American students on short-term ‘mission trips’ to Bharat in pursuit of the ‘Great Commission’ (the Biblical mandate to make disciples of all nations) is a phenomenon that has grown rapidly over the last 2-3 decades. As per some estimates by Christian groups, short-term missions across the world attract over 2 million participants each year from America alone.
Where do these students go? Well, most of them come to countries which fall in the 10/40 window – a rectangular area of North Africa, the Middle East and Asia between 10 degrees north and 40 degrees north latitude. The 10/40 Window, devised by the hardline Christian ‘Joshua Project’, is often called “The Resistant Belt” and includes the majority of the world’s Hindus and Buddhists and Muslims – over 4 billion “unreached” people.
As evangelism is banned in almost all Islamic nations and preaching the Gospel to Muslims can be a life-threatening proposition, missionaries prefer to focus on converting Hindus, tribals and Buddhists. And these American missionary students come from everywhere – local Churches (mostly Evangelical Protestant groups like Baptists, Pentecostals etc), Christian colleges (there are many such colleges in the West which offer degrees in ‘divinity studies’), seminaries and even high schools. They use local Church donations and other innovative means like crowd-funding, corporate donations etc to fund these trips which often have a social cover like teaching English, medical assistance, disaster relief etc.
Now, a routine article in a nondescript US paper ‘Fort Madison Daily Democrat’ published from the Mid-Western state of Iowa has revealed 5 interesting insights about how missionaries operate in and perceive Bharat. Articles projecting missionaries as brave souls helping to redeem lives in the ‘dark, neglected corners of the world’ are common in the local media of the US heartland, also called the ‘Bible Belt’.
The article talks about the first mission trip to Bharat by a female graduate student Rebekah Carter studying at Faith Baptist Bible College. Carter was accompanied by another student Renee Boswell and her mother. The article says they went to ‘Kannada’ (Karnataka) where Boswell’s father works as a pastor. The Boswell couple works with a Pennsylvania-based missionary group whom Carter does not name “lest this story be noticed online by the wrong people.”
What are the 5 truths that the article accidentally reveals?
1.) Abuse of Tourist Visas in Bharat by Missionaries
Carter reveals that the missionary couple (Boswells) have been in Bharat on a “tourist visa” – for the last 30 years!
“I thought it was pretty cool,” Carter said, “that God protected them so they could get away with it.”
A tourist visa is granted for visiting Bharat for recreation, sight-seeing, casual visits to meet friends etc. No other activities are permissible on a tourist visa. US citizens can get up to 10-year tourist visa, which allows multiple entries with maximum stay duration of 6 months on each visit.
Interestingly, a visa category called ‘MISSIONARY VISA‘ seems to have been introduced in late 2012 by the UPA regime – going by this old Niti Central article now reproduced on DefenceForumIndia.com.
As per GOI’s wesbite, the missionary visa category is defined as “Visa to foreign missionaries, other than those holding ‘No objection to return to India Endorsements’, are granted only after clearance by concerned Ministry/ Department in India.”
Moreover, if one goes to the website of the Official Partner of Embassy of India in US, it says “A ‘MISSIONARY VISA is issued to persons coming to India for religious purposes or to join a foreign Missionary organization in India approved by the Government of India, not involving proselytization.”
Recently, two Christian MPs from Meghalaya have raised concern in Parliament about “persecution” of foreign Christian missionaries who they allege are facing difficulties in extending visas.
Going by the above mentioned information, there seems to be a grey-area on what activities are permitted under ‘Missionary Visa’ – if it is indeed the case that the “missionary visa” category was introduced by UPA in 2012 or certain relaxations were introduced, why hasn’t this been rolled back as yet? Why are we giving official approval to the word “missionary” (exclusively associated worldwide with Christian proselytization/evangelism) by having a dedicated visa category – the US counterpart for this visa category is “religious worker.” This is an area which the MEA and Home Ministry need to clarify.
But what is clear is that Missionary Visa holders are required to register with the Government within 14 days of arrival – allowing the Government to track them and take quick action if social tensions rise due to missionary activity. Which explains why missionaries actually prefer to operate under the more relaxed tourist visa category.
This blatant abuse of Bharatiya law is condoned as “God’s wish” by foreign missionaries. Also, the whole secular cabal in Bharat does not utter a word on this, rather they join hands with the West-backed missionaries in condemning the GOI for “Christian persecution” i.e. trying to enforce Bharatiya law as a sovereign state.
An online petition was started by @Noconversion last year to stop this widespread abuse of tourist visas. The petitioners have also provided a screenshot which apparently shows how an American missionary group IGL (India Gospel League) is advising foreign missionaries to commit fraud while applying for visas (the weblink in below screenshot is no longer active) –
2.) Hindus are easy targets for missionaries, but they avoid Muslim areas
“Northern India has a strong Muslim population, she said, where it’s more dangerous to share your faith”
This statement by Carter is a no-brainer for anyone who understands the inherent aggression of Islam where conversion out of Islam is considered as the mortal sin of apostasy, punishable by death. As Christian missionary work by its very nature involves belittling the belief system of the other, in Islam this becomes blasphemy and any blasphemer is quickly served mob justice. Hindus on the other hand are more tolerant of theological debates and religious doctrines being questioned, which gives space for the missionaries to slowly weave their web. And if any Hindu gets too worked up when a missionary starts openly abusing Hindu deities, one can always shout ‘persecution’ and call in support from the strong Christian-secular lobby in Bharat.
So while the global Christian missionary lobby protests loudly against their very real persecution in Muslim countries, in Bharat the same Islamists are allies of the missionaries against their common enemy (and target for proselytization), the Hindu.
