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NPR Coverage of the Pope in India

Author: "Yvette C. Rosser" <y.r.rani@mail.utexas.edu>
Date: Sun, 7 Nov 1999 08:14:28 -0500

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 From: "Yvette C. Rosser" <y.r.rani@mail.utexas.edu>

I hope the following observations are not interpreted as an apologist for violence. Religious violence and hate crimes are to be abhorred. But, I was rather disturbed by the tone of the reporting on NPR about the Pope's visit to India.

During NPR's Morning Edition broadcast on Friday, November 5th, there were three separate pieces about the Pope's journey to India, including a short news flash, repeated several times, informing us that the Pope, whose three day visit is meant to "strengthen cooperation among religions" was facing protests from Hindu extremists. This ominous news flash, on the Morning Edition loop, alerted the listeners more than once that fanatical Hindu fundamentalists are protesting the Pontiff's good will tour. One journalist, Vir Singh, explained that Hindus are demanding the Pope apologize for centuries of "forced conversions," though neither he, not any other newsperson covering the story thought it necessary to discuss the basis of these demands.

The piece by Michael Sullivan, the NPR correspondent in New Delhi was sensationalist and could have been written by Pat Robertson who is a dedicated and seasoned Hindu-basher. There was an interview with nuns who fear that, after the Pope's visit, they will be "targeted" by the threatening Hindus who have set fire to Christian schools from "village to village." And an interview with a Hindu fundamentalist vowing to forcibly reconvert local tribals who had recently become Christians--he is described as sitting under, of all things, a poster of Krishna.

From these reports we are left with the impression that these Hindu extremists are rampaging across India killing missionaries and burning schools. There was no balance in this coverage. We were informed by Michael Sullivan that Christianity in India was established through "colonial expansion in the 16th century," while a church historian proudly explained that St. Thomas had brought Christianity to the southern state of Kerala in 56 AD. Certainly, Hindus and Christians have lived together for centuries, as can be seen by the statistics in Kerala where Christians are 20% population, not to mention the Portuguese Catholic influence in Goa, the plethora of Christian schools across India, and the fact that, for example, the Defense Minister of the BJP government, George Fernandez is a from a Christian background.

However, according to these inflammatory reports from NPR it is obvious that Christianity is in grave danger in Hindu India, where fanatical Hindus rule. In the last couple of years there have been conflicts between members of hard-line Hindu groups and Christian missionaries in the Dangs region of Gujarat, as well as the tragic attack in Orissa on the Australian missionary and his sons. Violence is *never* to be condoned. However, these incidents are inevitably reported from not only a Christic-centric perspective, but with an anti-Indian slant, and with no reference to the politics of conversions in the Subcontinent. Conversions are part and parcel of the Christian worldview. . . negatively appraising missionary activities is nonsequitor.

One notable example of this slanted journalism can be recalled in the coverage of the rape of several Christian nuns in Madhya Pradesh last spring. The international media immediately picked up on the story, reporting with the same anti-Hindu bias that was evident in NPR's pieces on Friday morning. In the case in Madhya Pradesh, a subsequent criminal investigation found that the nuns had been raped by men from a rival Christian group, not by Hindus, as originally reported. There was, of course, no international media attention to this interesting fact. . . when Hindus attack Christians it is news but when Christians attach each other it is rather boring. (This may be a weak critique since the press is notorious for reporting sensational crimes and ignoring acquittals.)

In the Dangs region of rural Gujarat, a large portion of the inhabitants are Adivasis or tribals. There has, over the last few decades, been a concerted effort by evangelical Christian groups to convert the Adivasis in this area. Many unethical methods have been used to save the souls of these simple rural folk. One tactic is to throw a stone statue of the Hindu God Hanuman in a pond along with a wooden crucifix. The Adivasis are told that the Christian God is more powerful because he floats to the top and Hanuman sinks to the bottom. Adivasis and others, are offered free tuition at the Christian schools and free medical care at the hospitals, if they convert. These schools and hospitals, funded by donations from Christian organizations abroad, certainly offer important services in an impoverished remote area. However, it is the mocking derogatory rhetoric that accompanies Christian conversion propaganda which is disturbing to many Hindus.

