Bush's Conversion Agenda for India:
Preparing for the harvest ...
Author: VK Shashikumar
Date: February 2004
A new mood of aggressive
evangelism has been emanating from America. Well-funded, superbly
networked, backed by the highest of the land, seized of its moral
supremacy, it has India as one of its key targets, reveals VK
Shashikumar in a disturbing exposé
This could be the plot of
a fevered thriller. A jingoistic president, multi-million dollar
corporations, high technology, a grand if furtive mission, networks
spanning the globe, and biblical invocations.
Only it's real. And its
got India in its crosshair.
Religious expansionism has not
witnessed this scale, scope, and state resources in a long time.
Detailed investigations by Tehelka reveal that American evangelical
agencies have established in India an enormous, well-coordinated
and strategised religious conversion plan. The operation was launched
in the early 1990s but really came into its own after George W
Bush Jr, an avowed born-again Christian, became president of the
United States in 2001. Since then, aggressive evangelists have
found pro-active support from the new administration in their
efforts to convert some sections of Indian society to Christianity.
At the heart of this complex and sophisticated operation is a
simple strategy-convert locals and then give them the know-how
and money to plant their own churches and multiply.
Around the time that Bush Jr
moved into the Oval office, a worldwide conversion movement, funded
and effected by American evangelical groups, was peaking in India.
The movement, which began as AD2000 & Beyond and later morphed
into Joshua Project I and Joshua Project II, was designed to be
a sledgehammer-a breathtaking, decade-long steamroller of a campaign
that would set the stage for a systematic, sophisticated and self-sustaining
"harvest" of the "unreached people groups"
in India in the 21st century. It was just as the operation was
taking off that the script changed. Much to the delight of American
evangelicals, one of their own, George Bush Jr, became the occupant
of the White House.
In a major policy decision
taken very early into his presidency, Bush, on January 29, 2001,
unveiled a "faith based" social service initiative that
included a new White House office to promote government aid to
churches and Christian faith-based organisations. This, in effect,
threw the massive weight of the federal government behind religious
groups and religious conversions. The Office of Faith-Based and
Community Initiatives was set up in the White House in the first
week of February 2002 and a man called Jim Towey was appointed
director. (A snap introduction to Towey: he was the legal counsel
to Mother Teresa in the late 1980s.)
Though Bush's initiative to
fund "salvation and religious conversion" is stalled
in the Congress over constitutional and civil rights concerns,
he has pushed for its implementation through executive orders.
The American press is replete
with reports on Bush's largesse to faith-based organisations.
They say it's his "return gift" to the Christian Right
for having loyally supported his presidential campaign. The Christian
Coalition, founded by American TV evangelist and head of the multi-billion
Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), Pat Robertson, played a
crucial role in the 2000 election. Recently, in his TV programme,
Club 700, broadcast on CBN, Robertson created a stir by announcing
that he is confident Bush will win the 2004 election in a "blowout"
because God has told him so.
Indeed, Bush is keen to retain
what we call the votebank and Americans 'the base'. After all,
the Far Right Christian evangelists have also been the most loyal
backers of his hardline militarism in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere.
But there is another, perhaps
more important, reason why Bush is keen on supporting his evangelist
friends who run huge transnational missionary organisations (TMOs).
In the decade 1990-2000 they ran a global intelligence operation
so complex and sophisticated that its scale and implications are
no less than staggering. This operation has put in place a system
which enables the US government to access any ethnographic information
on any location virtually at the click of the mouse. This network
in India, established with funding and strategic assistance from
US-based TMOs, gives US intelligence agencies virtually real time
access to every nook and corner of the country. (See 'List of
TMOs Active in India')
Since Bush's ascendancy to
the presidency this network of networks has multiplied rapidly
in India. Bush supports conversion in India because he supports
those American TMOs who fund and strategise conversion activities
in this country. Organisations like the International Mission
Board, Southern Baptist Convention, Christian Aid, World Vision,
Seventh Day Adventist Church and multi-billion enterprises run
by evangelists like Pat Robertson, Billy Graham and Roger Houtsma,
amongst many others, were instrumental in running a coordinated
conversion campaign in India under the banner of AD2000. These
later became the Joshua Project and when the decade-long movement
officially closed down in March 2001, Joshua Project II was launched
to sustain conversions and intelligence-gathering. Graham's TMO,
Billy Graham Evangelist Association, supports conversion activities
in Gurgaon, Haryana, and Kolkata.
When AD2000 was conceived for
India, the plan was based on a military model with the intent
to invade, occupy, control, or subjugate its population. It was
based on solid intelligence emanating from the ground and well-researched
information on various facets of selected people groups. The idea
was to send out spying missions to source micro details on religion
and culture. The social and economic divisions in the various
Indian communities were closely examined. Given the oppressive
and institutionalised caste system in the Hindu society, American
evangelical strategists chalked out plans for reaching these various
"unmixable" caste groups. The many faultlines running
through the country-divisions in terms of ethnicity, caste, creed,
language and class-were all factored in during the generation
of ethnographic data.
North India was designated the
core target of American evangelists. It was described as the "core
of the core of the core" of a worldwide evangelical movement
conceived by fundamentalist American missionaries. This movement
that took shape over the 1990s, has now taken off because of a
unique collaboration between the American government and US-based
evangelical mission agencies. In the 1990s this movement was shaped
by the World Evangelical Fellowship (an international alliance
of national evangelical alliances), working with the AD2000 movement.
It brought together a wide variety of individuals and organisations,
under the single goal of achieving "a church for every people
and the gospel for every person by the year 2000." Its focus
was missionary mobilisation and church planting in India and other
regions of the world where the Christian population was negligible.
This movement was also a massive intelligence gathering exercise
funded and supported by American missionary organisations that
were responsible for the election of George W Bush.
