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Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Hindu Resurgence and Challenges – Part 3

In the second part, we highlighted some of the internal challenges and discussed ways to deal with them. In this part, we will discuss the ways to deal with some of the external challenges.

Forcible conversion by Missionaries and Muslim evangelists is not a new affair. We have been battling this curse for many years. Both these religions have a long history of conversion, hence experienced in all the methods of conversion. Their scriptures preach hatred against non-believers (kafirs & heathens), no matter what Muslim and Christian apologists say. Conversion from Hindu Dharma to other faiths is rarely out of conviction. Most of the Hindus have been forced to accept other faiths either due to physical force, or verbal threats, or due to monetary allurement, or due to forced marriages, and in some case love marriages too have led to conversions.

Ideally, it is the prime responsibility of the government to provide protection against physical violence, threats, loot, etc. There is little that people can do when the government and administration are hostile. An Exodus of Hindus from Kashmir, atrocities against Hindus in West Bengal are prime examples. Since the governments have repeatedly failed to protect Hindus, Hindus need to explore ways to defend themselves.

Hindus in this country are as poor as any other community, perhaps poorer than others. If this were not true, they would not have been the prime and soft targets for conversion. This factor alone is sound enough to invalidate the findings of Sachar Committee.

To address the poverty, Hindus need to establish organizations that would train, hire Hindus. Skill development for poor Hindus should be on the cards. Rich and affluent Hindus can play a vital role in this regard. Assisting poor Hindus to stand on their own feet would be the best charity for any poor Hindu.

Illiteracy is another factor responsible for the conversion. All Muslims may not have studied Science and English, but almost all of them are educated in Madrasas. Christians have a high literacy rate. They are trained not only in their scriptures, but also in modern scientific education. All religious groups except Hindus can establish and run minority educational institutions in the country. These institutions receive considerable privileges such as lands at subsidized rates, public grants, etc. Minority educational institutions are not bound to reserve seats for SC/ST/OBC. Fifty percent seats are reserved for members of their own community. Only Hindus are not allowed to have their own institutions as if Hindus don’t have the need to preserve and promote their own culture. Our constitution says all are equal before the law, but it seems some are more equal.  It is high time Hindus launch a movement to seek abrogation of this religious discrimination in the field of education.

Apart from minority educational institutions, both Christians and Muslims have schools and colleges dedicated towards religious education. All of us are aware about the mischief of missionaries, but very few of us know how these missionaries acquire the fine craft of conversion and from where do they get the manpower for their activities. Most of the missionaries are trained in Bible Colleges (also known as Bible Institutes or Theological Institutes).  Though spread throughout the world, these colleges are concentrated in North America. The South Pacific Association of Bible Colleges claims that more than half of all Protestant missionaries in the world are graduates of Bible Colleges. These colleges prepare students for various careers in Church Ministry. These colleges offer undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate programs in Biblical studies, divinity, counselling studies, worship studies, intercultural studies, etc.

One can visit the websites of famous Bible colleges to know the aims and objectives of these colleges and the type of courses offered. A sample of the stated objectives is reproduced here. The Master of Divinity offered by Faith International University specializes “in biblical interpretation and theology with a view toward social change, steeped in a Christian theological heritage. MDiv students should be able to defend and articulate the Christian ethical and theological system, produce scholarly biblical and theological research, and integrate these principles in all aspects of ministry leadership, development and administration”.

Some of the Bible colleges charge tuition fees, while others such as College of the Ozarks do not charge fees. There are both government aided and private-funded Bible colleges. Each country has its own governmental process for approval or accrediting Bible colleges.

Veda Vijnana Gurukulam, Bengaluru (www.vvgurukulam.org)

Muslims also have Madrasas where they offer training in Islamic theology. Madrasas also run on similar lines, aiming to prepare students for a religious life.  Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee initiated a drive to modernize Madrasas. Since then, crores have been spent on the modernization of Madrasas, but to no avail. In this scenario, one wonders how Muslims could be considered as least educated in Bharat. In the given scenario, it is Hindus who may be among the least educated.

Unfortunately, Hindus do not have any such institutions. In the absence of such educational institutes, very few Hindus today study Vedas, Upanishadas, or Bhagwat Gita. Consequently, their spiritual quest lands them in Ashrams (by the way, we now have Christian Ashrams too trying to trap the gullible). We already had a great tradition of Gurukuls where students were formally taught scriptures. We need to revive Gurukuls, but of course with a modern touch. Anyone who is an expert in the scriptures today cannot be sure of earning a decent livelihood. Unless we incentivize Hindu scriptural education, we are bound to lose these experts. Students who pass out from Gurukuls should be able to get decent jobs. Courses in comparative religion could also be offered.

The future existence of Hindus very much depends on the measures we take to spread the message of Hindu Dharma to the uninitiated. We have to embrace all (born Hindus & aspiring Hindus).

(This is the final article in a 3-part series on the challenges facing a potential Hindu resurgence. Part 1, Part 2)

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