If you have ever seen one of Pat Robertson's anti-Hindu television programs, and for that matter, they are anti-Buddhist as well, you will know the demeaning and disrespectful way in which Hindu and Buddhist traditions and beliefs are treated in fundamentalist Christian rhetoric--where Hindus are described as superstitious pagans who worship demons. Since the 16th century, the work of the innumerable groups of Christian missionaries seeking to convert the heathen Hindus has cost the equivalent of billions upon billions of dollars. I remember in Sunday School at my grandparents' Baptist Church there were special collections to raise money to help the missionaries in India bring the message of Jesus to the pagan Hindus. In my own Catechism class we were told that Hindus must unfortunately go to hell because they do not accept Jesus as the only God. The Christian West has been fed on a steady diet of anti-Hindu rhetoric for over three hundred years. It is no wonder that NPR can conjure up Hindu extremists who are burning and pillaging in connivance with the Hindu nationalist government, without feeling any responsibility to discuss the basic assumptions inherent in missionary activity.

Ironically, in many cases, Adivasis who converted to Christianity and Dalits, as those from formerly Untouchable Castes are known, found that the social advantages they hoped to gain by being Christian were not as promising as the opportunities offered by affirmative action programs which were based, under the secular Indian constitution, on caste and social status and not on religion. Many of those who had previously converted to Christianity have now reconverted to Hinduism to take advantage of caste-based reservations in education and government service. Critics will point out that many who converted to Christianity to "escape the Caste System" have also signed up for benefits under their caste identity, a sort of social double dipping.

The question remains to be explored, why would some Hindus feel that the Pope should apologize for "forced conversions"? Are there comparable Hindu-centric, anti-Christian activities operating here in the West? I think not. Most Hindus would have no problem with the argument that Jesus was a God. Buddhists may compare the Sermon on the Mount with the Buddha's message in the Dhammapada. Hindus who are vegetarians or practicing Gandhian nonviolence may personally recoil at the imagery evoked when a Christian prays to be "washed in the blood of the lamb;" or they may wonder at the ontological contradictions in Christian philosophy; or marvel at the demands of blind faith--but Hinduism is a tolerant religion. I would dare to say that Christian fundamentalists are far more bigoted than their Hindu counterparts.

Significantly, it should be mentioned that the billions and billions of dollars donated to convert Hindus over the last few centuries have been an incredibly inefficient use of resources--only about 1% of India's population is Christian, and that, after literally billions of dollars and hundreds of year. It is controversial that even soon-to-be-sainted Mother Teresa spent more on conversion activities than on health care and hospice. Unfortunately, conversions can have violent social and political repercussions, as in the separatist movements in the north eastern states of the Indian union. If the Pope finds it palatable to apologize for the Church's traditional anti-Semitism. . . why not for its inherent anti-Hindu agenda? And why wouldn't a supposedly neutral reporting agency like NPR not feel obliged to even entertain the possibility that there may some validity in the demand that the Pope apologize?

This message is not meant to be anti-Christian, just controversial.

 Yvette C. Rosser
 Department of Curriculum and Instruction
 The University of Texas at Austin

Author: Frank F. Conlon <conlon@u.washington.edu>
Date: Mon, 8 Nov 1999 07:17:18 -0800

Reply-To: H-Net list for Asian History and Culture <H-ASIA@H-NET.MSU.EDU> Sender: H-Net list for Asian History and Culture <H-ASIA@H-NET.MSU.EDU> MIME-Version: 1.0 Content-Type: TEXT/PLAIN; charset=US-ASCII H-ASIA November 8, 1999 Further comments (2) on NPR Coverage of the Pope in India and related items ************************************************************************ 1.) From: fritz blackwell <blackwel@wsu.edu>

I could not agree more with Ms. Rosser's observations regarding the anti-Hindu anti-Buddhist slant which has evolved in the West, and in this country in particular; and it has gotten noticeably worse in just the last few years--I can sense it in my classes, and even see it on some students' smugly righteous faces. Fortunately, they are still in a distinct minority; they are just very much more brazen about it.

