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Home > News > Columnists > Varsha Bhosle

Stories they don't want told

April 28, 2003

I know this will come as news to many: The 'VII' in the title of my last column is not an exaggerated 'peace' sign; it is the Roman numeral signifying '7.' Meaning, that was the seventh in the series of reply-articles. Meaning, I does what I does, regardless. However, it was also only the seventh in six years. Meaning, irritants provoke me only when I let them -- usually at the opening of a "season," when I feel I should acquaint new readers with my approach: In a nutshell, readers aren't the Holy Grail. "Vituperative," "hate-mongering," "Nazi," "childish," "degenerate," "narcissistic," are all fight words, their writers earning the "semi-literate ignoramuses" accorded by me. They are not critics with counter-arguments (thank you, Rajender and Omkar!); they are insignificant little people momentarily shaking off the angst of their miserable little lives by directing their venom at a target that, they think, dare not fling it back. They err; rules aren't for mavericks. As for the "journalists" on the message board who hate my output... what can I say? Their obscurity says it all...

Now, to work.

Since the end of March, Christian evangelism has been making ever-widening ripples in the American press. To the best of my knowledge, it began with a report in the Mercury News on faith-based groups poised to give humanitarian aid in Iraq once the war subsided: "They see it as a golden opportunity to convert this predominantly Muslim country to Christianity, and along with supplies, they carry the New Testament and the message of Jesus Christ."

Iraq -- like India -- is in the "10/40 Window," i e, the area lying between latitudes 10º to 40º north of the Equator, stretching from North Africa to China, and containing most of the world's 1.2 billion Muslims, nearly a billion Hindus and 350 million Buddhists. This "Last Frontier" is home to the "unreached people groups" -- the term Christian fundamentalists use for ethnic populations that have never heard the message from the Bible.

Since the 1960s, Christianity has been on the wane in Europe. For instance, in Britain and France, less than 10 % of the population attends church even once a month; in Scandinavia, churches attract less than 3 % of the people; in Holland, the Dutch Reformed hierarchy is converting churches into luxury apartments to pay its bills (The Washington Post, May 6, 2001). And so, it is the peoples of the Third World who are seen as the fodder to stem the death of the religion.

If it were only a matter of acquainting people with the supremacy of Christianity, missionaries would probably be tolerated. Problem is, voicing the message entails converting the listener to Christianity -- by this way or that, usually that. Too, some ethnic populations don't want to hear the message, nor let it be heard in their lands. In most of these countries, there are laws against proselytising, with all the Islamic ones enforcing severe penalties. Buddhist countries like Laos and Myanmar, too, have limitations on evangelism. Red China restricts proselytising by members of state-supported churches. And India -- finally and recently -- began enforcing the 1975 law limiting access to foreign missionaries and enacting laws banning fraudulent conversion.

Therefore, to force-feed the Gospel to the "unreached," missionaries are sent by countries like the US, Britain, Germany and Australia as "aid workers," with visas identifying them as "secular workers." To enter countries like Bhutan, Afghanistan or Saudi Arabia, which do not issue visas to missionaries, they list their occupation as teacher, doctor, nurse, businessperson, engineer, etc. One illustrative result: 27% of the US-based Southern Baptist Convention's missionaries are now stationed in the 10/40 Window -- up from 1% a mere 15 years ago.

Evangelicals are growing at 4.7% annually, making it the fastest-growing movement. All together, they grew from 300 million in 1990 to 420 million at the close of 1999, of which a massive 403 million belong to the Protestant groups. Countries which have received increased numbers of foreign "aid workers" are Russia, India, Ukraine and Japan, in that order. And, God Bless America is the leader in sending missionaries, oops, "aid workers," with over 46,000 dispatched till December 2001. (Mission Frontiers)

At the start of the Iraq war, an evangelical air-wave campaign began against Iraq, and on April 16, Trans World Radio announced a series of Arabic and Farsi programmes to spread the Gospel among Muslims. Could this have happened with CentCom approval...? Then, the Southern Baptist Convention, America's largest Protestant group, had 800 "aid workers" volunteering to help Iraqis, while members of the Samaritan's Purse, a group run by the Rev Franklin Graham, were already in Jordan and Kuwait, brandishing medical supplies.