AD2000 first attracted attention
at a convention of international evangelical missions called Lausanne
II in Manila in 1989. The movement then spread rapidly around
the globe to help catalyse evangelism. The strategy behind the
movement was to establish pioneering global partnerships to eventually
provide a church within every "unreached people group".
Ralph Winter, founder of the US Center for World Mission, characterised
the movement as "the largest, most pervasive global evangelical
network ever to exist."
This movement, spearheaded by
Luis Bush from the movement's headquarters in Colorado Springs,
US, was planned for large conversion of people living within the
"10/40 Window". Incidentally, Billy Graham, a Christian
fundamentalist and rabid evangelist, who was responsible for George
W's "born again" Christian status and whom the president
considers as his godfather was the honorary co-chairman of the
AD 2000 movement.
The 10/40 window is the rectangular
area comprising parts of North Africa and large parts of Asia
between 10 degrees north and 40 degrees north latitude where 95
percent of the world's "least evangelised poor are found."
AD 2000 movement mobilised and funded evangelical operations in
India. Further, they sponsored the May 17-25, 1995, Global Consultation
on World Evangelization (GCOWE) in Seoul, South Korea, where nearly
4,000 Christian leaders from 186 countries, including India, gathered
to draw up secret and covert evangelical plans. Many American
evangelists now describe GCOWE, Seoul, as "the most strategic
Christian gathering in history." That year also saw the transformation
of the movement to a higher plane in the name of Joshua Project.
The first GCOWE consultation
was held in Singapore in 1989. The first five years of the decade
(1990-2000) were the years of seeding the clouds with the vision
of a church for every people and the gospel for every person by
the year 2000. This involved the building of a new kind of partnering
relationships, a grassroots networking structure…a "network
While AD2000 spied out the
land and its inhabitants to get an accurate picture of opportunities
and challenges for conversion activities in India, they also framed
subversive strategies to implement their plans. Concepts like
PLUG, PREM and NICE were conceived. PLUG refers to the target
group-people in every language, urban centre and geographic division.
PREM refers to the techniques to use-prayer, research, evangelisation
and mobilisation. NICE refers to how the work is to be done-networking,
taking initiative, and using an evangelist to spur existing groups
and cohorts in their efforts to convert people to Christianity.
For Indian evangelical groups,
access to American technology meant faster and more secure communication
with their patrons. And, of course, the availability of the Bible
in local languages, In fact, in today's India, the Bible is available
in almost all languages and dialects. If the translation of the
Bible was a symbol of huge transnational exercise, the massive
distribution of gospel literature was nothing less than a distribution
marvel. In India, a coordinated gospel literature distribution
exercise was staged to reach 600,000 villages by the end of 2000.
Finally, American evangelical organisations that also run cash-rich
television channels pumped in money to buy slots on Indian television
networks. In fact, Pat Robertson, who recently stepped down as
the chairman of the Christian Coalition and the owner of the CBN
set up a studio in Hyderabad to help Indian evangelicals minister
through television programmes. These programmes are broadcast
on various networks in India where CBN buys time.
The Joshua Project, started
by a splinter group of CBN, was also a large-scale intelligence
operation that brought together American strategists, theologists,
missionary specialists, demographers, technologists, sociologists,
anthropologists and researchers to create the most comprehensive
people group profiles in the 10/40 Window. In fact, the ethno-linguistic
profiling of the people groups in India, probably, cannot even
be matched by data with the government of India. The logic behind
this massive intelligence gathering operation was to "make
a priority of establishing as a minimum, a pioneer church-planting
movement within every ethno-linguistic people of over 10,000 individuals
by December 31, 2000."
The launch of the Joshua Project
in the mid-1990s resulted in scores of American research teams
arriving in India to lay preliminary roadmaps for the church-planting
mission. Everyone came on tourist visas and, on their arrival
in India, their respective mission partners took them in. This
partnership with Indian researchers resulted in the production
of enormous field data on various people groups in the country.
This, in turn, led to the identification of areas and regions
where evangelical activities could be carried out in a focused
and methodical manner.
Joshua Project II is a continuation
and expansion of the original plan. Its professed aim is to "highlight
all the least-reached peoples (non-Christian) of the world and
to help build ministry networks and partnerships focusing on these
people." The constant research and updating of ethnographic
data from India should ring alarm bells within the intelligence
agencies in India. In fact, the project maintains its "peoples
lists" in cooperation with the International Mission Board
of the Southern Baptist Convention. The Southern Baptists, as
will be seen later, have traditionally worked hand-in-glove with
the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). India's ethno-cultural
data collected by the project is categorised by them as 'Security
Level 2' because there is a danger to Indian and foreign missionaries
if data relating to their conversion activities is made public.
The main target: India
Map from the Joshua Project of the Adi Karnataka
ethnic group, one of the most heavily targetted groups in India.
As part of AD2000, Christian
organisations in most countries, including India, had an embarked
on an ambitious National AD2000 Initiative. In India the Evangelical
Fellowship of India was central to the fulfillment of the goals
set by this initiative. According to the founders of AD2000 (and
that includes Bush's pal Billy Graham) north India is the 'kairos',
the key. India is where the era of modern missionary effort began
nearly 200 years ago with the arrival of William Carey, the father
of modern evangelical missions. However, the nine north and central
Indian states of Bihar, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh,
Delhi, Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Haryana
were considered areas of immense strategic importance for the
The Gangetic belt is one of
the most heavily populated regions of the world. Forty percent
of the Indian population lives here; New Delhi is the capital
and centre of political power in India;
It is the most socially deprived
area of India (the Hindi belt has a literacy rate of 30 percent,
infant mortality is double the national average and the government
of India officially designates four of these states as BIMARU
This area of India is known
as the heartland of Hinduism, a religion that boasts of some 33
million gods; and It has the smallest Christian presence in all
of India. According to the 1991 census, the Christian population
of North India is 0.5 percent of the total population.
