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Targeting Missionaries of Charity

Lancy Lobo Lancy Lobo
27 Dec 2021

An institute run by the Missionaries of Charity in Makarpura was booked for allegedly attempting to forcibly convert the young girls staying there. The police filed a case against the Children’s Home for Girls under amended Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act 2003 section 295 (A) pertaining to deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class. 

The move came after the chairman of National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) visited the children’s home in August this year. “He found some anomalies at the institute and wrote a letter to the District Collector asking to file a complaint against the institute. So, a committee was formed to investigate the case and it gave a report to the Collector. “I have filed a complaint with the police,” said Mayank Trivedi, social security officer. Trivedi, however, said that he is not authorized to divulge any more details as the case is about minors. The police said that the institute is accused of trying to convert some young girls and they were asked to wear the cross.

Sister Rose Terrassa, working at the institute, rejected all the allegations of religious conversions at the children’s home and said that they only educate the kids. The children’s home looks after orphan kids and those who were rescued from child labour. When asked what led the complainant to believe that the institute was indulging in religious conversion, Makarpura police inspector J I Patel said, “According to the complaint, 13 copies of the Bible were found in the library of the institute. The NCPCR chairman said that his investigations led him to believe that the institute was resorting to conversion of young girls.”

The police added that there were allegations that the girls were asked to read the Bible and marriages of girls from other religions were done as per Christian rituals.

City Police Commissioner Shamsher Singh said, “There are prima facie three things in the social security officer’s complaint. A girl was converted to Christian religion without the permission of the District Collector which is mandatory and some of the girls in the institute were given Bible and crosses to wear. We will now investigate the complaint.” 

The secular Hindus, Muslims and Christians are considered to be the ‘Other’ for the Hindutvavadis in India. A book, “Hindus under Siege” by the maverick BJP leader Subramanian Swamy extolls the grandeur of Hindu civilisation and highlights the violence it suffered hundreds of years ago under the Muslim and British rule and calls for revenge on the Muslim and Christian descendants. This is manifested by calling the state to protect Hinduism through laws such as against cow slaughter (for Muslims) and anti-conversion (against Christians). 

Religious demography is used by Hindutvavadis twistedly to say that given the fertility rate of Muslims they will soon outnumber Hindus who are today 80% of the total population. It is said that Hindus are a dying race on account of conversions even though the official census show that Christian population has been decreasing over the years. Hindutvavadis do not believe in the Census as it does not suit their twisted arguments.

In 2015, Mohan Bhagwat, the RSS chief gave further impetus to anti-Christian sentiments when he stated, “Mother Teresa’s service would have been good. But it is used to have one objective, to convert the person, who was being served, into a Christian.” “Mother Teresa was a part of a conspiracy for Christianisation of India,” said another RSS leader, Indresh Kumar.

In some measure, Mahatma Gandhi too showed the way to present day Hindutvadis. He was against conversions by Christian missionaries. He said that missionaries may serve the poor Hindu dalits and tribals, but not convert them. 
Today the State has been defending Hinduism under Congress as well as BJP parties, though more virulently under the BJP by passing anti-conversion laws. The latest State to process such a law is Karnataka. 

In order to fight Christian proselytization, Churches have been vandalised, priests and nuns verbally and physically abused. During 2014-16, around 250 Christian places of worship suffered attacks each year. Physical abuse ranged from the arrest of members of a Christmas choir in Madhya Pradesh to the murder of Pastor Sultan Masih in front of his church in Ludhiana in July 2017. All India Christian Council enumerated incidents of this nature counting 147 of in 2014, 177 in 2015, 441 in 2016 and 410 in the first six months of 2017.

Julio Rebeiro (IPS), a widely respected person for his integrity, wrote in 2015, “As a Christian, suddenly I am a stranger in my own country”. He further stated that the fact that Hindu extremists were never called to account for their misdeeds by those who are supposed to safeguard the rule of law.

As Christmas draws near each year and as elections draw near, the harassments and atrocities against Christians geometrically rise. That Covid has made life miserable for all citizens in this country is no concern of this majoritarian regime. There are more vital issues that should concern the regime such as poverty, unemployment, human rights etc., but unfortunately attention from these issues has been diverted to flippant, imagined, non-issues like conversions. The Constitution guarantees the freedom of religion to each citizen: however, the constitution is not valued by this majoritarian and autocratic rule. Continuance in power appears to be the priority, sacrificing the minorities and their rights.

The Sisters of Missionaries of Charity bathe, feed, house, and clothe the discards of society, belonging to all religions. One wishes that those who spread hate against Christians spend a day doing just what these Sisters are doing. There is a great likelihood that a society that does not look after its aged, disabled, poor and the hungry will undergo a conversion of the heart if they spend a day there. 

One of the criticisms of the Church in India is that it has become merely a service provider in the domains of education, health and social service. Church’s work is actually covering up the failures of the State.  Instead of appreciating it, the State attempts to harass the Church. 

One is reminded of the Police head of Calcutta who received a complaint that Mother Teresa was converting people at Kali temple. He went personally and saw the work of Mother and responded to those who complained in the following manner. “Come and replace the Mother and her Sisters and I shall see they are out”. None came forward! 

A State that pretends to protect majoritarian religion itself is missionary. Apart from anti-conversion laws against Christians, the State has also brought in laws to deprive reservation benefits to dalit Christians either to revert them to Hinduism or discourage conversion.

So, during the decennial Census the State makes the tribals to sign in as Hindus. Gandhi was a Hindu but his Hinduism had civilizational Hindu values of love, compassion, rule of law, and equality. But today’s regime treats minorities as second class citizens, promotes lynching and vandalism, and abuses the law to harass those against it. 

Mother Teresa is an icon not only to India’s Christians but to the whole world. Very many secular Hindus and other religionists have been motivated to undertake works of charity by her example which promotes civilizational values of India. 

In a faith-based organisation one cannot but expect artefacts and literature on one’s faith. To accuse the organisation of converting others on the basis of such presence is very unconvincing. 

(The writer is a research scholar, Indian Social Institute, Delhi)
 

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