But it doesn't stop with Hindus and Buddhists. Try teaching world civilization/history some time and dealing with evolution.

 Fritz Blackwell
 Washington State University
 From: Frank F. Conlon <conlon@u.washington.edu>

It strikes me that colleagues Rosser and Blackwell are correct insofar as the media coverage of certain events in India or in South Asia have a distinctive "anti-" flavor. On the other hand, is this truly "new" to the North American media? The complaint about National Public Radio's coverage of India may well be justified. On the other hand, the commercial media's coverage is not complained of much because, frankly, it is not there. India remains, as one of my colleagues observed some years ago, "the biggest unimportant place in the world" so far as the American public and their media are concerned.

That said, one feels compelled to observe that Ms. Rosser's statements, which she told us were intended to be "controversial" seem to this reader to be grounded in a possibly unconsciously selective approach. If Asghar Ali Engineer's comments which circulated recently, are to be taken as having some authority, a view has emerged that the Hindutva enthusiasts found Christianity a useful target in the recent past due in part to the rise into politics of Sonia Gandhi, and for which the Pope's visit was a useful coda. Whether or not all "conversions" to Christianity in India were "forced" or otherwise strikes me as a non-starter. How does one assess "conversion" -- indeed what does "conversion" mean? What strikes me about most of the news from India regarding "anti-Christian" sentiments, is that beyond some urban street demonstrations, the real action has been on the margins, and the victims have largely been people of the lowest economic and social strata. When one's house is being burnt down, perhaps the mind is not automatically drawn to the long-term historical issues of what Christianity has, or has not done, in India since 1510, or 52 C.E. But then again, I may be wrong...

Professor Blackwell's observations regarding student views of the world ring true to me. Here at the wet end of the state of Washington, I have actually had a student comment on a course evaluation (in a survey of Asian religions no less) that he or she was "disturbed" by the fact that Professor Conlon failed to conclude the proceedings with a distillation of the ways in which each of these "so-called faiths" were false when measured against the true belief of Christianity! (I am not making this up.) But here too, do we really think that it is only in the 1990s that some students are beset with simplistic and parochial beliefs?

 Frank Conlon
 University of Washington
Author: GCook69833@aol.com
Date: Tue, 9 Nov 1999 06:41:12 -0800

Reply-To: H-Net list for Asian History and Culture <H-ASIA@H-NET.MSU.EDU> Sender: H-Net list for Asian History and Culture <H-ASIA@H-NET.MSU.EDU> MIME-Version: 1.0 Content-Type: TEXT/PLAIN; charset=US-ASCII H-ASIA November 9, 1999 Further comment on National Public Radio coverage of the Pope in India ************************************************************************* From: GCook69833@aol.com

With reference to Yvette Rosser's posting on coverage of the contemporary controversies and reporting of Christianity in India:

There were a number of inaccuracies in the posting such as her claim that the Christian population is 1%. It is 2.4%. There are Christian majority states -- in the Northeast now, and as she pointed out Kerala has traditionally had a significant Christian presence.

I recently delivered a paper on the issue of Christian conversion and its historical roots. I quite agree with you that journalists do misrepresent and over simplify issues, and cultural prejudices are squarely there, and they have not spent the time studying South Asia as we have. I have been reading (too) much journalism from the Hindutva press for my researches, and I see the same misrepresentation of our cultural presence.

But the simple fact is that there are gross human rights violations against many minorities committed in India today, and they are indirectly condoned by the coalition grouping at the Center led by the BJP and it's more radical Hindutva allies. Murder is being committed by fringe groups. There is no excuse for this. We as scholars have to stand united in explaining this to the West. Except for the Portuguese, the interaction between Christianity and Hinduism has been a benign one providing great growth for both. The BJP have been manipulating communal tensions for cynical political gain. This is not acceptable for any nation (and a great one at that) entering the third millennium of the Common Era!