Point to note: Both former SBC president Rev Jerry Vines and Rev Franklin Graham had referred to Islam in very uncharitable terms. Not that I'm debating their views here, just that with beliefs like these, why would "aid workers" aid Iraqis if not to save them from Islam? Another point to note: Both groups are leading supporters of the Bush administration.

Thing is, America's weapons of mass deception, viz, CNN and Fox News, haven't yet said a word about the sterling work these "aid workers" must be doing in Iraq -- or even if they are there at all. Well, they are in Iraq, for sure. And that's why America's powerful Conservative lobby is seeking to put the brakes on Time magazine, which, according to an editorial memo intercepted by activists, has planned a cover story on evangelical "special operations" by missionaries working "undercover" inside Muslim countries, especially Iraq. An alert for the US right-wing warns: "This article could put hundreds of American lives at risk... They've been told repeatedly it's a story most Christian leaders don't want told. The risk of imprisonment, torture or death for Christians in the Middle East is just too real. But an aggressive reporting effort continues."

Samaritan's Purse is a rich organisation, favoured by the US government with contracts to offer humanitarian aid. In 2001, USAID had selected the group to work in El Salvador -- where its "aid workers" forced prayer meetings on the Indian villagers who only wanted to learn how to build temporary homes after an earthquake. In other words, they are "Rice Christians" -- the term used for missionaries sent by The Crown to work in the colonies, who would withhold bags of rice if the heathen peasants of India and China refused to come to church. Their modus operandi was to seek out the most vulnerable sections of people and use power/blackmail/money/deception to coerce people into leaving their faith.

Nothing has really changed...

And that's the target of this column: India, not Iraq... the white man's burden still roiling it all. The West's ways are best observed from a point offering a comprehensive view: What they don't want told about missionaries in Iraq is precisely what's been manipulating the religio-politics of India. The only difference is that American pinkos are exposing the Christian establishment for the sake of Muslims. Indian pinkos, on the other hand, co-opted not only their American counterparts, but also the Christian establishment to destroy the Hindus resisting proselytisation... the IDRF, the RSS.

The Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir is witnessing a "discreet" spurt in conversion to Christianity. The number of converts are over 10,000 -- which an investigation by The Indian Express confirmed, along with the fact that "conversions have been taking place regularly across the Valley." The countries that have sent the "aid workers" are Germany, the Netherlands and, of course, the US. The same countries "are pumping in money through intermediaries based in New Delhi."

These missionary groups are Rice Christians: One convert, the head of the mission in Pulwama, admitted, "We have to organise cricket matches and seminars in college where we are required to preach Gospel." Meaning, if you wanna play matches set up with our funds, you gotta hear the Gospel first.

And the funds, they are just a-rollin' in: Campus Crusade For Christ pays Rs 12,000 plus expenses per month to each of the 65 Muslim students who converted and agreed to rope in others. "The hike in perks depends on how we progress in our mission," said one converted student-employee. It's only business, you see -- commissions given on the acquisition of souls. "There are umpteen cases in which one person has been baptised thrice within a few months. These so-called evangelists have set up businesses in the garb of Church and social work. The converts here do it for monetary reasons and the people who convert them, too, do it for the same reasons," said Pastor Leslie Richards, a native Protestant of Srinagar.

Such efforts by missionaries get support from unexpected American quarters: Last year, Suzanne Marie Olsson, a NY-based "researcher," arrived in Srinagar to study and dig into the shrine of Rozabal which houses the tomb of Pir Yuza Asaf. Her claim: Rozabal is the tomb of Jesus Christ. Another claim: A shrine in Pakistan's Murree hills entombs the Virgin Mary. Is that too much to swallow? Here are more: Moses is buried in Bandipore, Haroun at Harwan, and Solomon at Takht-i-Sulaiman in Srinagar.

