Indira Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi during emergency.
To quote Arun Shourie with lethal effect in this context against the mafia of pseudo-secularists in the UPA Government today: "each person with impeccable secular credentials. And the judgment was delivered not at some time when 'Communal Forces' held sway. It was delivered when Mrs. Gandhi held the country in her fist during the Emergency in January 1977.' No scope whatsoever for any Ambiguity! And yet the Pope exhibits his ignorance of the Law of the Land of a 'sovereign Nation' like India! Is it not an instance of unprovoked and blatant interference in the internal affairs of our country?
Christian missionaries in 19th-century India used to describe those 'heathens with changed hearts' who came to the mission stations simply for food as 'rice Christians'. This became a derogatory term for those driven to accept Christianity out of hunger rather than genuine conviction. By his recent non-statesman-like statement, the Pope has make it clear that he wants to increase the number of "rice Christians" in India. In order to achieve this laudable objective, the Pope has appointed an Indian cardinal and seasoned Vatican diplomat to direct the church's worldwide missionary work. He is Cardinal Ivan Dias, Archbishop of Mumbai, who replaces Italian Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe as Prefect of the Congregation of Evangelization of Peoples.
Against all this background, I would invite the kind attention of all the High Priests of Programmed Proselytism in India to the following telling poem:
by Oliver Herford (1863-1935)
A Story-Teller of Some Note
Before My Time, who also wrote
Of Animals, tells of An Ass
Who for a Lion tried to Pass.
But though he wore a Lion's Skin
No one, of course, was Taken In.
Even as Aesop's Ass, so fares
The Zebra, for although he wears
The Tiger's stripes, he does not gain
The Tiger's strength, nor yet retain
The Simple Virtues of the Ass.
He fails to Shine in either Class.
A Plagiarist, who but Befools
Himself, and falls between two Schools.