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Friday, June 9, 2023

How Mizo Church is aggressively implementing its conversion agenda in Assam

The Mizo Presbyterian Church Synod or the Mizo Synod, or the Mizo Church, as more commonly known, is aggressively proselytizing across the country. It has raised several specialized branches to implement its conversion plan.

Jharkhand Mission field, Assam Mission field, Home Mission South for Chakma Buddhists in Mizoram, Arunachal East Mission field, Kolkata Mission Field, Patna Mission Field, and the Delhi Mission field are some of the branches of the Mizo Church. This article focuses on Assam Mission Field and its activities.

The Mizo Church established Assam Mission Field (AMF) in 2000. The proposal to establish AMF was taken in the 76 Synod conference. The conference also passed a proposal to systematically approach and achieve its conversion goals in Assam.

The Mizo Church has divided Assam into four administrative divisions called pastorates for ease of doing business. Dibrugarh pastorate for upper Assam, the Tezpur pastorate for middle Assam and the northern bank, the Guwahati pastorate for lower Assam, and lastly the Silchar pastorate for Barak valley are the four pastorates.

Pastorates are managed by high-ranking Mizo officials field secretaries and undersecretaries. They maintain a team of local converts from target communities. Local converts work as overground workers with these communities. However, they are always ranked lower in the heirarchy and also have to face discrimination from the high-ranking officials.

The Mizo officials first undergo theological education in Aizawl theological college and then they have to undertake mandatory training at the Missionary Training College. The evangelists who are deputed for AMF are taught Assamese at the Missionary Training College.

Additionally, Mizo missionaries are also imparted vulnerability mapping skill. They are taught to identify Communities, Ethnic groups, Localities and Individuals who are susceptible to conversions. This includes villages/families ravaged by natural disasters, individuals with terminal illnesses, underdeveloped localities, orphans, and single parents among others.

A strong money flow from abroad helps the evangelists to carry out their conversion plan with ease. Presbyterian Church, USA, Princeton Theological Seminary, USA, Presbyterian Church of Wales, UK, World Communion of Reformed Church, UK, Christian Reform World Mission USA, Council of world missions, UK, and the Church Mission Society, UK are some of the foreign donors. AMF and its parent body has access to unlimited financial resources.

The Mizo Church is successful because it has enough manpower, unending money supply, and its methodical approach to proselytization. It has also acquired significant amount of non-movable assets across the state that serve as mission and field station for their activities.

Tezpur pastorate Field Secretary of AMF Rev. H. Lalhmingmawia claims 74% Santhali community in Biswanath Chariali, Sonitpur and in and around Gossaigaon have been converted to Christianity. The new converts have been deputed among Santhali tribes in Jharkhand through Jharkhand Mission Field to accelerate conversion there.

According to AMF estimates the current rate of conversion in Assam is around 34%. It also projects that the present Christian population to reach 24% by 2041 from the present 12%. The Mizo Church predicts a major demographical change in Manipur, Assam and Tripura by 2051. It also believes that the Hindu population in these states will reduce by a significant percentage.

The inroads made by the Mizo Church are significant because Assam is viewed as the last Hindu bastion where evangelism couldn’t make much headway even in the late twentienth century. The Assamese were the most resolute and put up a stiff resistance to Christian proselytization. Works of Vashnavite monks like Shrimanta Shankardeva and Shri Shri Madhavdeva played a major role in preventing conversions. Today the community has become the most susceptible due to the aloofness of the spiritual centers such as sattras and Vaishnavite monastries.

The conversion of the Santhali community has helped the cause of evangelical missions such as the Mizo Church. Evangelists make use of ‘famous personalities’ such as Johnny Lever, Prem Chopra, and Lara Dutta among others to lure people for conversion. Hindu society is repeatedly threatened by Christian evangelism that has been spreading its tentacles across Bharat. The Assam anti-conversion bill needs to be looked in this light.

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