Clearly, north India was strategically
important for the missionaries. What made things easier for them
was the new buoyancy in India-US relations. Therefore, it was
open to researchers and their research plans. Billy Graham and
his ilk openly admit that they dispatched spying missions to India.
"Just as Joshua sent out the spies to survey the land and
report on its condition before the children of Israel moved out
in obedience to God's command, many more missionaries and Christian
workers are finding research information invaluable in laying
their plans," say the AD2000 and Beyond Movement documents.
Over the past eight years, tremendous energies and resources have
been spent on spying out the land and its inhabitants.
The India Missions Association
(IMA) in partnership with Gospel for Asia, another big American
missionary outfit, researched and published very informative and
accurate books that unraveled the intricate mosaic that is India.
Some of those books are in Tehelka's possession. One of the big
achievements of the Chennai-based IMA was conducting a detailed
India-wide PIN code survey. India's postal service is one of the
world's largest and it is important to understand why American
mission agencies picked on India's postal system to devise their
covert conversion strategy. The Indian postal system has a network
of 1,52,786 post offices-89 percent of them in villages, which
means one post office for 23.12 sq. km of rural land and one for
every 3.16 sq. km of urban stretch, or one for a village with
4,612 people or one for 12,924 people in a town or city.
The 6-digit PIN code introduced
in August 1972, identifies and locates every departmental delivery
office. The first digit represents the zone, the second the sub-zone,
the third digit shows the postal sorting district, the fourth
digit indicates the mail route and the last two digits indicate
the specific post office of destination in that zone. For this
purpose the country has been divided into eight zones and each
region in each zone has been assigned a particular postal circle
in the first two digits of a PIN code. The Delhi circle, for instance,
is 11. The digits 45 to 49 represent the Madhya Pradesh circle
and 60 to 64 are for the Tamil Nadu circle.
This neat division of India
through the postal codes is seen as a boon for strategising missionary
work, coding the data emerging from the field and flowing it back
to missionaries on the job. Given below are a few way in which
pincodes have helped evangelical work:
There is no easier way of locating
workers than attaching pincodes to them Media contacts can be
linked easily with workers Sorting "harvest forces"
and mailing lists is easyThe codes make distribution of gospel
literature faster and easier Urban areas have more postal codes
than rural areas. This helps in planning effectively to plant
churches in each area.
To really come to grips with
the implications of IMA's PIN-code theory one has to understand
the 'Joshua Project II Data Background'. The report of the Joshua
Project II is self-explanatory: "Joshua Project II provides
a "blue-print" of the unfinished task of world evangelisation.
It came out of the process of the AD2000 and Beyond Movement focusing
on a list of approximately 2000 people groups that most need a
church planting movement. The peoples listed here are over 10,000
in population and less than two percent Evangelical and less than
five percent Christian adherent. Data has been compiled from many
sources including: Southern Baptist Convention, Operation World,
Adopt-A-People Clearinghouse, US Center for World Mission and
the AD2000 movement.
"The mission of
Joshua Project II is to highlight the peoples of the world who
have the least exposure to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Joshua
Project II seeks to accomplish this through information sharing
and networking… the mission of the Joshua Project is threefold.
In India's case this "standardised
data coding" has been married to IMA's survey. This has been
used to such a degree that even the diverse language groups of
India have been divided into PIN codes. The ability to send evangelists
that are familiar to language and culture greatly facilitates
the speed at which conversion can happen. It is also cost effective
since tactics can be formed at home base. This also enables any
Christian missionary organisation anywhere in the world to source
any ethno-cultural or ethno-linguistic data on India at the click
of the mouse. So let's say if one of Bush's Christian evangelical
cronies wants to check out which missionary organisation is working
with the Banjaras in Nalgonda, Khammam and Krishna districts in
Andhra Pradesh, all he has to do is plug into this highly guarded
database. It will tell him how many Banjaras were converted to
Christianity over a specified period, the names of Indian Christian
researchers working in community and which evangelical ministry
coordinating the exercise of "saving souls". Just about
any detail he wants is available on demand. Obviously, it flows
the other way as well. So assuming that somebody at the CIA headquarters
wants information on a particular district or region all that
needs to be done is to call up Bush's mentor Rev Billy Graham.
Graham will in turn log into databases maintained by a network
of American Evangelical Missions. All this can happen in seconds
and this is how technology has made evangelical activities so
Latest cutting-edge web technologies
are used to keep in touch with various "unreached people
groups" through key local interlocutors. They also track
on a regular basis status indicators like number of evangelists
working within a people group, the number of Christian adherents,
church growth and mission agency progress indicators. All this
information is then used to "promote networking and partnerships
focusing on least-reached peoples in order to promote the flow
of strategic ministry activity information between individuals,
churches, denominations and mission agencies.
Tehelka's undercover operation
managed to set up networking contacts with the Joshua II project.
Evidence of the meticulous nature of this data is available with
Tehelka. The amazing network that has been established can be
illustrated with the following anecdote. B Shreeprakash and B
Jayaprakash from Kayamkulam, Kerala, came across the December
1998 issue of the National Missionary Intelligencer published
by The National Missionary Society of India, Royappettah, Chennai,
while waiting for an appointment with a doctor. That sparked off
an amateur investigation exercise, the contents of which were
put down in their report titled 'Conversions in India'. Here's
"As part of
this work, an address namely, 'Workers Together' in US was contacted.
