Christian Missionaries in India (part 1/2)
Missionaries in India, Continuities, Changes and Dilemmas(1/2)
By Arun Shouri
(The following review of the above book is by M. V. Kamath)
To many Hindus one of the most distressing things about Christianity is the
effort of the missionaries to convert people to their religion. Let it be said
here and now: The constitution of India under Article 25 gives every citizen
the right "subject to public order, morality and health"....."freely to
profess, practice and propagate religion". Nobody is barred from propagating
religion and a christain missionary has every right under law to "propagate"
christianity. Presumably propagation includes the right to convert. It is here
that certain questions arise.
In January 1994, the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) decided to
engage people from other religions in a dialogue. "Its purpose", the Catholic
Directory of India stated, "is to facilitate common action of the Hierarchy in
matters that affect or are liable toaffect the common interests of the Catholic
Church of India". To attend the meeting organised by the CBCI, Mr. Arun Shouri
was also invited. The text of his lecture has now been expanded into a book
entitled "Missionaries in Inndia, Constinuities, Changes, Dilemmas". It is
about the best expression of how Hindus feel about conversions, in the second
hlaf of the 20th century.
Mr. Shouri spoke about continuities, changes and dilemmas - dilemmas,
especially which the Christian Church(Catholic and Protestant) have to face. It
is no more possible to speak of Hindusim in the language employed by
missionaries in the second half of the 19th century. India, then, was under
British rule and the British though not quite like the early Islamic rulers,
were just as happy to enroll members to the Christian Church. Shourie has
reproduced Macaulay's famous Minutes in which he ran down all the Vedas and the
Upanishads as indeed all Indian literature sayinng that " a single shelf of a
good European library was worth the whole native literature of India!" To add
insult to injury, he added: "it is I believe no exaggeration to say that all
the historicalinformation which has been collected from allthe books which have
been collected from all the books which have been written in the Sanskrit
language is less valuable than what may be found in most paltry abridgement
used at preparatory scholls in England. In every branch of physical or moral
philosophy, the relative position of the two nations is nearly the same." Only
an ignorant or mad man could have said such things. Macaulay, one suspects, was
even worse, he was arrogant.
To make his case of how the foreigner saw India and Hindusim, Arun Shourie has
quoted two others. Charles Trevelyan and Richard Temple. Temple was a finance
minister of India in the 1880s and his views on Hinduism (and even Buddhism)
were no less contemptous. Shourie has quoted liberally from Temple's Oriental
Experience. Had Temple said the same thing in the 1990s, he would probably have
been hung, drawn and quartered - so libellous are his words.
[To be concluded}
Courtesy: The Organiser, May 22 1994.