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Arun Shourie - Church dialogue

A unique dialogue, involving Arun Shourie and Father Augustine Kanjamala,
former secretary of the Catholic Bishops' conference of India, Bombay, took
place in Hydrabad on September 4, 1994. The dialogue on Missionaries in India -
Contribution and Controversies was the brain child of Prajna Bharati, Andhra
Pradesh. The dialogue was undertaken in the background of Mr Arun Shourie's
recently released book: Missionaries in India - Contnuities, Changes, Dilemmas.
The book has drawn admiration from the Shourie's fans, and anger from the
Missionaries and their patrons in India.

   Father Kanjamala thanked the organisers for the opportunity to air his views
on Shourie's "hidden agenda". He blamed Shourie of playing into the hands of
religious fanatics. "This type of diatribe is not new to the Church. Earlier,
the Government, the RSS and the BJP used to spread the same kind of calumny",
he noted while airing his resentment at the branding of Christianity as a
threat to the integrity of the nation. Accusing Shourie of deliberately mixing
up pre and post Independence periods, he observed, "accusations made by Shourie
against Christianity in his book belong to a bygone era" and felt that the
style of Shourie's presentation was "aggresive".

   Castigating Shourie for his partisan writings, Kanjamala pointed out that
not a single paragraph was written about the yeoman services that are rendered
by the Christian missionaries to the people of this country. "Shourie has not
spared even Mother Teresa", lamented the Father. He accused Shourie of holding
a "hidden agenda" in his "negative writings".

   Responding to Shourie's accusations in his book that the motive behind all
activities of Christians, whether it is running schools or hospitals or homes
is proselytization, Fr. Kanjamala asked whether Shourie or his wife or his
other relatives who studied in missionary institutions had ever been forced to
convert. If Shourie's accustion is true, how come the population of Christians
is as low as just over 2 crores with such a large missionary network, he argued

  Fr. Kanjamala bemoaned that Shourie had abused the goodwill shown to him by
the CBCI and committed an unethical act when he used the material supplied by
CBCI meant as a reference for his lecture at the same time in Jan 94 without
the permission of CBCI. "That was only a draft material and not a final docu-
ment", he clarified, stating that Shourie used large parts of the draft to
malign the missionary activity.

   However, the Father was candid enough to admit that several mistakes were
committed in the past by Christian missionaries in India. He was even prepared
to apologise for those mistakes. But, he said, such mistakes were committed by
every religion in the past. While admitting that Hindu temples were destroyed
by Christians and Muslims, Buddhist temples too were destroyed by the Hindus,
he said.

   The Father revealed that a seachange was sweeping across the Christian
community. New technology had brought about a "Copernican revolution" in
Christian missionaries. Missionaries had even rejected the principle that
salvation is possible only through the Church and are trying to build bridges
with other religions, he said.

   Mr Shourie in his speech, literally dissected and demolished each and every
argument of the Father. Before beginning his argument he commended the fact
that the missionaries, unlike Islamic leaders, are open for a dialogue. "We
have suffered in this country for the lack of dialogue", he observed.

   "The first that occurred to me after listening to the Father is the manner
in which his presentation was made". He said that the Father's retort was
unchristian and highly unbecoming of a Catholic priest.

   Accusing the Father of not having read his book properly, Shourie rejected
the allegation that there was hardly any mention about the good work done by
the missionaries. He read out the quotation from Gandhiji that missionaries
had quickened the reforms in Hinduism".

   Referring to the "hidden agenda" said he, "I have no need to hide anything,
Father. In fact you have the need to hide your agenda." Castigating the Father
for trying to whitewash the policy of the missionaries, Shourie declared that
it was because of the inherent strength of Hinduism that people could not be
converted to Christianity, "not because you have not tried, but inspite of
your efforts".

   Referring to the criticism that it was "unethical" on his part to publish a
draft of CBCI without their permission, Shourie, waving the document at the
audience, challenged the Father to show him if it was mentioned anywhere that
it was only a draft. "I published it at my own expense and at length in 62
pages. And suddenly they come up with this argument that it was only a draft",
he commented.

    Vehemently denying that he "had not spared even Mother Teresa", Shourie
read out the part of his writings in which he had lauded her humility and
nobility. But such a noble soul was also not free from the Christian dogma of
conversions, he said, pointing out that the defect lies with the dogma, and not
with the Mother.

   Referring to the Father's assertion that the mistakes pointed out were of a
by-gone age, he cautioned that the same mind-set persists even today. He read
out from the CBCI document derogatory and blasphemous comments on Rama and

   "Rama himself died and didn't rise again" was one such, he said. He read out
"As they (the Hindu gods) themselves are encoiled in many vices; to worship
them is a sin. All their gods are great sinners (Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh). Some
one needs to save them." Turning to the Father, Shourie squarely asked him
what would the Christians do if anybody wrote this way about Jesus and Mary.
"This was not of a by-gone era my friend! This was in 1993", he said.

   Shourie said that the entire Hindu community should be indebted to Dr.
Ambedkar, for he displayed enormous courage in embracing Buddhism resisting the
designs of the missionaries when he was a member of the Viceroy's Council. He
also blamed missionaries for trying to separate the tribals from Hindus.

  "When the Government wanted to open schools in tribal areas, it was opposed.
When RSS was working in Madhya Pradesh for tribal welfare, it was branded as
communal. Because the missionaries felt threatened by the entry of the RSS and
the government.

   By using the term "modernisation", the Father has showed the bankruptcy of
the Church, Shourie said. Christianity is dead in America and England thanks
to modernisation and technological advancement, he added.

   In the end, Fr. Augustine Kanjamala agreed that Shourie was right in saying
that the old mindset still continued. He concluded that salvation was possible
in all religions. Shourie asked the priest for the justification for conver-
sions if salvation is possible in all traditions. He hailed the personal opin-
ion of the Father and said, that opinion should become the conduct of the

   (Coutesy: Organiser October 2, 1994)

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