To my surprise, a pastor of the Brethren Church, contacted me
from my own town, his residence was only 1km away from that of
mine. He called me over telephone and invited me for a personal
meeting. On visiting his house, he handed over to me an oxford
Edition of the Bible, printed in New York, and a few booklets
and pamphlets. What astonished me was, that the pastor had with
him, a copy of letter which I had sent to US. On enquiring about
how the nearness of my residence with that of the Pastor was understood
by the party at Bangalore, he showed me an official directory
of the list of the evangelicals working in India, with their family
photographs and complete details arranged in order of PIN codes.
Another directory of their worldwide network was also shown to
There cannot, perhaps, be a
better example to understand the effects of marrying the IMA's
survey with Joshua Project's database. The message is this-an
American missionary agency will go to any length even if it means
converting just one person. A letter written to an agency in the
US is re-directed immediately to Bangalore and the agency in Bangalore
in turn tracks down the nearest evangelist and directs him to
take upon the task of ministering the gospel to the newest seeker.
In fact, the mission goal of IMA, according to its general secretary,
Ebenezer Sunder Raj, is: "We need a church within cycling
distance, then within walking distance and finally within hearing
distance." The Church growth figures that are with Tehelka
clearly indicate that this mission mandate is on in full swing.
Data on India: the CIA connection
The "spying out"
missions that generated the vast ethnographic data of the Indian
people also involved detailed study of Dr KS Singh's 'People of
India Project' that was launched in 1985 by the Anthropological
Society of India (ASI). Under Singh's leadership, the ASI undertook
an ambitious project to chart one of the most far-reaching ethnographic
studies in the 20th century. Five hundred scholars spent over
26,000 field days to compile information for these volumes. This
gigantic research work came handy for American and Indian strategists
to draft their evangelical plans for India. According to Luis
Bush, "Never before has this kind of information on India
been so carefully surveyed, prepared, well published and distributed…We
do not believe it is accidental. God is allowing us to "spy
out the land" that we might go in and claim both it and its
inhabitants for Him."
The data collected by experts
from Wycliffe/Summer Institute of Linguistics, World Vision (WV)
and the International Mission Board/Southern Baptists to compile
the Joshua Project Peoples list included a detailed and comprehensive
list of the people groups in India as well. Though this may appear
normal international research activity - generating ethnographic
profiles of non-Christian people groups in the 10/40 window -
there are unseen dangers inherent in the compilation of such accurate
The CIA has publicly admitted
to having used Wycliffe/SIL and the Southern Baptists for covert
intelligence operations in many parts of the world. The cosy relationship
between the Wycliffe and CIA is documented exhaustively in a book
Thy Will Be Done written in the 1990s by Gerald Colby and Charlotte
Dennett. The book documents joint CIA-Wycliffe missions to source
anthropological data from Latin America. Here's a quote from the
book: "SIL had helped gather anthropological information
on the Tarascan Indians that ended up in Nelson Rockefeller's
intelligence files. The files contained cross-references to reveal
behavioural patterns among Indian peoples in everything from socialisation
(including aggressive tendencies) and personality traits, drives,
emotions, and language structure, to political intrigue, kinship
ties, traditional authority, mineral resources, exploitation,
and labor relations. Rockefeller called these data the Strategic
Index of Latin America." The question that will rattle not
only the Indian government, but also outrage the Indian citizens
is whether the American-funded "spying missions" carried
out by Indian and foreign missionary agencies through more than
a decade has resulted in the preparation of a 'Strategic Index
of India' at the CIA headquarters?
Wycliffe, the Southern Baptists
and World Vision have all been active in India as well. Could
it be mere coincidence that Southern Baptists who are amongst
President Bush's most loyal supporters, played an active role
in the "spying out" missions? In fact, Colby and Dennett's
book features a missionary of the Christian and Missionary Alliance,
William Carlsen, who admits that he gave an eight-hour briefing
to the CIA on Thailand's tribal areas. In the mid-1970s when the
CIA's penetration of American missionary agencies made international
headlines, the agency passed a self-limiting executive order to
refrain from using foreign missionaries for intelligence gathering
operations. Incidentally, it was George Bush Sr who in his first
action as the new CIA director declared on February 11, 1976,
that he would ban the practice of enlisting "clergymen and
newsmen as intelligence agents." But this was just public
grandstanding, doublespeak to save the CIA not only from embarrassment,
but protect its operations in Latin American countries such as
Guatemala, Nicaragua and El Salvador. As soon as this announcement
was made the CIA granted itself a private waiver. This was confirmed
in April 1996 when the then CIA director, John Deutch, testifying
before a Senate intelligence committee, said that the agency could
waive the ban in cases "unique and special threats to national
Faith-based policies of White
Surprisingly, Bush's supporters
like the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), made laborious
protests then to condemn the collaboration between missionaries
and the intelligence agency. "Any foreigner living in a foreign
culture already comes under a natural suspicion. If this policy
is reversed, it would totally erode the ministry of missionaries,"
said Jerry Rankin, the then president of the Southern Baptist
Convention Foreign Mission Board. In effect, this amounted to
a plea to the CIA to keep their most well publicized (and hardly
noticed) secret guarded!! The very fact that CIA has been courting
religious missionaries in India and elsewhere is testimony to
the fact that US funded evangelical missions have an unparalleled
reach to the remotest corners of the country. Christianity Today
in its issue of April 29, 1996, carried the following comment
by the NAE President Don Argue: "For intelligence agencies
to seek any relationship whatsoever with our religious workers
must be unequivocally prohibited."
Yet, as recently as January
15, on a visit to the Union Bethel AME Church in New Orleans (this
is a predominantly African-American congregation) Bush touted
his faith-based initiatives. These initiatives are designed to
break the constitutional sanctity of the separation of the State
and the Church. Bush is desperate to entangle and enmesh faith-based
organization as providers of various services. The Americans United
For Separation of Church and State and some other inter-faith
organisations have challenged the Bush plan for religious conversions.
