Christian Missionary Horror in India

29 September, 2004 at 21:04 Leave a comment

Following is an email communication I had with a colleague of mine. She reported –

On Wednesday September 29th 2004, Rebecca Dordi wrote:

The Independent – Home – News – World – Asia – “Mother Teresa nuns attacked in Kerala”
By Justin Huggler in Delhi – 29 September 2004
Attacks on priests and nuns from Mother Teresa’s old order in the southern state of Kerala have spotlighted the controversy surrounding Christian missionary work in India. Two nuns, in the distinctive white habits, edged in blue, of the Missionaries of Charity, were bringing food for the poor inhabitants of a slum on the outskirts of Kozhikode when they were dragged from their Jeep by a gang who broke the crosses they wore round their necks. But passers-by intervened and the nuns escaped to a police station and phoned their order. An hour later, another Jeep arrived at the slum, this time with the Mother Superior Kusamam, a missionary from Kenya and others from the order. This time, a 40-strong gang attacked them with iron rods. Nine nuns and priests were taken to hospital with head injuries. Fifteen men were arrested and police are treating the case as attempted murder after officers were believed to have been assaulted. Several of suspects are said to be low-ranking members of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the right-wing Hindu party that was voted out of power in federal government elections in May. But the BJP has denied involvement, and claims that the incident was stage-managed by rivals to discredit the party.
The attacks are potentially explosive because they centre on the issue of conversion. Reports say that the attackers accused the nuns and priests of trying to the convert the slum-dwellers to Christianity. The area is inhabited by Dalits, the old untouchables of the caste system. Christian missionaries have found fertile ground among them. Treated byother Hindus as being at the bottom of the social pile, many Dalits choose to convert to escape the atrocious treatment they suffer. Untouchability is officially outlawed, but all over India Dalits are still treated as fifth-class citizens. There are villages where they are not allowed to drink clean water from the village well used by other castes, but must drink dirty water. Because of the caste system’s rigidity, it is almost impossible for Dalits to rise from their lowly station. If Dalit men dare to marry a woman from a higher caste, both risk death at the hands of the woman’s family. India, with its millions of dispossessed, has proved a good hunting ground for Christian missionaries, especially among the worse-off communities.
But the conversion of lower-caste Hindus has enraged the Hindu right-wing, who resent what they see as fellow-believers being conned into renouncing their religion. They accuse the missionaries of using charity work as a bribe to persuade the Dalits to convert. The nuns and priests insist they were delivering only food, not trying to convert the people. What makes the issue potentially even more divisive is that Kerala is religiously mixed, with 20 per cent of the population Christians whose faith is centuries old; they have nothing to do with modern conversions.

And here is my 2-paise on this –
I am not sure why you sent me this? I am not angry or something but I am not sorry either that this happened in India or anywhere else for that matter. Should I? Will it make any difference? I am a person who does not believe in imaginery lines on Earth called countries, let alone in the principle of “my country, right or wrong”. So, there you go… And you should be happy that India allowed the release of such a depreciating story. There is freedom of press in a poverty ridden country…
Case in point. My flatmate was attacked by Neds and hospitalized for two weeks. We lodged a police complaint, a University complaint and what not. But where is the student media which is supposed to voice it? Where is the local media to report it? Have you any idea how much violence there is in the Southall region fuelled by rascism? I was myself called names by no less than drunken University students in their final year of Anthropology. For all that matters, Glasgow is a friendly city. Should I become a cynic of the farce that is the developed world or be happy that I was able to make some good friends in a foriegn country? The fact was, is and still remains that in any society, there are good and bad elements. Generalizing societies is strewn with fallacies…
In fact, I cannot make any judgement on the Nun incident because I really do not know what happened on the ground and what got reported. Why should I trust this Justin Huggler guy at all? What is the absolute truth? (nothing spiritual here) So, please take an advise and never jump to conclusions. Alternatively, watch the film “Rashomon” by Akira Kurosawa. Or better still, realize that if you are looking for such stories of gore and horror, there is no dearth of it in this world and on the web. One can probably fill up libraries… But then, they serve as a reality check too I suppose. Anyway, go to Amnesty website to see what I am talking about…
And why do these horror stories get reported and not the uplifting ones of a Dalit and a Brahmin (the highest class) being thick friends as we are in our University? Because my dear Rebecca, this is a spicy one. Shock-and-Awe principle. Crass manipulation of the primal human pysche. I did not expect you to fall for such lowly tactics. There is much heroism and hope in this world but all we want to hear (and hence what gets reported) and in some superficial way “feel” is such sad stories – real or otherwise. At some level we revel that such things still happen and we are not the victims of it. We have to share them with others and say “owwww, so sad” even if this does not make an iota of difference to anyone or anything. If the good stories get reported, and not the bad ones, which only serve to spread hate and fear – the world would be a far better place. Dont you think? But then, it would be dull too. We would not buy newspapers anymore. Misery is a necessary evil…
FYI, I belong to a class just “above” the Dalits and on paper, I belong to BC – believe it or not standing for “Backward Caste” but I am here. If I was not allowed to drink water, go to school or whatever, I would not be here…


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