Monthly Archives: April 2016

Conversion Tactics ? Sexual Abuse

Body of 14-year old school girl, Jyotirmayee, who was raped, killed and mutilated for refusing to convert to Christianity.

The press has recently revealed of the sexual exploitation of children in churches in the United States by the clergy. However, the sexual crimes against children and others outside the U.S. rarely make news. There are many cases of perverted Missionaries sexually exploited non-Christians and using this as a conversion tactic.

1. Sodomy – On November 11, 2000 Indian police arrested David Berry, a 51 year old British national for brutally sodomizing and perpetrating savage sexual abuse on at least 11 minor Hindu boys in the holy temple town of Puri, Orissa. Berry was assisted in his heinous crimes by Bijoy Behera, a local schoolteacher and recent convert to Christianity. The police were forced to arrest the two Christians following a complaint lodged by a victim’s father, Shree Banamali Senapati. Initially despite his lodging of the complaint, the police dismissed the case and refused to arrest the perpetrators, but were forced to act when an angry mob from the town besieged them and threatened dire consequences if the guilty were not punished. Shree Senapati was in tears as he related how Berry had sodomized his traumatized 12-year-old son at least eight times in his hotel room and elsewhere. The boy related to the police that Berry had forced him to have oral sex and kept him a virtual prisoner in the hotel room for hours. He also revealed that the Briton had sodomized at least 10 other school children, all below the ages of 12. The children were so traumatized by Berry’s threats and Behera’s beatings that they did not dare to confess to the horrors visited upon them until young master Senapati could take no more and broke down to his father.

2. Stripping – On October 9, 2000 a group of converted Christians stripped a 12-year-old tribal Hindu boy and paraded him naked in Gasukia village after he opposed attempts to convert him to Christianity. He was taken to the village school and brutally beaten for “refusing to accept Jesus as his savior”. This event naturally led to communal tension as the Hindus were outraged at the heinous crimes being forced on them.

3. Rape ? In January 2002, American Missionary Reverend Joseph Cooper and Sam Benson were expelled from India after Benson was accused ofraping a young Hindu girl and Cooper was accused of making inflammatory remarks against Hinduism. Both currently walk free and Cooper is a preacher in Connecticut. Western Media only reported how Hindus had retaliated against Cooper but did not mention that he incited locals by saying Lord Krishna “spreads AIDS”. American Pastor Benson Sam and his wife Sally also were found guilty of abduction and rape of a minor girl. The poor orphan girl named Laly had allegedly been sexually abused and harassed for four months at the Bible Christian Centre, which had resulted in the issue of non-bailable warrants against Sam Benson and his son.

4. Rape and Murder – In February 2005, a 14-year old school girl in Orissa was raped and killed and her mutilated body thrown to a nearby railway crossing in Dhenkanal for refusing to convert to Christianity. ?One day, three Christian leaders, Prashant Ghose, D. V. John Sarangi and Rabi Naik alias D’Souza came to my home and asked me to convert to their religion, Christianity,? Shri Bej said and added that they promised him help in the form of money and material in his only daughter Jyotirmayee?s marriage. However, Shri Bej turned down their proposal.

Then the local Church mandarins made a second attempt trying to allure Shri Bej?s wife Yasoda. ??If you change over to Christianity, your daughter could get a good bridegroom as there are many well-to-do persons in our religion,? Rabi Naik told me,? said a weeping Yasoda to Organiser and added that on that day, Shri Naik had threatened her with dire consequences if her family did not adopt Christianity.

Following this threat, Bej?s daughter Jyotirmayee, a student of Class VIII in Saudamini Smruti Vidyapeeth, was reported missing from her school. Jyotirmayee?s friends intimated her family about this. A concerned father went to the police station and reported the matter. But the local police did not take it seriously. The next morning, Jyotirmayee?s naked mutilated body was found on the railway tracks. With ample circumstantial evidence of Jyotirmayee being raped and murdered, the local people staged a road blockade demanding the arrest of the culprits.

In the FIR filed in the police station, Shri Alekh Bej has categorically mentioned names of Raju Naik, Rabi Naik and Ranjan Naik. ?As I refused to convert, I had to face this consequence,? Shri Bej reported.

Though the body of Jyotirmayee was found on February 17, till February 21 no one was arrested. The Bej family is unable to understand the inaction on the part of police to arrest the culprits. The Bej family has accused the police station incharge, Jyoti Ranjan Mohapatra, and DSP Mandardhar Sahoo of conniving with the culprits and allowing them to go scot-free. With district SP on leave, the law perhaps is yet to take its course.

4. Molestation – Hemalata Karua, 32, of Machhagarh village in Keonjhar district in Orissa, India testified in court that Australian Missionary Graham Staines had asked her to convert to Christianity to avoid financial difficulty. He also invited them to a jungle camp to be held at Manoharpur after the Hindu festival of Makar Sankranti. Karua said she and her husband converted to Christianity at the camp on January 21, 1999, and were given new clothes. They also attended a prayer meeting and a film on Christian faith that evening. Later, they were served beef at dinner, which she refused to eat, she claimed. She did mention that neither she nor her husband had been offered any money by the missionary to change their faith. Stating that she stayed alone in a hut behind the local church that night, Karua alleged that the missionary came there later and attempted togrope and rape her. She informed her husband the next morning and they left for their village. Twenty days after the incident, she claimed, the missionary’s wife visited her to express regret for his actions.

There are hundreds more incidents which could have been listed. And there are probably even more that are only known by the victims themselves. Most victims do not report the crimes against them because they feel they will be ostracized by their community. Not only are Missionaries proctected by Western Media, Missionaries keep such scandals from surfacing by bribing local police and by threatening the victims of their heinous crimes. Missionaries serve no benefit to India and when they molest the people they are by no means spreading ?the love of God? but rather acting with their sick and perverted mentality.

