things which make for peace

BENGALURU: Catholic bishops across the country have raised concerns over “…false messages of conversions are being spread on whatsapp and facebook to instigate communal violence.”

One of the bishops says:

“There are growing concerns and anxieties among Christian community members as the country seems to be going one-sided or on the verge of being affiliated to a particular religion.”

This is from today’s edition of The Times of India.

This is not going to happen. Newspapers may report a few incidents, and television anchors may hold highly-charged debates, but if you look around your own city or town, beyond your own little bunch of people, you can see that our country is doing well enough in terms of religious harmony. Nothing like the Goa Inquisition is going to be unleashed on Christians by the Indian government.

Religion is not what it used to be fifty years ago almost everywhere in the world, and if you actually want to go by what is propagated via whatsapp and facebook, no religion can claim the moral high ground. I am sure people from every religious group, including religious heads when they were younger and not-yet-so-wise, are guilty of saying nasty things about some other religion, if not on social media, at least in their own drawing rooms.

When I think or write about religion it is always from the perspective of truly devout people who want to live right in God’s eyes. I’ve shied away from acknowledging that it is more of a political tool, and has always been one, because religion is sacred and empowering for billions of people, and I didn’t want to desecrate that by saying it is anything other than spiritual. In kind and open minds and hearts, religion is blessed, deeply meaningful and unifying. I believe that disparaging someone else’s god already makes you a bigot and your bias disqualifies you from judging other religions and preaching about god.

Religion is a power structure from a different era, like monarchy, and religious heads are loath to let go of power, just like European monarchies are. Apart from this, the need to increase the number of followers is also a practical consideration, so there’s some safety if there’s an internecine conflict involving religion, or even a world war, though the stated purpose is the betterment of the individual who is invited to join a religion.

India is a pluralistic society. Nobody wants to instigate communal violence, though communal violence is often a fallout of a fight over something else. As far as I can see, everyone is freely following his religion in this country for the most part. People have the freedom to propagate their religions too. I’ll give a single example. There exists a US-based project called The Joshua Project whose stated aim is to christianise all of India. The organisation was granted permission by the Indian government to operate in India in 2002. Its members are apparently even given special missionary visas.

Its activities have not been obstructed in any way for the past fifteen years as far as I know. I’ve often wondered how this project benefits India, and why the government permitted it, because I don’t see other countries allowing similar projects to hinduise, islamicise, sikhise, zorosterise, buddhisise or jainise their countries. Also, if India is truly secular it’s government shouldn’t be promoting any religion. It is very likely that there are concerns in the Hindu community regarding this. In this era of fake news how do we know that the messages the bishops say are being spread on whatsapp and facebook are true or not?

To quote from The Washington Times, 15th Dec 2006:

“Officially, Christians comprise 2.3 percent of India’s more than 1 billion population. Unofficially, he insists, the number is closer to 8 percent”, he being a man called Thangiah who preaches in Bangalore. It’s only a ball park figure, but he wouldn’t say this without some idea.

Perhaps the bishops should look at the freedom Christians have in India compared to, say Coptic Christians in some countries, before making vague allegations directed against “a particular religion.” Please? This is as good as it gets. Let’s not destroy this country over religion. We’ve managed for a thousand years, so surely the bishops can address the issues raised by others and get on with it? The people who belong to the “particular religion” may have genuine fears too, fears that could be dispelled by the bishops’ answers. Perhaps a dialogue between the respective religious heads would be more helpful than complaining to the press.

“Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another” (Romans 14:19). This applies as much to us now as it did to the Gentiles and Jews then, especially in the context of the Indian belief in vasudhaiva kutumbakam, which means ‘the whole world is one familyin Sanskrit.

6 thoughts on “things which make for peace

  1. Very well written piece. I have Muslim friends who claim they have more freedom here than in Islamic countries. And I have seen that those who convert to Christianity not being ostracised by society here. We have seen harmonious relationships between people of varied faiths throughout our lives; Hindu children being sent to Christian/Catholic schools and successful inter-religious marriages all around us. We are the most secular country.


  2. Very succinctly put! I think the beauty of India is it’s pluralism. I will share it on facebook. More and more people need to be reminded of this point of view. There always a few black sheep.


  3. No other country in the world is as tolerant as India.
    We have absorbed all faiths, languages and cultures and become all the more luminicant .
    There will always be difference of opinion, difficulty in acceptance of another culture, but we are an inquisitive people who love to learn more about the world. Imbibing the good and discarding the wrongs, is an ongoing process of human evolution.
    A thought provoking article, Dr Shyamala, thank you.


  4. It is very apparent that there are forces at play who would like to create unrest in the country and we have seen that right since the time BJP assumed power, week one was the story of attacks on church, followed by award wapsi and so on. Little do they realise that the fire they want to light, once lighted won’t subside without consuming them all. And it’s sad that they do it in the name of God – that is light, love, compassion. Truly sad. Gandhi’ prayer of “sabko sanmati ..” is do relevant today.


  5. What u have written is so true. Having grown up and lived in Bangalore for most of my life I have seen people of all faiths living comfortably with each other. Muslims feel India is the safest and best country for them. I have seen loads of Hindus converting to Christianity and being accepted by both communities.
    Y can’t heads of different religions use their strengths for something more productive and useful?
    This post definitely needs to be widely shared.


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