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Christian Missionaries in India (part 2/2)

     Missionaries in India, Continuities, Changes and Dilemmas(2/2)
                           By Arun Shouri

     (The following review of the above book is by M. V. Kamath)

There is a popular myth that the British Government stayed away from
conversions and that the Christian missionaries stayes away from politics.
Shourie has questioned that. As he says: The work of the Church was not done by
the missionaries alone; religiously neutral administrators did a good bit of
it. Correspondingly, the work of the Empire was not done by the administrators
alone, the missionaries did a good bit of it. And that contribution was
acknowledged by the ruler and the ruled." Lord Palmerston, the then Prime
Minister is quoted as sayinng, "It is not only our duty but in our own interest
to promote the diffusion of Christianity as far as possible throughout the
length and breadth of India," And Lord Halifax when he was Secretary of State
wrote: "Every additional Christian is an additional bond of uninon with this
couuntry and an additional source of strngth to the Empire." The Englishman
expected every Christian to be a traitor to his own country. Fortunately for
us, thousands of Christianns disappointed our British rulers.

It was not just the odd British PM or the general run of the mssionary that had
contempt for Hinduism. Max muller who is greatly admired for his translation of
Snskrit works was also to add his tuppence-worth of thoughts on the subject of
Hindu philosophy. He once wrote: "A large number of Vedic hymns are chilidish
in the extreme, tedious, low and commonplace." When Duke of Argyll was
appointed Secretary of State for India in DEcember 1868, Max Muller wrote to
him: "India has been conquered once, but India must be conquered again and that
second conquest should be a conquest by education." He added: "The ancient
religion is doomed and if Christianity does not step in, whose fault will it 
be ?"

Such were the calumnies uttered against Hinduism. Now there is a change among
Christian missionaries, says Shourie who, however, questions some of the
presumptions of the new set of missionaries who now grudgingly conceded that
salvatiuon is possible in each religion. He also questions certain Chrisitna
assumptions. He asks: Is it all right to worship the idol of Mary but not that
of the idol of Vishnu? To clutch the CRoss but not to turn beads? To demand
reservations to be extended to Christians who are schedukled castes but not to
accept the notion of caste? Christians he concedes are changing but he adds
that we will know if they have truly shifted, from some tests:

	*	First we will know that the Church has truly changed
		when it undertakes and disseminates an honest accounting
		of the calumnies it heaped on India and Hindusim.

	*	The second thing to look for would be the extent to which
		the Church acquaints Christians in India as well as groups
		it is aiming at with the results of the scholarly work
		on the two central claims of the Church, that the Bible
		is the revealed word of God, that it is wholly free from
		error and that the Church, in particular, the Pope is
		infallible. The scholarly work has blown craters in
		these claims.
	*	In view of the fact, now proclaimed by the Church, that 
		salvation is possible in each religion, what is the ground
		for conversion of people to Chrisitianity, in particular
		by the sorts of means which we saw are in use in the
		North-EAst today?

Arun Shourie's book should be studied in great detail by all policy makers in
government as it should be studied by the missionaries and the entire body of
the Church - Catholic and Protestant. The book raises many embarassing
questions that should be boldly faced. It explains as few books in recent
times, of the anguish of many Hindus as well as their angst. Perhaps Shourie
should write a book on Islam and Hindus as well so that the minories will know
why the majority often behaves and feels as it does at crucial moments. Therein
lies our joint  salvation.

Courtesy: The Organiser, May 22, 1994.


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