Over the centuries native cultures and traditions have suffered tremendously from the missionary onslaughts on their practices. Most of the native traditions have lost their entire existence after sustained assaults from proselytizer forces. The forceful enforcement of their version of “One true God” on natives by the foreign missionary have resulted into many cultural genocides. Perhaps South Asia is one of the last major battle grounds between native traditions and missionary forces. Many missionary organization like Joshua project have choked out multi decade plans to convert entire region. Apparently, these are clear threats to the multi-cultural, multi religious and plurastic diversity of South Asia.
On the surface missionary operate under the principle of freedom of religion and demand right to spread their religion. This is entirely fine as long as they are following the law of the land. However, many times their activities cross the lawful boundary and results into downright sinister conduct.
For example, during their conversion efforts they denigrate native Gods and beliefs by calling them false Gods, evils. They lure native people with monetary and other benefits. They use fear of “Going to hell” if people do not covert. While doing so they are violating the rights of native people to worship and pray to God of their choice. Clearly these are not volunteer conversions allowed under the law by countries like India. They fall under the conversion by force, coercion or deceit.
One such incident was reported in Jharkhand, India where Christian missionaries insulted native tribal places of worship by stating that Satan lived in those places. The natives were infuriated after hearing such comments and asked missionaries to stop their activities. When missionaries did not, angry villagers confronted them and forced them to stop. They were held and handed over to police. Oftentimes, such incidents may turn violent, but fortunately this one did not. Villagers made sure that there was no heckling or any other form of physical violence.
This is not a one-off incident. Many similar incidents are reported across India, where evangelists engage with local population, disrespect their religious beliefs, and ask them to convert. Last year, similar incident happened in Palghar, Maharashtra, India, where locals confronted missionaries for similar reasons. It should be noted that when such incidents happen repeatedly, it creates enmity between people of different religions and causes unnecessary disturbances in society.
We must study these repeated incidents carefully and see the trend building up across the South Asia, especially India. Disrespecting native religions of a country, taking advantage of necessity of poor people, making fun of their Gods and beliefs, and then asking them to convert – is clearly violation of the very principles of mutual respect and harmony between all the religions. These actions abuse the freedom of religion allowed under the law. A timely action is needed to stop such unlawful and inciting activities, so that we can uphold the tolerance and respect for all religions.