Missionary bigotry of targeting vulnerable people during calamities must be called out

Rajiv Malhotra’s recent Tweet (since deleted) about donating to Hindu groups for the Kerala floods caused a flutter of responses from the “secular” ecosystem regarding “Hindu bigotry.” While his tweet could have been better worded, beyond political correctness certain glaring facts remain. Christian evangelical groups often use natural disasters to target non-Christian communities, first by blame, as Evangelist “Bro Lazarus Mohan” viciously did for the Kerala floods, and later by using their funds to prey on vulnerable communities desperate for help.

Take the Tsunami in 2004, for instance. The Guardian reported that Christian aid groups were trying to convert aid victims in Indonesia. The report read:

“Dozens of religious groups have moved into Aceh, looking to help tsunami victims – and convert them and others, creating tensions in the disaster area. The arrival of Western Christian groups with records of aggressive preaching risks confrontation with local Muslim leaders which could jeopardise the provision of aid to the 600,000 local people made homeless by the disaster.”

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Of course, since here the target victims were Muslims, this got international coverage. And as has been the norm, targeting of vulnerable Hindus during the Tsunami in India got very little coverage. Malhotra, however, had documented large-scale conversions on the ground. The evangelists are like vultures, following disasters to prey on vulnerable people. This pattern is repeatedly seen—for instance with Christian Missionaries selling Jesus when Nepal was groaning in an earthquake.

On one hand, as the Guardian reported, “Mark Kosinski, an American evangelist who arrived in Aceh from Malaysia last week, said: ‘These people need food but they also need Jesus. God is trying to awaken people and help them realise salvation is in Christ.’”

On the other, Hindu (and Sikh) organizations do not do seva with a motive of conversion. Donating to these organizations, thus, means that the money will be used for service not to blackmail vulnerable people to choose between being able to follow their traditions and being able to feed their family. In desperate times, some would convert, given the enormous multi-billion dollar resources at the disposal of the evangelical army.

Even Yezidis escaping from the brutality of ISIS for following their ancestral traditions were later preyed on by Christian missionaries for the same intent. ISIS converted Yezidi, at the threat of death, to Islam. Christian missionaries exploited the vulnerability of the Yezidi with the aim of converting them to Christianity. The intent is not so different from the ISIS—the agenda is conversion to monopolistic religion. The Christian evangelicals used the threat to withhold essential aid, a death threat in many cases, with the same intent to convert. Simply the methods differ.

As the Voice of America reported:

“Some Western evangelical groups have made little effort to disguise a proselytizing motive underlining their humanitarian missions in Iraq’s Kurdistan. Some groups identified the Yazidi refugee influx into Kurdistan as a “golden opportunity” for conversion”.

U.S.-based non-profit Christian Aid Mission highlighted in one report on its website how Yazidis were “once inaccessible to native Iraqi missionaries, as members lived reclusively in distant mountains near the border with Turkey” but once Islamic extremists stormed their strongholds last summer forcing them to flee, missionary work became easier.”

This is an asymmetrical war.  Hindus will continue to work with seva bhava and groups like the evangelists will continue to target vulnerable Hindus, and other native communities, for conversion. Once converted, they would also become foot soldiers in the evangelical war, attacking the traditions of others. If you want to not enable bigotry, the best bet is to donate to Hindu groups working on the ground in a disaster such as Kerala because that contribution will benefit victims regardless of their religion, caste or creed. On the other hand, even organizations like Amazon India are supporting explicitly evangelical groups like World Vision which epitomize bigotry, with a “vision” to convert the world to Christianity.

So the question to Indian “seculars” is this. While they are upset by a call to donate to Hindu groups like Seva International, eschewing donating to proselytizing predatory religions, calling it “bigotry” they are unwilling to call out the Christian mission, which regards other traditions as “Satanic” and target vulnerable communities, for its explicit, global, imperial bigotry? Why is that? Why is it that they are unwilling to call out globally resourced monopolistic religions, where bigotry is an article of faith, but keep their guns trained on Hindus?

Let’s speak to the ordinary pluralistic Hindu. Yes, Hindus are naturally pluralistic. This is exactly why a tweet like Rajiv’s makes many Hindus uncomfortable. But this is exactly why Hindus must put in the effort to understand global totalitarian religions which reject pluralism and are on a crusade to convert the world to their exclusive dogma. If you really care about a plural world, these must be called out. As Karl Popper stated:

“Less well known is the paradox of tolerance: Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.”

“Seculars” continue to preach “tolerance” to plural Hindus even in the face of an onslaught from the intolerant ones. The aim could only be one—the destruction of the tolerant. In that sense, Malhotra’s tweet to donate to Hindu groups is spot on, and is anti-bigotry, despite the noise. But unless one has the complete context, it is liable to be misunderstood, especially by plural, and unaware, Hindus. It’s time to wake up.

Sankrant is an entrepreneur and author based in Seattle and Gurugram. He blogs at sankrant.org and can be followed on twitter @sankrant.

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