                                                         Geoffrey Cook

Author: "Yvette C. Rosser" <y.r.rani@mail.utexas.edu>
Date: Wed, 10 Nov 1999 09:49:39 -0500

Reply-To: H-Net list for Asian History and Culture <H-ASIA@H-NET.MSU.EDU> Sender: H-Net list for Asian History and Culture <H-ASIA@H-NET.MSU.EDU> MIME-version: 1.0 Content-type: TEXT/PLAIN; charset=US-ASCII Content-transfer-encoding: 7BIT H-ASIA ***************************************************************** From: "Yvette C. Rosser" <y.r.rani@mail.utexas.edu> H-ASIA: NPR Coverage of the Pope in India "Yvette C. Rosser" <y.r.rani@mail.utexas.edu>

Thanks to Professor Blackwell for his supportive comments and also to Geoffrey Cook for his informed and passionate observations, and especially to Frank Conlon for his scholarly insights. I was more than a little nervous that my posting about the Pope in India might generate hate mail. Interestingly, I have received about a dozen messages off-line from people thanking me for expressing *their* point of view. I recieved notes from several professors in American universities, who said such things as:

"Buddhists do not claim that nonBuddhists will go to hell, they do not prosyletize, and finally they don't go around to other countries telling people that their religious ways are evil, the mark of Mara."

And another professor who wrote: "way to go, my sentiments exactly."

I got a message from a gentleman in Chennai, an editor at the newspaper, "The Hindu". My comments about the Pope had been (fast)forwarded to him by a friend at a University in New Zealand. The gentleman in Chennai wrote, "I am atheist and so the appreciation of your article is not coming from a Hindu fundamentalist perspective. It's just that I found a remarkable similarity of views when you talked about many things -- the way you saw Jhabua and Dangs, the exaggerated reports from sections of the press and the inability of some people (including sections of the Indian Left) to recognize that the phenomenon of conversions can actually hurt godfearing Hindus."

I also received a response from a missionary who had spent 16 years in Sindh (whom I hope I didn't offend), he wrote, "Conversions are not popular in religious thinking [...] Christianity is by its nature evangelistic and to be true to its beliefs must continue to preach to everyone." He adds, echoing what Dr. Conlon said, "there is no such thing as a forced conversion. [....] Conversion can only happen willingly and in the heart, not on the identity card."

He continues, "The billions of dollars you mention as having gone into India have resulted in few becoming Christians and is a very poor cost-effective ministry from that point of view. But those dollars have also gone into health-care, education and agriculture in areas no one else has been willing or able to work."

This explanation brings us back to Dr. Conlon's observations that most of the anti-Christian "action has been on the margins, and the victims have largely been people of the lowest economic and social strata." This is because that is WHERE the Christian missionaries are focusing their efforts! DUH! That IS the point!

I also had an email message from a student at the University of Sindh in Jamshoro, who stated that though he is a Hindu, he is very secular (most Hindus in Sindh claim to be secular--by necessity), he wrote, "Here in Sindh , especially in Hyderabad Division, some Christian missionaries. . . focus on Hindus [Scheduled Caste People] who are victims of caste system, bonded labour, feudalism. Many [poor farmers] have converted to Christianity because they were offered jobs, money, education and equal social status. Personally I don't support any kind of religious missionary preaching a particular religion."

Such direct conversion activities are not operational in the elite Christian schools, of which, as I mentioned in my original message, there are many, many across India. Middle class parents would not stand for it. During the class period for religious instruction, Hindu children go to a class on Hinduism, Muslims to a class on Islam. They may learn some Christian songs but there is very little indoctrination and no coercive manipulation to accept Jesus as their savior. Teachers at elite schools are NOT actively converting their upper class Hindu students. There are no nasty little anti-Hindu brochures passed out at St. Stephens or Woodstock. It is the illiterate Hindus that are targeted. Not the middle class. It follows that the anti-conversion activities are also focused on those fringe groups. Frank stated, a bit ironically, that when "one's house is being burnt down. . . the mind is not automatically drawn to the long-term historical issues of what Christianity has, or has not done, in India. . ." Obviously. And even in a less immediately volatile moment, I doubt if the Adivasis are giving much thought to the political and social implications of the Christian-Hindu interface. They are probably thinking of their children's futures . . .