Americans United, founded in 1947, is a religious liberty watchdog
group based in Washington, DC. But, the Bush administration has
relentlessly pushed its religious agenda. It has now become inextricably
linked with not only its social services policies domestically,
but also with US foreign policy and the disbursal of aid to US-based
TMOs. "President Bush shows little appreciation or understanding
of the separation of church and state. Bush is closely aligned
with ultra-conservative Christian groups that have opposed church-state
separation for years. It is obvious they have great influence
over his domestic and foreign policy agendas," Rob Boston,
assistant director of communications, Americans United, told Tehelka.
These TMOs, themselves have
been instrumental in influencing the faith-based policies of the
Bush administration in the first place. Therefore, they in turn,
by virtue of being Bush loyalists have carried the 'Bush Religious
Agenda' to other countries, including India. While within the
US this agenda "strikes at the heart of the religious freedoms
guaranteed by the First Amendment" of the US constitution,
in the rest of the world, specially, India, it has vitally subverted
its security and integrity. "The Religious Right organisations
and fundamentalist Protestants groups have way too much influence
over the Bush administration. Sadly, many Americans do not follow
foreign policy decisions (with the exception of the war in Iraq)
and are either not aware of what is happening or, more often,
simply do not care. As a result, we are on the verge of dismantling
the wall of separation of church and state in America-a policy
that, if enacted, is bound to have negative repercussions around
the world as fundamentalist interpretations of Christianity increasingly
become the basis for foreign policy," said Boston.
Crusade in India
India is key to the Bush religious
agenda. His government has given grants to Christian charities
that are involved in conversion activities in India. On October
3, 2002, the US department of health and human services announced
that television evangelist, Pat Robertson's charity, Operation
Blessing, would be given demonstration grants through the so-called
Compassion Capital Fund. Robertson's organisation and the other
"intermediaries" were free to distribute this federal
grant (essentially American tax payers' money) to religious groups
and community groups of their choice to provide social services.
In other words, there was no restriction on how the federal grants
were to be used. In an interview to Newsweek three years ago Robertson
said, "I've got 10 good years left," and "my heart
is on missions, and on getting people into the kingdom of God.
That's the main thrust of my life." In the same interview,
Robertson recalled fondly a recent crusade in India: "I spoke
to a crowd of 500,000 people!" he said. "Eighty-two
acres of people! The response was overwhelming." Robertson's
Operation Blessing is very active in India through CBN India headquartered
at Jubilee Hills in Hyderabad.
Incidentally, Robertson deftly
defrauded the Indian government because Indian laws do not permit
issuance of visas to Christian missionaries. In response to an
unstirred question (NO. 969) in the Lok Sabha on February 27,
2001 the minister of state for home , Vidyasagar Rao, responded
that "no new missionaries are allowed after 1984. However,
short term visas are being issued to the foreigners who are coming
only in administrative capacity, to review working of their organisations
etc." Certainly, Robertson, founder of the Christian Coalition
in the US and head of the multi-million Christian Broadcasting
Network, might have had "administrative" reasons to
travel to India. But he, surely, did not have either the permission
or the right to evangelise.
The Indian government has been
caught napping. Rev Bush, head of a decade-long global evangelisation
programme, visited India in January 2003. He was a guest of the
Evangelical Fellowship of India and presumably traveled to India
on a tourist visa. In the early years of 2000, many evangelists
entered India fraudulently. Amongst them were extremist Christians
like Don Noble, president of Maranatha Volunteers International
affiliated to a fundamentalist Christian group, the Seventh Day
Adventists and Pastor Michael Ryan, director of Global Mission,
the Seventh Day Adventist church's international outreach department
which co-ordinates India evangelistic initiative. The US state
department website makes no bones about the fact that American
evangelists enter India by employing fraudulent means.
In the context of the fact
that Robertson is one of America's most rabid Christian fundamentalists,
Bush's largesse to him certainly has implications for India. In
an interview broadcast on his own TV channel this is what Robertson
had to say on one of the religions followed in India: "Hinduism
and many of the occult activities that come out of the Orient
are inspired by demons and demon worship...There's this concept
that all religions are the same and all are good. That is not
true. The worship of the Devil is not good." Robertson's
friend and fellow evangelist, Jerry Falwell, also a TV preacher,
ignited anti-American violence across many countries in November
2002 when he called the Prophet Mohammad a "terrorist"
on American television. In Jammu and Kashmir, Falwell's emarks
were published in local newspaper. As word spread protestors spilled
out into the street pelting stones and shouting anti-American
The Oval Office centre
According to Americans United,
"Robertson's Operation Blessing, a $66 million-a-year agency,
also has a controversial history…The controversy over Operation
Blessing stretches back to 1994, when Robertson used his '700
Club' daily cable television programme to raise funds for the
charity. Robertson told viewers Operation Blessing was using cargo
planes to aid refugees from Rwanda who had fled into the neighbouring
nation of Zaire (now known as Congo) to escape a violent civil
war…In fact, Robertson was using his planes to haul mining
equipment in and out of Zaire for African Development Corporation,
his for-profit diamond mining company."
Incidentally, Robertson sought
the Republican nomination for president in 1988 and later founded
the Christian Coalition, a political group that has worked tirelessly
to elect Republicans to public offices nationwide. Bush's presidential
election victory has been, by far, the coalition's biggest success
till date. After having installed a Christian fundamentalist as
the President of America, Robertson stepped down as the president
of the Christian Coalition in December 2001. The Washington Post,
in a dispatch on December 24, 2001 noted that the religious right
had found its "center in Oval office". The writer of
this dispatch, Diana Milbank wrote, "A procession of religious
leaders who have met with him testify to his faith, while Websites
encourage people to fast and pray for the president."
