In India, over the past hundred or so years, Christian missionaries have proselytized with great determination, bringing thousands of impoverished Hindus to the light of Christ.’ They found fertile ground among the lowest-caste Hindus, who were treated as untouchables by their coreligionists belonging to higher castes. Many of these lived in remote, or forest, areas and were referred to as tribals’. It should be pointed out here that not all untouchables’ turned to Christianity for solace. In fact, a far greater number embraced Buddhism.
Hindus fighting back
Perhaps not unexpectedly, some Hindus are now fighting back. A spiritual leader named Swami Narendranath has claimed that he has so far reconverted to Hinduism, 42,200 people – mostly tribals – who had apparently been lured to Christianity by wily’ missionaries. The Swami portrays himself as a savior of Hindutva (Hindu nationalism) and, no doubt, takes great pride in the fact that he has rescued’ this multitude of lost, misguided souls.
The real question the Swami should ask himself, however, is whether these desperately poor people sought reconversion because the divine light of Vishnu was suddenly revealed to them.
The reality, of course, is that these tribals embraced Christianity not out of some new found love of Jesus, but because the Hindu religion they were born into offered them no hope. They were probably shunned and treated as outcasts by their coreligionists who happened to belong to a higher caste. It is doubtful if the Christian missionaries were in a position to promise any material benefits, but perhaps they offered some hope of a dignified existence. The truth is that religion, any religion, means little to people who are destitute and forgotten. They will gravitate towards any organization that, at the very least, treats them like human beings.
Hindus being marginalized
The Swami claimed, in the article, that Hindus were being “marginalized” because they don’t have patrons. Does he not find it strange that in a country where the overwhelming majority of the population is Hindu; there should be a lack of ‘patrons’? As he rightly pointed out, the political parties who profess to be champions of Hindutva are driven by self-serving, selfish motives. Where is the alternative then? Where are the benefactors who can do their bit to uplift the needy among their fellow Hindus? They are perfectly willing to donate a solid gold throne to Sai Baba (a Hindu saint), and to offer millions in cash and gold and jewelry to deities who have no use for material things. Can they not see that their gods will be much better pleased if they used that same wealth to better a lot of their destitute and humiliated coreligionists? Strange, indeed, are the ways of mortals.