The Business of Religious Conversions in India

1974, Calcutta, West Bengal, India — Mother Teresa with a child from the orphanage she operates in Calcutta. Mother Teresa (Agnes Gonxha Boyaxihu), the Roman Catholic-Albanian nun revered as India’s “Saint of the Slums,” was awarded the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize. — Image by © Nik Wheeler/Sygma/Corbis

“By blood, I am Albanian. By citizenship, an Indian. By faith, I am a Catholic nun. As to my calling, I belong to the world. As to my heart, I belong entirely to the Heart of Jesus.” – Mother Teresa

What beautiful lines and who else could own them than the great Mother Teresa, a beacon of hope for millions when she was alive.

Unfortunately, a learned gentleman from a Hindu right-wing organization in India thinks otherwise and sees ulterior motives behind Mother Teresa’s selfless service to humanity. She served to convert people to Christianity is the allegation. Bhagwat ji, I don’t even want to waste my time by telling you that you have decided to bark up the wrong tree by maligning the reputation of this saint. I am sure your views will cut no ice with the majority of the population of India which comprises of the young and the educated.

All I want to tell you Uncle Bhagwat is that even if for a second we believe what you are saying is right, my question to you is: why and how is that a worry? If your allegation is conversion under the garb of service, let me tell you it is certainly not conversion by force. No matter how downtrodden a person is or how gullible they are in their life, if they are converting to other religion they are doing it voluntarily.

Come to think of it, a devout Hindu like yours truly has all the ancient scriptures at his disposal, all the mythological lessons fed to him since birth, and all the inspiration available in various Hindu Gods and Goddesses to make the right choices in life. So why would you even consider “recruiting” for ghar wapsi a Hindu who could never get inspired from the tales of Lord Rama’s 14 years exile and Lord Shiva’s drinking of poison to save humanity? i.e. rise beyond personal suffering and do what is right! Wouldn’t you agree with me Bhagwat ji that the Hindu who was gullible and fell for money or any other form of influence and got converted was never a true Hindu in the first place?

As I wrap up, I want to acknowledge that this business of religious conversions is in fact happening in India. There is no denying this fact! Am I perturbed? Absolutely not! All I read from it is that like any other business it is just a trade, trade between one’s greed and the insecurity of communities indulging in it. I am a Hindu and I am not insecure. I am not insecure if we dwindle from a majority to a minority. Producing 4 babies for every married Hindu woman to counter the alleged surge in the population of other religion, as was suggested by one of the right-wing Hindu leaders is a manifestation of this insecurity from one other. As long as institutions like The Supreme Court exist in this country, I can never be insecure.

To some of my misinformed countrymen, I urge them to reinforce their faith in the democracy and the secular framework of India which are undoubtedly two of our biggest strengths. You weaken it and you will take our country to the path where one of our neighboring countries is currently headed. Over and out and God bless!

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