For American evangelicals,
Bush is "God's man at this hour". The Bush administration's
faith based initiatives-'charitable choice' as it is often called-was
one of his key campaign planks during the 2000 presidential campaign.
In fact, as Texas governor, Bush had become a fervent advocate
of this policy that enabled Christian religious organisations
to evangelise while providing publicly financed service.
As president, Bush has expanded
the 'charitable choice' approach to virtually all aspects of government
aid-national and foreign. "In every instance when my administration
sees a responsibility to help people, we will look first to faith-based
institutions, to charities and to community groups that have shown
their ability to save and change lives," Bush told a rally
in Indianapolis on July 22, 1999. Evangelists all over the world
were and still continue to be happy with the language used by
Bush, full of Biblical references and metaphors, as it is. "Saving
Souls" is a common and often-used expression by evangelists
all over the world to refer to religious conversion.
the AIDS victims
On September 21, 2000, Bush
wrote in USA Today that he would allocate $80 billion over 10
years in tax incentives to help churches (in America) provide
social services. The US government has established an unparalleled
partnership with Christian religious organisations. In the last
week of September 2003, the US administration announced new rules
enabling Christian religious institutions to access $20 billion
worth of federal grants. Faith-based organisations can access
and use this fund to deliver services from drug/alcohol de-addiction
to prison reform to HIV/AIDS related care and support activities.
The idea, of course, is to give opportunities to those who suffer
to be "reborn", just as Bush was after years of alcohol
Even though the Bush administration
has denied that its initiatives support evangelical activities,
the fact is that faith-based organisation use prayer and proselytising
as an integral part of its provision of social services. After
all, Bush has often cited his own "reborn" status to
justify the interventions of faith based organisation in the social
sector. In his autobiography, A Charge To Keep, itself a twist
on a well-known hymn, Bush wrote that evangelist Billy Graham
had "planted a mustard seed in my heart, and I started to
change… It was the beginning of a new walk where I would
recommit my heart to Jesus Christ."
Bush has repeatedly singled
out and praised faith-based organisations whose core philosophy
is conversion while dispensing social services. During last year's
State of the Union speech his invited guests were Tonja Myles
of the 'Set Free Indeed Program' at Healing Place Church in Baton
Rouge, Louisiana, and Henry Lozano of Teen Challenge, California.
Both programmes use religious conversion as treatment. Within
the US, Bush's praise for religious conversion programmes has
raised concerns as well. Early into the Bush presidency, the United
Methodist Church, the second-largest Protestant denomination in
the US, made it plain that the president's faith-based initiatives
were essentially about conversion. In a press release on June
14, 2001, a representative of the Methodist Church, Rev. Eliezer
Valentin Castanon, said: "No one can honestly believe that
a program funded with tax dollars, which requires as a major component
of treatment the acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour,
will not advance religion."
One faith-based programme that
Bush goes gaga about is the prison-based InnerChange Freedom Initiative
started by Charles Colson. Incidentally, Colson was one of the
characters from the Watergate episode; he spent seven months in
prison for obstructing justice in a one of the Watergate cases.
"InnerChange is an intensive Bible-centered program, ostensibly
open to inmates of all religious persuasions, but every month
inmates are evaluated on whether they "demonstrate a belief
in Jesus Christ," wrote Robyn E Blumner, perspective columnist
of the St Petersburg Times, on September 28, 2003. "Those
inmates who fail to show the proper level of piety are removed
and lose the special freedoms and privileges dangled before inmates
as incentives to participate," he added. Bush introduced
InnerChange into the Texas prison system when he was governor.
At present it operates in four states and the Bush government
subsidises its conversion activities with the American tax-payers'
What underlies all this is
that the Bush administration's conservative evangelical worldview
has proliferated to countries like India. Here the Church and
Christian NGOs have been involved for a long time in the provision
of voluntary social service. But churches and Christian NGOs in
India and the trans-national (read American) faith-based NGOs
who have a large presence in India have gleefully responded to
the message emanating from the White House. Bush's support for
religious conversion has happened on the persuasive power of the
dollar. It is safe to say that almost all evangelical organisations
in India and non-Catholic churches and the Christian NGOs get
their funding from their American patrons or from USAID. These
groups, like CARE or World Vision tend to Christian social workers
and consciously infuse Christian religiosity as part of the help
they provide to socially and economically marginalised communities.
World Vision, the world's largest
Christian church mission agency, has traditionally been closely
linked with successive American governments. The former US Ambassador
for International Religious Freedoms, Dr Robert Seiple, was WV
chief for 11 years till 1998 when he was picked by former president,
Bill Clinton, to head the office of International Religious Freedoms.
Around the period when Seiple was the president of WV, its vice-president
from 1993 to 1998 was Andrew S. Natsios. He is now the administrator
of the US Agency for International Development (USAID). For more
than 40 years, USAID has been the leading government agency providing
economic and humanitarian assistance to developing countries.
WV's focus is children and
community development. It is involved in more than 162 projects
in 25 states. It projects its community development programmes
as "holistic development". This is implemented through
Area Development Programmes (ADP). Each ADP works in an area that
is contiguous geographically, economically or ethnically. These
programmes provide access to clean drinking water, healthcare,
education and setting up of income generating projects. But infused
with such development works is the spiritual component-Bible classes.
In India, WV projects itself
as a "Christian relief and development agency with more than
40 years experience in working with the poorest of the poor in
India without respect to race, region, religion, gender or caste."
However, Tehelka has in its possession US-based WV Inc.'s financial
statement filed before the Internal Revenue Service, wherein,
it is classified as a Church ministry. In any case, its mission
statement is self-explanatory: "World Vision is an international
partnership of Christians whose mission is to follow our Lord
and Saviour Jesus Christ, in working with the poor and oppressed,
to promote human transformation, seek justice and bear witness
to the Good News of the Kingdom of God."