The missionary with 16 years experience in Sindh also wrote this interesting comment about elite Christian schools in Pakistan:

"Recently the government of Pakistan gave Christians the right to open their own schools again, and although they will never admit it, the common people know that to get your kids well educated they need to go to a Christian school. How else to explain the practice of Muslim teachers in Karachi opening up private schools and using the name "Saint _____" in the title? Mohd. Zia was educated in a Christian school, and Benazir was educated in Murree at a convent school. St. Denys' school in Murree was never nationalized because too many of its students were from military and political families, and they wouldn't allow it."

I can asure you that students "from military and political families" were not having to listen tirades about the superiority of Christianity over Islam any more than are the rich Hindu kids. It is the poor who are targeted for conversion.

Dr. Conlon pointed out that the distinctive "anti-flavor" in the North American media is certainly nothing new. And as I mentioned earlier, it is endemic to the way we portray South Asian culture, politics, religion. I appreciated the way Frank put it, "India remains, 'the biggest unimportant place in the world' so far as the American public and their media are concerned."

But this is also the case in World History classrooms in our country where the teaching of India is driven by a combination of the often ill-informed narrative used in textbooks and sensationalist reports from the popular media. In the space allotted to Hinduism in most textbooks there is only enough room to mention the caste system. There is rarely a discussion of modern popular Hinduism beyond a sentence or two which mention polytheism, invading Aryans, and cow worship, and the words "karma, dharma, reincarnation" listed in the study review at the end of the chapter. You think it is bad at the university level when students want you to condemn Hinduism as you are explaining it. In our high schools the people teaching about India get more information from Pat Robertson specials than from a class such as Dr. Blackwell or Dr. Conlon would teach. There are certainly noteworthy exceptions and wonderfully informed teachers in our schools but in general India is just omitted from the syllabus-- which may not be such a terrible thing, less opportunities to distort it.

If there is a class devoted to India during a course on World History or World Geography, inevitably the focus will be on the evils of the Caste System. Caste is seen as the defining feature of India. There are even games that teachers have their students play in which they draw lots to determine in which caste they have, by chance, been born, and then they must abide by prescribed hierarchical rules which proscribe certain behaviors and allow specific privileges to a select group, namely the inherently power-hungry Brahmans. Necessarily, due to the youthful trust in equality and fairness which American students have been taught is the substance of our free and democratic society, students feel negatively towards the privileged Brahmans; and the students who are playing the role of the Brahmans gleefully lord their status over their classmates, commanding them to do demeaning chores. There is no discussion of the concepts of karma and samsara upon which the caste system is based. If being born in a certain caste is chance, like the drawing of lots, then it is certainly cavalier and unfair. But, if the caste system is explained in the context of the broader epistemology, including a discussion of dharma and responsibility, it does not seem quite so alien and evil. But the textbooks and the teachers do not explain it to school children who are in fact taught that it is the opposite of the American way. I am not offering this as an apologist for the caste system, but as an alternative to negatively objectifying it as the evil other that ultimately becomes the hallmark of Indian civilization.

One good example that can be found in many of textbooks which creates a negative image of Hinduism is when Hinduism and Islam are compared. Islam is shown to be founded on the same basic principles of Christianity and since the majority of students who read the book are undoubtedly Christian, this comparison is heavily weighted in favor of a positive impression of Islam, as Hinduism appears to be a religion of caste-ridden idolaters.

Here is an excerpt from a World History textbook by Mazour and Peoples: (This is the book that was used in the Austin Independent School District for last five years.)

"Muslims considered the beliefs of Hindus offensive to God. Muslims worshipped one God, Allah; Hindus honored several gods. Muslims believed all people to be equal in the sight of Allah; Hindus followed the caste system. Muslims rejected the use of statues; Hindus created beautiful statues of the gods they worshipped."

It is ironic to note that when the Islamic "God" is referred to in this passage, it is written with a capital letter, twice. "God" is referred to, as if the Muslim "God," IS God! However, when the word "gods" is used in the context of Hinduism, it is with a little g. (All those petty little gods. . with all those arms. . . it's enough to drive the teachers crazy!)