3.) False equivalence between Christian ‘right’ to proselytize in Bharat and similar right for Hindus in USA
““but one time they got arrested” she said of the local missionaries. She said he used as his defense that it should be no different than if a Hindu came to America and wanted to share his faith.”
It is totally misleading to claim that any Hindu group in USA behaves the way that Christian missionaries do in Bharat. Hindu Dharma is not a proselytizing religion – even sects like ISKCON that spread the message of the Gita do not trash Christianity or call for conquering ‘America for Krishna’ in the manner that the Pope called for an evangelical crusade in Bharat.
The Hindus that believe in sharing their faith do so ethically, without imposing their views or promising miraculous salvation – the myriad forms of worship and concept of ishta devata (chosen deity) in Hindu Dharma show how intrinsic plurality is for Hindus. For Hindus, and indeed for all Dharmics like Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Dharma is not a competitive enterprise with the end goal of winning more converts for your God. We just don’t think like that.
As Rajiv Malhotra says, today we have an asymmetric dialog of civilizations – where everything is evaluated in a Western framework. So to say that Christians have a right to proselytize in Bharat because Hindus have a similar right to proselytize in USA is akin to saying Christians should have a right to bear arms in Bharat because Hindu Americans have the right to bear arms in USA. Bharat is a sovereign state, and has every right to frame laws as per its unique socio-economic conditions.
The delicate tapestry of various Dharmic schools of thoughts, sects and tribal belief systems like Santhal, Donyi-Polo, Sarna that exist in Bharat must be preserved at all costs – we have seen how mindless colonization and so-called Western progress decimated native belief systems (and native tribes) of North and South America; Bharat must avert a similar faith and preserve its Dharmic heritage.
4.) Evangelism in guise of Humanitarian service
“Because Renee was a nurse, “the majority of the team did medical camps” at various villages, Carter said….“It’s interesting: We have so many doctors from India that come to America, but there’s not many doctors there.”….“While (the others) were giving medical treatment, we were giving spiritual treatment,” Carter said.”
This again shows how social work in the developing world is used as a beach-head for the real goal – harvesting souls. So should poor countries like Bharat welcome missionaries just because they run schools, orphanages and hospitals?
Would we allow an MNC to exploit the country’s resources while breaking laws, giving the logic that it was generating some employment? The British built many Western-education providing schools & colleges, hospitals and even a railway network – but in exchange they killed millions of Bharatiyas (either directly or through induced famines), looted our wealth (our share of global GDP plummeted from ~ 25% to 2% during British raj) and mentally colonized us to fill us with immense self-loathing for generations to come.
And haven’t we seen how this harmless looking humanitarian aid slowly morphs into strident rights-based agitations which encourage intra-community disputes and asks Christians to uphold the Gospel over the law & interests of their nation?
By the way, many rootless HINOs (Hindu In Name Only) who say ‘Hindus need to get their act together instead of whining about missionaries serving the poor and needy’, do not know of the countless Hindu organizations – religious and otherwise – working selflessly with scarce resources. Why not join those Hindu organizations or just do some sewa at your local temple, rather than look to rationalize your own apathy & indolence?
Hindus have a timeless tradition of community service and tyaag (renunciation) – many of us living in urban centers have lost sight of how our ancestors used to routinely donate till 50-60 years back (just look at all the colleges, Dharamshalas, hospitals started by Hindu merchants)….civilizational awareness and freedom from the stifling Government bureaucracy is all it will take to revive the creative Hindu spirit of creating and sharing wealth.
5.) Christianity brings prosperity, happiness
“Despite the many who frown on Christian evangelism there, Carter said, “They’re very accepting. Even the really strict Hindus would invite us into their lives…“Hindus have tons of gods, and they would ask, ‘What does yours have that others don’t?’”… Carter was struck by the happiness of the people who usually had very little in the way of material possessions. “They don’t have much, but they will go the extra mile to give you what they don’t have,” she said. At one man’s home, it didn’t have electricity, and yet “he went out and got us pop….“That’s what I miss the most, is the people,” Carter said.”
If missionary schools taught one to introspect and really appreciate other cultures, Carter would have realized the irony of the situation – here she is, trying to tell Hindus that they are hell-bound sinners for not accepting Jesus Christ as their savior, and on the other hand she herself acknowledges that Hindus are content, happy people, with even the most orthodox Hindus being open to discuss their beliefs and hear opposing viewpoints. So what are the missionaries trying to achieve by converting such people? Why are they spreading false stories about angry, fanatical Hindus out to persecute Christians?
Another idea that missionaries have promoted across the world is the idea of ‘prosperity gospel’ – the religious belief that Christians are blessed with financial and physical well-being. The association of English language, considered the global language of commerce, with Christianity lends further weight to this theory. Admission to convent schools, reserved seats in Christian colleges, cheap treatment in Christian hospitals – these are some of the carrots held out for the poor in Bharat. It is another matter that Christian hegemony in education is a result of the skewed secular state of Bharat which actively discriminates against Hindus in this crucial sector.
But one look around the world, and within Bharat, busts this myth for good – have countries in Africa and South America that embraced Christianity enmasse after abandoning their ancestral faiths, broken free of the poverty trap? Within Bharat, are states that are almost entirely Christian considered stable, prosperous, innovative role models for the rest of the country? On the contrary, countries like Japan, Israel, China grew strong by retaining their core civilizational identity while learning from the progress made by the West in science & technology. This is the path that Bharat has to follow.
“Let noble thoughts come to me from all directions” says the Rig Veda. But we must do this without losing the critical faculty to judge which thought is noble, and which is not.
We bear no grudge against the likes of Rebekah Carter – these are just impressionable young people indoctrinated with a supremacist ideology masquerading as all-encompassing love. Our fight is with those who are running this global missionary machinery, and their political & academic backers, both within and outside Bharat.
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