Though, WV, has consultative
status with UNESCO and partnerships with UN agencies like UNICEF,
WHO, UNHCR and ILO, the fact is that its financial records reveal
that it has funded evangelical activities all over the world,
including India. WV uses its international clout and its close
links with the US government through USAID to network with governments
and corporate entities in the developing world.
WV has an ongoing channel of
interaction with the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII);
its 2003 financial report it states that "the Rural Development
Department of the Government of Assam recognised WV India as a
leading development agency in the state and has recommended that
WV be the choice for receiving bilateral funds. The government
has also sought WV's assistance in creating a proposal for US$
80 million for development work in the state."
The income and expenditure
account for the year ended September 30, 2002 shows that its total
income was Rs 95.5 crores, which included foreign contribution
of Rs 87.8 crores. For an organisation that claims to be only
involved in development and relief work, it is quite stealthy
about its positioning and exact nature of activities. When approached
by Tehelka as part of its undercover operation for an interview,
WV India's national director, Dr Jayakumar Christian, after having
agreed to the interview backed out because he wanted copies of
the fictitious Christian magazine that Tehelka claimed to be representing.
However, what goes unnoticed
by the governments and the corporate world is WV India's evangelical
missions as part of its development agenda. Proselytisation is
an integral part of its provision of development services under
its much-touted ADP programmes. Though none of the literature
published by WV India even mentions its evangelisation missions,
foreign publications of WV India proudly proclaim its "spiritual"
Take for instance, WV New Zealand's
report (4 September 2002) on the funding of ADP in Dahod, Gujarat.
Under the head, 'spiritual development' the report states: "Held
a vacation Bible school for 150 children from different villages.
The children participated in games, Bible quizzes, drama and other
activities. Organised a one-day spiritual retreat for 40 young
people and a children's Christmas party. Each of Dahod's 45 villages
chose five needy children to attend the party." In Dumaria,
Banka district, eastern Bihar, "the ADP supports local churches
by running leadership-training courses for pastors and church
What has an ADP got to do with
running leadership-training courses for pastors and church leaders?
Incidentally, WV New Zealand funds ADP programmes in the tribal
pockets of India. The New Zealand Government's Voluntary Agencies
Support Scheme (VASS) jointly fund the two-year project, the NZ
government matching WV contributions on a 2:1 basis. There are
many other instances of evangelical programmes run by WV India.
In the Gajapati ADP, situated
in Gumma Block of Orissa's Gajapati district, a WV report admits
that "Canadian missionaries have worked in the area for just
over 50 years and today 85-90 percent of the community is Christian.
However, local church leaders had little understanding of the
importance of their role in community development. ADP staff build
relationships with these leaders to improve church co-operation
and participation in development initiatives." Here WV organised
two training camps for local church leaders in holistic development.
Targeting the tribals
In Mayurbhanj, again in Orissa,
WV regularly organises spiritual development programmes as part
of its ADP package. The WV report says: "Opposition to Christian
workers and organisations flares up occasionally in this area,
generally from those with vested interests in tribal people remaining
illiterate and powerless. WV supports local churches by organising
leadership courses for pastors and church leaders."
WV India is active in Bhil tribal
areas and openly admits its evangelical intentions: "The
Bhil people worship ancestral spirits but also celebrate all the
Hindu festivals. Their superstitions about evil spirits make them
suspicious of change, which hinders community development. ADP
staff live among the Bhil people they work with, gaining the villagers'
trust and showing their Christian love for the people by their
actions and commitment."
This being the case it is not
suprising that WV India was honoured with the 2003 Mahatma Gandhi
Award for Social Justice. This award is hosted by the All India
Christian Council. Incidentally, Joseph D'Souza who was AICC's
President during that year also heads an evangelical network,
Operation Mobilisation, in India. OM, again, is an American TMO.
It was founded by Georg Verwer and today is a global ministry
"committed to working in partnership with churches and other
Christian organisations for the purpose of World mission."
Essentially, Bush has sparked
off a theological fight between those Christian organisations
who believe that their expression of faith is serving the marginalised,
dispossessed and hungry in a non-sectarian way and the others
who believe that the only way to bring change and reform is by
Bible thumping. Unfortunately, the Bible thumpers are winning
and they are being underwritten by the American tax payers.
What they are probably not
aware is that missionaries in India's back of the beyond villages,
like Karala, (see box) have been pulled into Bush's missionary
zeal. Sadly, while Pastor Prabhat Nayak is deeply committed to
bring the villagers of Karala to Christ, he is unaware that Christian
evangelical theology and money doled out by the White House threatens
to rip apart the social fabric of India.
The US administration headed
by Bush is the most overtly religious in memory. Numerous press
reports in America and Europe have highlighted instances where
"cabinet meetings start with prayers and where no presidential
speech is complete without some statement of Christian faith."
His foreign policy often seems rooted in biblical theology. The
world has already seen Christianity vs Islam being played out
in the war debate over Iraq. The Christian Right is solidly behind
Bush's Christianity First policy. Richard Land, a key leader of
the Southern Baptist Convention, has strongly supported Bush's
faith-based foreign policy. By the way, Land, is a key member
of US government's Committee on International Religious Freedoms.
The Southern Baptists fiercely
believe in conversion. Not many would know that people like Land
oversee the US International Religious Freedoms report. The 2003
report is a no-nonsense document that conveys the official US
policy supporting evangelisation. It openly admits that "US
officials have continued to engage state officials on the implementation
and reversal of anti-conversion laws." Here's an excerpt
from the report:
"This act (Foreigners Act)
strictly prohibits visitors who are in the country on tourist
visas from engaging in religious preaching without first obtaining
permission from the Ministry of Home Affairs. Given this context,
the Government discourages foreign missionaries from entering
the country and has a policy of expelling foreigners who perform
missionary work without the correct visa…New missionaries
currently enter as tourists on short-term visas. U.S. citizens
accused of religious preaching while visiting India as tourists
have faced difficulties obtaining permission to return to the
country for up to a decade after the event."
