It is no secret that India is targeted by many external forces, hell-bent on conquests of many kinds. Islamists want to wreck the last pagan civilization, Christian missionaries want to harvest souls, Marxists want to use India as a canvas to run an economic experiment that has worked nowhere else in the world, and the Western powers see India as a market for their digital and physical products.
While India looks to become atmanirbhar in matters of the economy, standing up to some of these forces will require the country to play ‘offence’ rather than only deploy ‘defensive’ strategies. One area where Indians have been on the defensive is regarding the International Church and its efforts to convert, especially amongst the poor. The mechanisms suggested are usually defensive in nature, e.g. anti-conversion laws or perhaps shutting down of NGOs but what’s needed is to get these Abrahamic forces to start defending their own position. There are three key areas that are ripe for public and government pressure.
The Church in India is the largest non-agricultural landowner including prime real estate in many cities. The land was given by the British on leases that are no longer valid since the Indian Churches Act of 1927 was repealed post Independence. The Government of India wrote to states in 1965 confirming that ‘the ownership of all Church properties under the repealed act is now with the Government of India’. The Modi government has shown itself more than capable of taking tough decisions and the auctioning of this land for development purposes will have many winners.
Another issue around Church control of land has to do with graveyards. While this is more of a challenge with kabristans due to the much larger Muslim population, the same challenge is faced with Catholic churches taking up ever-growing space for graveyards. There are several measures that can be taken to encourage cremation or introduce better practices related to managing burial lands in order to avoid continued expansion of burial grounds which offer no productive return for the public. While controversial in the Indian context, a societal shift towards cremation has already started in the Western world, e.g. US, Europe, and Australia. Most of these modern Christian countries now have more than 50% of their dead being cremated versus being buried. There is no reason why the archaic practice of burying the dead forever needs to be maintained as a standard process.
Child and Sexual Abuse
While barely covered in the Indian media, the Church worldwide has been rocked by an unending set of sexual abuse crimes. These crimes are not limited to specific geography, as thousands of verified abusers (mostly priests) and victims (mostly minors, the majority of whom are boys) have emerged all over the world, including developed and developing countries. There is also a pattern of systemic cover-up by Church officials, going all the way up to the Vatican.
Given the power of the Church in India, the only recent case that’s in the public sphere is of Bishop Franco Mulakkal, who’s accused of raping a nun multiple times over the course of several years. The nun and her supporters have faced extreme pressure from Church officials and have been ostracized from the community. There are also additional cases that have come to light including one a few years ago where the Church forced an underage rape victim’s father to falsely confess to the rape in order to protect the priest who did the crime. Given the widespread nature of the issue – it is estimated that roughly 5% of Church priests worldwide are sex offenders – there are many children and women who have been abused and many more in harm’s way as we speak. A wide-ranging investigation by Indian authorities is in order.
The third and last issue is one that is seen as a positive aspect of the Church but in reality, does innumerable harm to children and the Dharmic psyche. Given the poor standards of Government schools, many parents opt for Convent schools due to their reputation as providers of a ‘good education’. Unfortunately, along with the education, children are subtly indoctrinated to disapprove of their Dharmic identity, e.g. no teeka. mehndi or Hindu religious symbols allowed in school, while the schools’ staff continues to shower positive messages about Catholicism.
This passive brainwashing during a child’s formative years has traditionally been offset by strong community and family links to Hinduism, but those are under continued threats as the state punishes Hindu traditions e.g. fireworks during Diwali, and the family unit becomes atomized into nuclear households. To make it worse, these nuclear households are headed not by elders but by overworked and overstressed working parents. The convent school brainwashing leads to many Hindus growing up with a minimum or without a sense of pride in the Hindu Dharma and at worst, spouting atheistic or Catholic leaning ideologies.
Fortunately, the post-Covid world will see an acceleration of trends that shall close the gap between a quality education versus what is offered today through the Government school system. Cheap data, quality content in the language of choice delivered through several formats, and affordable devices will be stitched together through online and offline platforms. While high-quality alternatives will take some time to get launched, Hindu organizations need to put societal pressure on the Convent school administrations to at least respect the majority’s sentiments while also educating society about the harms of a Convent education.
The threat of the Global Church is real as the Vatican and others look to make inroads in India and Africa to offset the increased shedding of Christian identity in the US and Europe. Hindus need to attack this threat in a proactive manner.