This reminds me of another section in the same World History book which states that the inhabitants of the Indus Valley Civilization believed in a "form of animism, a belief that spirits inhabit everything--trees and other natural objects, animals, and even people. The Harappans believed these spirits influenced a person's life; therefore, they tried to control them and please them."

This rendition of the "spirits" in which the people of Mohenjo-Daro supposedly believed, reminds me of a similar treatment of the religious issue in the book by James Loewen, "Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong". In this fun and informative book, Loewen quotes from one of the twelve textbooks that he investigated during his study of American History textbooks. Loewen states that "textbooks treat Native [American] religions as a unitary whole. "The American Way" describes Native American religion in these words,

'These Native Americans [in the Southeast] believed that nature was filled with spirits. Each form of life, such as plants and animals, had a spirit. Earth and air held spirits, too. People were never alone. They shared their lives with the spirits of nature.'

Loewen points out this type of narrative makes Native American "beliefs seem like make-believe, not the sophisticated theology of a higher civilization." Even though the Indus Valley Civilization existed over four thousand years ago, their wells, drains and sewage systems, their vast trading area, their handicrafts, and the detailed toys that they made for their children, indicate that they had developed a high degree of sophistication. Unequivocally stating that their religion was animism, that they believed that spirits were inhabiting everything, makes them seem like a very primitive culture. Yet this is the stuff that passes for scholarship and which we pass down to our progeny.

In his critique of the above description of American Indian religious beliefs, Loewen, tongue in cheek, writes a analogous and "similarly succinct summary" of the beliefs of many Christians today,

"These Americans believed that one great male god ruled the world. Sometimes they divided him into three parts, which they called father, son and holy ghost. They ate crackers and wine or grape juice, believing that they were eating the son's body and drinking his blood. If they believed strongly enough, they would live on forever after they died."

It is interesting to note that the Vatican requested permission for the Pope to visit China, Taiwan and Sri Lanka on his Asian tour, but they refused. It was Hindu majority India, it the grips of the Hindu nationalist government, that allowed the Papal visit. The Pope was not there to honor the traditions of the "East" he came to launch his new activities that aim at the evangelization of Asia. Those Hindu zealots in New Delhi allowed him to do so. In fact, India is one of the few countries that recognizes the Pope as a head of state. The United States and most Western countries recognize the Pope only as a religious leader. The Pope did not go to India as a political leader but as a religious leader .The Catholic Church has a long and self-proclaimed policy of evangelization or conversion and a special Asia synod to convert Asia. The Pope came to convert Hindus, not to show respect to an ancient and rich civilization. He was on a mission from god (I mean, God) to bring more Hindu souls to Christ. He was not on a Dharmic Yatra visiting the ancient Tirthas.

There is also, as usual, a socio-political aspect to the Pope's desire to convert Asia. The Catholic Church has lost most of its power in the West. In general, Catholics are only nominal in their beliefs, with many American Catholics practicing birth control, getting divorced and then, with a convenient annulment, remarried--all these practices are banned by the Church in Rome. Most, though philosophically connected with their Catholic roots, don't attend church on a regular basis. It is significant that the average age of priests and nuns is about sixty and few younger people joining the orders. It is clearly an institution in decline. Without replenishing its population base it is facing a severe crisis. India offers perhaps the best possibility for doing this with a large population with a history of religious devotion and monastic activity that could readily become priests and nuns.

On Namah Christaya!

BTW, I did mistype the percentage of Christians in India in my original message. It is 2.4%. . . and in India one percent of the population represents 10 million souls!

If the Pope apologizes for his basic anti-Hinduism orientation, then I'll go to confession for the first time in 30 years! I anticipate that the priest will be spared my Mea Culpas!

Forgive me Father, for I have sinned. . .