Christian NGOs in India
The Bush administration's prescription
of religiosity as social policy has gratified the religious Right
in the US. The proponents of faith-based initiatives want US government
funds to go to those churches and Christian NGOs that consider
conversion as part of rehabilitation activities. Since the USAID
funds Christian NGOs in India and also since US trans-national
Chrisitian NGOs like World Vision and CARE are heavily involved
in development initiatives in India, their role in evangelical
activities is not a matter of conjecture.
It is, of course, another matter
that USAID plays a vital role in intelligence gathering operations
for the CIA. President John F Kennedy had established USAID, along
with the Peace Corps and the Alliance for Progress, "all
three designed in part to stem the spread of communism."
The link between the CIA and Christian missionary groups is USAID.
This is written in great detail in Thy Will Be Done. Here's a
quote again: "…That June, President Nixon's director
of (US) AID, John Hannah, had admitted publicly that AID had funded
CIA operations in Laos, and subsequent revelations pointed to
CIA-AID collaboration in Ecuador, Uruguay, Thailand and the Phillippines."
In fact, CIA-supported missionaries were embroiled in counter-insurgency
operations, civil wars and were more often than not conduits for
arms and armaments for Christian insurgent groups all over the
Under President Bush's fundamentalist
Christian government, the era of CIA-USAID-Evangelicals partnership
has come back with a roar. And a world caught up in "War
on Terror" and the search for elusive weapons of mass destruction,
has had no time to notice.
In any case, aid dispensed
by USAID was hardly meant to spur development. During the Cold
War, it was meant to keep the former Soviet Union at bay and to
keep afloat, bloated, venal and corrupt regimes all over the world
In a research paper titled
'Bush and Foreign Aid', for the journal Foreign Affairs (September/October
2003), Steven Radelet, who was Deputy Assistant Secretary of the
Treasury from January 2000 to June 2002 and is now a senior fellow
at the Center for Global Development, wrote: "One of the
greatest surprises of George W Bush's presidency so far has been
his call to dramatically increase U.S. foreign aid…(in September
2002) Bush released his National Security Strategy, which gave
prominence to development and aid alongside defense and diplomacy.
Then came his State of the Union address, in which he called for
$10 billion in new funding ($ 15 billion total) over the next
five years to combat HIV/AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean."
Radelet went on to reveal that
US foreign aid increase from $11 billion in 2002 to $18 billion
in 2006 is the largest increase in decades. This from a Republican
president whose party has traditionally demonstrated antagonism
toward foreign aid. USAID's change of fortune is nothing short
of miraculous. In the 1990s it almost disappeared into oblivion
because US assistance to poor countries declined by 25 percent.
September 11 brought the issue of foreign aid back into limelight.
Nothing can illustrate this
better than the example of Sudan. This oil rich country has for
years been caught in a debilitating and destructive civil war
that has pitted a Muslim government centred in the north against
the southern Christians. But the recent discovery of oil in Sudan
has changed the dynamics of the conflict and, as luck would have
it, the oil was struck in the Islamic, northern Sudan. So human
rights groups and Christian missionary organisations have been
crying themselves hoarse over the "brutal anti-Christian
campaign of the Muslim government" and the "persecution
of the non-Muslims." In the same breath Christian fundamentalists
like Rev Franklin Graham and Senator Sam Brownback have pressured
Bush to assist the rebels. Pressure is also suddenly being mounted
internationally and within the US for "diplomatic intervention"
to "end the conflict and prevent a disastrous famine"
in the country.
And guess who is making the
loudest noises about Sudan? Christian Solidarity International.
It is working overtime to influence the US Congress and British
parliament. Over the last decade, USAID has spent $1.2 billion,
most of it to support the SPLA, the Christian rebel group in Southern
Sudan. The CIA-USAID-Missionary partnership story in Sudan is
completed when the last block of the jigsaw puzzle is put in place-Andrew
Natsios was appointed administrator
of USAID on May 1, 2001. But President Bush gave him two other
hats to wear as well-special coordinator for international disaster
assistance and special humanitarian coordinator for Sudan. Ostensibly,
Bush wants to ensure that aid reaches the people of Sudan as opposed
to being stolen and misappropriated by the Sudanese government.
The fact that aid deliveries
have for so long been stolen by the Christian rebel groups, of
course, did not even merit a mention.
Natsios has earlier served
in USAID from 1989 to 1993 heading two of its vital departments.
It's a strange co-incidence that during the time when CIA backed
American missionary agencies were receiving ethnographic data
from "spying missions" set up by American evangelical
organisations in India, Natsios was associated with World Vision,
which, in turn, was involved in analysing the ethnographic data
along with Wycliffe and the Southern Baptists.
Under the Bush Presidency,
the post-9/11 period has been marked by two key initiatives: support
to "frontline countries" that are helping US in its
"war on terror" and appear committed to development
and humanitarian issues like HIV/AIDS, poverty, and economic inequality.
What is striking, however, is that the Bush administration, in
its efforts to project US as a "soft power" as opposed
to a marauding military superpower, has relied and been influenced
disproportionately by faith-based groups and institutions.
And given the fact that Bush
administration officials regularly hold consultations with Church
groups and leaders, it is not surprising that American evangelical
missions have found a deep reservoir of support with the US government
for their activities in India and elsewhere.
The Joshua Project
Joshua Project - India Profile