So, why was Ms Olsson doing all this? "You have more Christian holy sites than Egypt or Israel, she said. Yeahhh...? She only wanted to unravel the truth about the shrines so that Kashmir becomes a main attraction for Christian pilgrims, she said...

In the meantime, the "aid workers" can continue to aid Kashmiri Muslims with the aid of tales about the "serious archaeological research" on the tombs of Jesus and Mary in native Kashmiri shrines. Sheesh...

Did you see the March 20th report in The Deccan Herald on "a spate of Sikh conversions to Christianity in Punjab, particularly in the border belt adjoining Pakistan"? The situation has gradually become so bad that the Akali Dal is now seeking an anti-conversion law, patterned on the one enacted by my new idol, the Great Wall of Chennai. Sikhs, being a minority, have all the rights to protect themselves from extinction: Members of the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee have spread out into the villages of Amritsar and Gurdaspur districts, asking Sikhs to refrain from converting to Christianity and exposing "miracle healings."

Last year, the then vice-chairman of the National Commission for Minorities, Tarlochan Singh, wrote to the Catholic Bishops Council of India and the National Council of Churches in India, protesting the conversion incidents in Punjab and Bhilai where "Christian missionaries fully supported with medical teams have been going around in many villages alluring poor Sikh families to adopt Christianity."

The J&K fraud was uncovered by a Muslim reporter, and the Punjab to-do was exposed by a Sikh leading a powerful organisation. But what about the Hindus...?

One of George W Bush's most reliable political allies, the Rev Pat Robertson, is on record saying, "What is Hinduism but Devil worship, ultimately?" So now you know how the NRPs (non-resident pinkos) could muster such a huge coalition acting against Hindutva internationally. As for the situation within India, once case says it all:

On September 9, 2002, Father Melwin De Silva, the manager of a missionary school in Bhavanikhera village in Rajasthan, was arrested on charges of sexual abuse of 5 teenagers over a period of 2 years. After the boys finally mustered the courage to lodge a complaint with the police, the villagers surrounded the school and demanded the paedophile be handed over to them. The staff locked up the priest in a toilet, while another missionary, Fr Jose Mathais, had to face the wrath of the mob and was forced to do sit-ups before the villagers. The siege ended at De Silva's arrest; police recovered pornography from his quarters. All this was reported by UNI the day after the incident.

Pretty straightforward, wouldn't you say? Well, here are the aftermath-gems from India's oh-so-secular press:

  • The Christian community in Rajasthan's Ajmer district is now the latest target of a Hindutva campaign. Last month a priest in a missionary school in a village in Ajmer was accused and arrested for sexually exploiting some of his students. And in the polarization since then, Hindu organisations have used the incident to launch a drive to bring back Christians into the Hindu fold -- NDTV News, October 9
  • Christian priests running schools in and around Ajmer and at Nazirabad in the district have been targeted by vested interests in the wake of an incident involving a priest in the St Martin School at Bhawani Kheda village near Nazirabad on September 9 -- The Hindu, October 9
  • Fr Melvin D'Souza [sic]... was arrested for allegedly sodomising residents of the school hostel and taken to the Nasirabad police station. Soon, jeep-loads of villagers from surrounding areas descended on the town -- a well orchestrated campaign led by luminaries of sundry Hindu organisations and parties -- Indian Express, October 11

Notice the dates? What happened on October 8...? You know what, I hope that Dara Singh, accused of the killings of Graham Staines and his two minor sons, emerges from the courts unscathed. For, even if he is guilty, he's just a product of a diseased system. Isn't that the excuse the "secularists" give when pleading for Salman Khan...? In any case, let's ask the Iraqis what they think of Dara's case six month from now.

Varsha Bhosle

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