 Yvette C. Rosser
 Department of Curriculum and Instruction
 The University of Texas at Austin

Author: fritz blackwell <blackwel@wsu.edu>
Date: Sat, 13 Nov 1999 08:47:15 -0800

Reply-To: H-Net list for Asian History and Culture <H-ASIA@H-NET.MSU.EDU> Sender: H-Net list for Asian History and Culture <H-ASIA@H-NET.MSU.EDU> MIME-Version: 1.0 Content-Type: TEXT/PLAIN; charset=US-ASCII H-ASIA November 13, 1999 Further comments on coverage of the Pope in India, attitudes toward religions, media coverage and lots more (3) ************************************************************************ From: Kate Brittlebank <Kate.Brittlebank@arts.Monash.edu.au>

As an Australian I have found the issues raised on this topic very interesting. In teaching religious history to undergraduates I have never found them to have preconceived or in any way hostile notions towards Hinduism. This is probably the result of little or no knowledge, admittedly, since India is as overlooked here as it is in the United States. However, I was particularly surprised to read that American students seem to have a less negative attitude towards Islam. This is not the case here. I have found many of my students to be deeply prejudiced towards Islam, regarding it as a religion of violence which persecutes women. There is no doubt that Australia and the United States have very different religious cultures, and I suspect that Australian students might be better informed (in a fairly superficial way) about international affairs, but nevertheless it is an interesting contrast.

 Dr Kate Brittlebank
 School of Historical & Gender Studies
 Monash University
 Wellington Road, Clayton, Victoria 3168
 Tel: 61-3-9905-2163  Fax: 61-3-9905-2210
 Email: Kate.Brittlebank@arts.monash.edu.au
 From: GCook69833@aol.com

Dr. Rosser has raised many interesting & some debatable points on conversion which all who care about modern India should be concerned. As I did with another listserv to which I belong I would like to offer my recent paper on Hindutva & the persecution of Christians & its 19th century roots although it is still in draft status.

Please, just write individually to me directly.
                                                         Geoffrey Cook
 From: fritz blackwell <blackwel@wsu.edu>

I'd like to give this topic one more lick, as when I got home yesterday the Friday Nov 5 issue of _India Abroad_ had arrived.

First. let me say that I resoundingly agree with Professor Conlon about the abhorrence of the verbal attacks on Sonia Gandhi during the last political campaign; but, there is nothing I, as an American, can, or should, do about it. Also, one need only read any of many sources about the attitude of Christians historically in India in regard to Hinduism; e.g., the introduction, esp. pp. 8-19, of Diana Eck's _Banaras: City of Light_ (New York: Alfred Knopf, 1982; subsequent Indian paperback); obviously, there is little if anything I can do about that.

But, if I may suggest that interested persons look at page 1, and pages 34-35 of the latest issue of India Abroad, they will get a lesson of what is happening in this country in regard to intolerance toward Hinduism by a rather significant band of Christians. It regards to a disruptive prayer book by South Baptists put forward at Diwali. I saw an article in a local newspaper about it last week, but this is far superior coverage quantitatively and qualitatively. I have never seen anything like it. Were such negative propaganda to be promulgated about and targeted to blacks or hispanics, there would be hell to pay. Yes, of course, the concern, it can be said, is religious, not cultural. The reply to that is baloney: the religion cannot be separated from the culture.

Some samples:
 First paragraph of Day One (Nov 3):
   "Walking the streets of India during Divali is a sobering reminder of
    the power of darkness that lies over this land, where more than 800
    million people--80 percent of the people--are Hindu."
 First prayer of first day:
   "Pray that the Hindus who celebrate the festival of lights would become
    aware of the darkness in their hearts that no lamp can dispel."

It gets quite topical: From being rescued from the slums Bombay by praying to Jesus (one would think food and housing might be a factor), to "the more than 11 million people held captive in the Lingayat belief system."

One American Hindu leader (Suresh Gupta) wrote, on behalf of the Association of United Hindu and Jain Temples, in a letter to President Clinton, "while the International Mission Board [of Southern Baptists] may have the right to publish such derogatory material, the Hindu community is outraged by its ignorant and hateful message."

As so should we all, all be outraged, Hindu or Christian, or elsewise.

 Fritz Blackwell
 Washington State University
 Ed. note:

I wish to clarify that in my post I did not condemn the various political attacks on Sonia Gandhi. I noted that some observers felt that the overall interest of the Hindutva forces in renewing assaults on Christians in India was linked to the electoral campaign and Sonia Gandhi's foreign origins.


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