When Intolerance Begets the Loss of Reason
Posted September 13, 2005
(Vijay Times, 9 Sept. 2005)
Bangalore Initiative for Religious Dialogue(BIRD)
In a letter to the Indian Prime Minister on the eve of the recently held National Integration Council meeting in New Delhi, John Dayal, member of National Minorities Commission (NCM) and chairman of the All India Christian Council (AICC) has accused the "obscurantist and fundamentalist" Hindu political organisations of raping nuns, murdering priests, attacking churches and harassing believers".
Mr. Dayal is known for his polemical writings against "the Hindu extremists". He opens his mouth and wields his pen only to spew venom on the Hindus community. So, it is not surprising that he has raised the ghosts of the past at this juncture.
Be that as it may, what are the facts about the alleged rapes, murders, attacks and harassments? Like most of those who write regularly to newspapers and need factual information, I keep my personal file of clippings so that I don't slip up on accuracy.
In the case of the rape of four nuns in Jhabua, the Hindu activists were accused of being guilty of the crime without any foundation. Subsequently, out of the 24 arrested, the local police said that 12 were Christians. Francois Gautier, then South Asia correspondent for Le Figaro, went to Jhabua and met the "four admirable nuns". The nuns themselves admitted to him in the presence of their bishop George Anatil that the "rape" had nothing to do with religion. "It was the doing of a gang of Bhil tribals, known to perpetrate this kind of hateful acts on their own women." (Hindustan Times, Feb.1, 1999).
There is no doubt that the ghastly murder of Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two sons needed to be universally condemned and the culprits severely punished. The so-called Christian leaders have cynically used the Staines' murder for far too long. This is despite the fact that Gladys Staines has forgiven the killers of her husband and children.
After the dastardly killing of the Australian missionary and his children, there was a report of a nun being raped in Orissa after accepting a lift from a taxi which had men disguised as women in it. Right from the beginning, the story was full of holes. However, the English media lapped it up, and highlighted it as another incident of attack on Christians and implied that it was the Sangh Parivar that was behind it. Christians organised massive rallies protesting against the rape. But the medical report stated that there was no rape, and the injuries sustained by the nun were of an earlier date. But no one found it necessary to admit their mistake. No one apologised for fabricating the incident.
On Feb.2, 1998, the Associated Press put out a report that an American missionary, Dr. John Sylvester, had been forced by "Hindu fundamentalist" to close down his school and clinic in Allahabad. He took refuge in a Baptist seminary. It turned out later that Sylvester is an Indian, not a priest, did not run a school, and never met the AP correspondent! No one, including John Dayal, apologised to the RSS outfits!
Times News Network reported on December 3, 2004 that a TADA court in Hyderabad had convicted 31 persons belonging the Deendar Anjuman, in the church blasts cases that caused ripples in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Goa in June-July 2000. They had hatched a conspiracy to plant bombs in churches all over south India to create social unrest. They had triggered blasts in Wadi, Gulbarga and Bangalore. It may be recalled that the media and the secularists in the country had blamed the RSS and other Hindu organisations for the bomb blasts. But none of them came forward to apologise when the culprits turned out to be members of another minority community.
The RSS-Bangalore Initiative for Religious Dialogue (BIRD) fact-finding team which inquired into the "attack" on the Holy Family Church, Hinkal, in Mysore in February 2002, found out, among other things, that the incident happened because of mistaken identity. It was a minor one – a minor scuffle in the church premises and a broken window-pane. The incident should have been localised and contained. But, it was blown out of proportion and internationalized by the media and the self-styled leaders and spokesmen of the minority communities. A classic example of making a mountain out of a molehill. The team painfully observed that "these leaders spread distress and divisions among neighbours of different faiths and provoke religious sentiments and fan the flames of hatred".
Yet, it is unfortunate even today Christian leaders and pseudo-secularists continue to include the above incidents in the list of the atrocities against Christians. Yes, no civil society can condone violence. But mere condemnation is not a method to avert the repetition of violence. We have to find out if the violence is deliberate and unprovoked, or due to provocation. If it is the former, then there is one set of solutions, which mostly involve applying the law and severely punishing the perpetrators of the violence. However, if there is provocation, then we have to study the issue in greater detail. We have to understand why there has been a provocation for the violence, and who are the persons or organisations behind the provocation.
The real source of danger to the Indian Christian community is not the handful of Hindu extremists. Most of the violent incidents have been due to aggressive evangelising. Other than this there have been few attacks on Christians. Finally the sensitive and sensible Christians must realize that acts of certain "born-again" varieties of Christian evangelists who denigrate Hindu gods and abuse Hindu rituals as barbaric are the root cause of tension between Christian and Hindu communities. Christian leaders known for their erudition, equipoise and empathy should come out in the open to disown such acts of intolerance.
Terms such as "evangelistic campaign", "missionary strategy", "campus crusade", "occupying non-Christian areas", a "blitzkrieg" of missionaries, and sending "reinforcements" sound more appropriate to military enterprises than to Christian witness to God's redeeming love in Jesus Christ. The statistical approach implied in the words "the unreached millions" is derogatory to neighbours of other faiths."Unreached" by whom? When Indian Christians themselves use these phrases, which have originated outside the country, to describe their neighbours living next door to them in the community, Christians should not be surprised if the nehigbours are offended.
(Courage for Dialogue- Dr. Stanley Samartha).
Call it the irrational Hindu anger at being cheated of destiny. Call it the Hindu backlash at the growing fanaticism in other communities. Call it the end of the tether for Hindu patience and tolerance. India's cycles of violence continue because it is only seldom that we have allowed healing to take place. It is imperative that our ears be made sensitive to the heartbeat of the 'other' community or caste. And we must all assist and permit a true healing. Stop spreading hatred against any particular community like butter on hot bread. And stop being merchants of hate. We must learn to overcome hatred by love.
All of us would be doing a great service to the cause of communal and religious amity and peace in this country if we learn to show a little humility and a little diffidence about the correctness of our views. We should not seek to satisfy our thirst for ego and vanity by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred and jealousy. We have to teach ourselves that consideration for others is nobler than muscling our way to the front.