For quite some time, the term ‘rice bag convert’ has been used by some sections of the Hindu Right to shame people who converted to Christianity due to financial benefits. The term has its historical roots in the efforts made by Christian missionaries to convert the natives of Asian countries and the more common word for the phenomenon is ‘Rice Christians’.
It has been observed by numerous scholars through the ages that the Christian missionaries convert people primarily by offering them financial benefits rather than the virtue of their preaching. Often, such benefits included bags of rice. However, with the passage of time, rice bags were substituted by other financial benefits. But it appears, at least some evangelicals haven’t yet given up on their rice bags.
‘Mission India’ and Rice Bags
Mission India is an evangelical organization that seeks to ‘transform India with the love of Christ through the local Church’. They are a “group of people committed to the Great Commission and passionate about making His name known to the 1.3 billion people in India.” As it so happens, Mission India’s exclusive effort geared towards children is termed the ‘Rice Bag Project‘.
The project also involves, and it’s not a joke, handing out ‘Mission India Rice Bags’ to children. The idea apparently comes from Indians themselves. It says, “Many Christians in India are so poor that they are forced to spend most of their money on food. Despite their poverty, they have found a way to give generously to the Lord. Here’s how they do it: Each night, a mother takes a handful of uncooked rice and places it in a small cloth bag (or container). When the bag is full, the rice is taken to the church as a gift for the Lord.”
Thus, it appears that Mission India has inverted the purpose for which rice bags were used. While earlier, the rice bags contained benefit for the people they were trying to convert, now they insist that the converted, or those they are trying to convert, hand them over when they are full with coins. Thus, the evangelical organization is now using rice bags to not only convert more people but also to secure more funding for their efforts.
‘Rice Bag Guide’ of Mission India: How to make ‘Roti’ and ‘Mango Lassi’
Our readers may find it amusing but the ‘Rice Bag Guide’, as Mission India calls it, contains even instructions on how to prepare Roti and Mango Lassi. It’s an ‘Activity’ that is listed to settle in the guide the purpose of which one would assume is to build rapport with those they seek to convert. The instructions are pretty detailed and Roti is described as a ‘simple flatbread recipe that is made almost daily in many Indian households.’ “Serve warm alone or paired with steamed vegetables, plain yoghurt dip, or lightly spreaded with jam,” it says.
Insensitive stories about destitute Hindus finding Jesus
The guide also contains the story of little girls such as one ‘Pooja’ who is only ten years old. It says, “Pooja is only 10 years old. But life is already really hard. Her mother was too sick to take care of the house and kids. And Pooja’s father worked long hours as a tailor for making clothes. Pooja is the oldest girl – so it’s up to her to cook, clean, and watch her brothers and sisters.” And then, a “Children’s Bible Club was introduced in her village!”
And now, “Pooja asked the club leader to teach her how to pray for her mother’s healing. Pooja’s parents are curious about the changes they are seeing in their daughter. Even though they are Hindu, they don’t mind that she goes to church each Sunday. Pooja talks often about Jesus with her parents. She is praying that they will also accept Him as their Lord. Pooja says she trusts that Jesus will heal her mother and bring joy to her whole family.”
Caste role-playing for conversion to Christianity
The most insensitive aspect of the whole project, nonetheless, is the activity where the participants are urged to indulge is “Caste role-playing”. It says, “We’ll never know exactly what it’s like to grow up with the caste system. It’s hard to imagine someone not wanting to talk to us or even touch us just because of the family we were born into. Try this role-playing activity to get a taste of living under the caste system.”
It appears even Mission India realizes how insensitive it is because they add as a note at the bottom of the page, “Depending on whether you are doing this as a large group or at home as a family, and the age of the children, you will want to determine how long it is appropriate to try this activity. Parents, you may want to give some extra guidance on what kind of behaviour is okay during this role-playing. A larger group may only want to do it for 15 to 30 minutes. Families might want to try spending a morning or full day in their roles, or perhaps just try it during an evening meal.”
As appears obvious, the Rice Bag Project seeks to incite caste hatred among Indians through its game of ‘role play’. As IndiaFacts reported, “On its website and on its twitter handle, it routinely portrays India in poor light and derides Hinduism and its SampradAyas. Its Founder, Dave Stravers gives interviews which create a sense of gloom about India in the US, a picture that is in stark contrast to the reality of crores of ebullient Indians looking forward to a resurgent India.”
IndiaFacts also reports, “Mission India (MI) of Michigan remits funds by itself as well as through assumed-name organizations to its subsidiary NGOs, Seva Bharat (SB) and Letha Charitable Trust (LCT) ) in India via FCRA.” As per the report, it also established a company called DTK Hospitality Tours Pvt. Ltd. in Ranga Reddy district, Telangana.
We have earlier reported on the manner in which Christian evangelism is a threat to the demographic stability of the country. Their fanaticism also led to the death of one Christian missionary, John Allen Chau, who died in the process of trying to convert the isolated Sentinelese Tribe.