Christianisation was the third force of colonialism as best expressed by Jomo Kenyatta, the late Kenyan leader, who said: ?When the white man came he had the bible we had the land. Then he said ?let us close our eyes and pray?. When we opened our eyes we had the bible he had the land.?
This is further confirmed by the fact that every British aristocratic family had a Lord, a Bishop, a businessman in the City, and a landed proprietor, confirming the active part played by Christianity in the colonial system. The church was well and truly involved in the subjugation and exploitation of the people in the colonies, and also had financial interests in the colonial system. It is well known that the first bank that dealt in multi-currency dealings was the Vatican, to bankroll the money it acquired from the various countries. Colonialism has now been overtaken by Neo-Colonialism, but the part played by the church has not changed. Exploitation can only be continued if the natural cohesion in societies is disrupted by groups aligned to foreign forces. This is the aim of conversion.
David Frawley in his book Ethics of Conversion says: ?Missionary business remains one of the largest in the world and it has enormous funding at many levels. It is like several multinational corporations with different Catholic, Protestant and Evangelical groups involved. There are full time staff and organisations allocating money, creating Media hype, plotting strategies and seeking new ways to promote conversions. The local native religion has about as much chance as a local food-seller has if Mc Donald?s moves into his neighbourhood with a slick well funded advertising campaign targeting his customers. Yet while many third world countries have government policies to protect small businesses, they usually has no safety mechanism to protect the local religions.? These organisations have close relations with Western governments and business establishments. The only change is that the Whites have been replaced by Brown and Black evangelists who attract less attention to the modus operandi.
Thus the cycle of exploitation continues. It is ironic that the same people who exploit the poor in third world use the same ill-gotten wealth to convert. To a starving man the offer of crumbs of bread is enough reason to convert. He does not understand that his benefactor is partially responsible for his predicament. In the long term, the poor pay the ultimate price of servility and exploitation for generations to come, so well seen in Latin America and Africa. The only resistance to conversion has been in Asia, which is now targeted.
Challenge of Buddhism
Buddhism is adaptive. Being both a religion and a philosophical/ethical code, it can cross political and cultural boundaries. It is a portable religion geared to both reason and reflection. It is not divisive and offers a way to the individual to liberate himself. Freedom of thought and the proper understanding of the responsibility to oneself and ultimately to others has great appeal to the educated. Given this freedom, Buddhism is rapidly spreading in the west. Western paradigms like feminism, democracy, pragmatic individualism, moral pluralism and social activism can be accommodated in the religion which makes it more acceptable to the westerner.
Buddhist philosophy and practice is at the forefront of modern environmental movements. The Buddhist ecological perspective is embodied in the doctrine of Patticasamupadda (Dependent Co Origination), where things exist not in their own right but interdependently. It addresses humanity?s hubris regarding its traditional role as conqueror of nature, a policy which contradicts the western Christian mindset that has greatly contributed to the destruction of the environment. Thus Buddhism not only is making inroads in Christianity?s core population in Europe and America, but is challenging indirectly the western economic system of consumption. It will be wrong to say this philosophy is purely Buddhist; it encompasses all native Asian traditions like Hinduism, Daoism, Jainism, etc. It is best embodied in the Asian Philosophy of Harmony.
Shaku Soen, the erudite Japanese priest credited with taking Buddhism to America, who said in the late 19th century that the only hope for Buddhism was in the west. He said there was a tiger in the form of Christianity at the front door and a fox in the form of Islam at the back door, which gave no hope for Buddhists in Asia. This is only partially true. Buddhist societies have been resilient and have resisted Christianisation for the last 200 years. That is why the process of Christianisation is attempted with greater vigour now in the 21st century.
Buddhism is a hurdle to the continuous exploitation of natural resources in the present economic system. Hence it is a long-term threat to Christianity, as the latter is closely connected to the western economic system. Continuous dialogue between the western Buddhist and native religious societies are enlightening each other and fast bringing Buddhism into the 21st century. This Buddhist threat to the fundamental Christian objectives of domination and exploitation of natives has promoted a vicious anti-Buddhist campaign conducted subtly by the church.
Destabilisation of Buddhist societies
Creating violence and then moralising is one of the WMDs used by the Christian church to destabilise native societies. The Karen rebels in Burma and Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka were well supported by the Christian church. They were in the forefront supporting the Tigers internationally. Their propaganda machines depicted the war as a fight between Buddhists and Hindus. It was not unusual to use a caricature of a Buddhist monk with an AK-47 in one hand and a grenade in the other as a tool to denigrate Buddhism in articles written in western media. This was done with a view to reinforcing the western mindset that non-western religions are dangerous cults, barbaric, primitive, intolerant and aggressive.
Having created the mayhem, they highjack the moral authority. Hoards of NGOs or human rights activists, social and medical workers etc., invade the country. The purpose is to maximally utilise the predicament of the victims for conversion. In Sri Lanka, Christianisation of Hindus and Buddhists continues in the post-war situation. It is interesting that none of these organisations ever condemned the Tigers who collected money in UK and Europe to continue the violence; nor was there any vociferous condemnation of the use of child soldiers.
Natural disasters are also followed by the invasion of hoards of Christian compassionates. After the Tsunami, some NGOs who arrived in Sri Lanka have still not left the country. Active conversion is still going on. The only country that resisted the Christian onslaught was Myanmar, which has been roundly condemned. Myanmar had seen the predicament of Sri Lanka.
Another modus operandi is to gain the confidence of other religions by having a ?dialogue? with them. This is nothing more than a ruse to disarm the reaction of the society against Christianisation.
Organised conversation between religions and common dialogue between religions is acceptable. But organised conversion is like a trained army invading another country. These missionary armies often go into communities where there is little organised resistance or which may not even be aware of their power or motives. They take advantage of communities that are tolerant and open minded about religion, especially those that are pluralistic like Buddhism and Hinduism, to promote their missionary agenda.
Poor destabilised Asian societies have become fertile grounds for evangelists to ?harvest souls?. In Sri Lanka, society?s tolerance has exceeded its limits and violence has erupted on and off. This has become another opportunity to the Christian media to propagate the myth of Buddhist violence.
This was well-depicted in a Reuters article ?Anti Christian Sentiment Rises in Buddhist Sri Lanka? which never gave an inkling of the real situation or background to the situation. Several Buddhist organisations have asked the government to formulate an anti-conversion bill, but it is yet to materialise because of pressure from the west. Evangelical conversion has progressed very rapidly in South Korea which was a Buddhist country. Now about 40-60% of the country is converted. The missionary activity that started with the Korean War has succeeded.
Anti Buddhist Propaganda
Apart from conversion, valiant attempts have been made to denigrate Buddhism. Missionary bodies go about distributing books and pamphlets ridiculing Buddhism and praising Christianity. Buddhist converts are made to destroy Buddhist images and insult the religion before being accepted into the faith.
The recent publication of ?Buddhist Warfare? by Michael Jerryson and Mark Juergensmeyer is another attempt at discrediting the non-violent aspect of Buddhism. Depicted in a write up by Katherine Wharton as ?The Dark side of what is often thought to be the most peaceful of all religions,? it debunks the faith. Incidentally, Catherine Wharton has organised the India programme of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the recent conference between Hindu and Christian leaders in Bangalore.
Domination, exploitation and destruction of native societies is the hidden agenda of Christianization. Unless native governments and religious organisations are aware of this, the poverty and cannibalisation of Asian societies will continue. It is imperative that if Asian religions and culture are to survive, there must be a response to this missionary onslaught. Let us hope there will not be any more South Koreas.
The author is a Sri Lanka Buddhist