Conversion Tactics ? Violence

Bodies of Hindus killed for refusing to accepting Christianity by militants armed by Southern Baptist Missionaries.

While Christian Missionaries preach of peace, love and harmony, their most effective tool for conversions is violence and they will not hesitate to use it. There are hundreds of violent attacks by Christian Missionaries every year. Most of these attacks can be categorized into the following:

1. Divide & Convert (Tahiti) ? One of the most efficient way and brutal ways that Missionaries have converted large amounts of people is by dividing and conquering. Missionaries will persuade a leader of a tribe that they will arm him and allow him to defeat a rival tribal if he converts to Christianity. After the conquering and pillaging of the opposing tribe, under the rule of the converted leader, both tribes convert to Christianity. One classical example occurred is the story of how the South Pacific was converted:

In 1797, thirty years after the discovery of Tahiti by Wallis, the first missionaries landed on the island. The missionaries, sent by the London Missionary Society, tried for seven years to convert the natives but were unable to make any headway.

It was then that they discovered, as if by miracle, the proper method of converting the Tahitians. They discovered that the local chief, Pomare, liked alcohol (distilled by the missionaries) so much that he became an alcoholic. Addicted to the distilled spirit (perhaps the “holy” spirit), Pomare agreed to back the missionaries in their work of conversion. Pomare, supplied with western firearms, easily subdued his native opponents. Upon his victory over his rivals, the whole island was forcibly converted in one day.

Then the process of inculcating “Christian virtues” began. Persistent unbelievers, those who refused to be converted, were executed. Singing was banned (except for hymns) and all forms of adornment, flowers or tattoo were disallowed. Of course, surfing and dancing were not permitted as well. The punishment for breaking any of these rules included, among others, being sentenced to hard labor.

Within thirty years of missionary control, the population of Tahiti fell from an initial estimate of 20,000 to 6,000. On another island, Raiatea, a man who was able to forecast the weather by studying the behavior of fish was executed for witchcraft. The missionaries continued this tactic from island to island and managed to convert the whole South Pacific.

Though this method was used centuries ago, it is still a commonly used tactic used by Christian Missionaries in tribal areas of Asia and Africa.

2. Terrorist Organizations (North-East India) ?These relatively small armed tribal groups are eventually nurtured by Missionaries into violent and sadistic terrorist groups:

On December 4th, 2000, Christians converts under the direction of Missionaries, desecrated an ashram (Hindu religious retreat) set up by murdered Hindu leader Shanti Kumar Tripura. . They desecrated Hindu idols and destroyed photos of the slain religious leader revered by both Hindu tribals and Bengalis. The Christian converts also raped two female devotees and brutally attacked two men who had come to the ashram for puja (religious rituals).

The next day, Christian converts brutally desecrated another ashram at Jirania Khola and forced the inmates to stop all Hindu rituals and practices atgunpoint. A group of seven armed converted Christian terrorists barged into the ashram and threatened the 150 Hindus with dire consequences if they continued to perform Hindu rites at the ashram. The terrorists fled only after a large group of locals rushed to the ashram.

Due to threats by violent Missionaries and their Christian converts, altogether 11 ashrams, schools and orphanages set up by the murdered Hindu leader in various parts of the state have been forcibly closed down by the Christian fundamentalist terrorist organization known as ?National Liberation Front of Tripura? (NLFT).

In early October the same Christian fundamentalists had issued a diktat ordering the indigenous tribal Hindus to stay away from Durga Puja celebrations (Hindu Festival) and warned that any tribal members seen taking part in the festival would be instantly killed. In its official public statement, the NLFT said it wanted all tribals in Tripura to become Christians. They also stated that salvation for Tripura lies only in Christianity and would eliminate anyone who dared to come in the way of their plans to forcibly convert all of Tripura to Christianity.

NFLT is still an active and powerful terrorist organization that operates in Northeast India. They have converted many Hindus and tribals forcibly at gunpoint, and are involved in rapes, and assassinations. They continue to receive arms as well as moral and financial support from Western Christian organizations and Missionaries.

3. Manhunts (South America) – Another method, aptly called “manhunt”, involves the missionaries going out, sometimes in motorized vehicles, huntingfor natives to integrate them into reservations set up for missionary work. The New Tribes Mission (NTM), for instance, went on such a manhunt in Paraguay. Five missionized natives were killed in one such manhunt. Those unconverted natives were taken to the NTM camp in Campo Loro. Within a short while, according to Survival International, all had died of new diseases they had no immunity to. Stung by criticism, the best reply the NTM ‘s Director in Paraguay could muster was: “We don’t go after people anymore. We just provide transport.”

In another such “manhunt” in 1979, also in Paraguay, one of the frightened natives fell down from a tree and broke her leg. (Her right breast had already been shot off by a previous encounter with the missionaries.) She was compelled, with her broken leg, to walk back to the mission camp. She subsequently died.

4. Kidnappings – In conjunction with the “manhunt”, converted natives are trained by the missionaries to carry guns. The “newly contacted” natives are then rounded off to the mission camp. One American organization, Cultural Survival, reported in 1986 that natives in the NTM camp in Paraguay kidnapped and forced into missionary schools.

5. Forced Captivity ? In one such Missionary camp, a witness described the situation of the kidnapped captives:

?I ? saw two old ladies lying on some rags on the ground in the last stages of emaciation and clearly on the verge of death. One was unconscious, the second in what was evidently a state of catalepsy…In the second hut lay another woman, also in a desperate condition and with untreated wounds on her legs. A small, naked, tearful boy sat at her side…The three women and the boy had been taken in a recent forest roundup, the third woman having being shot in the side while attempting to escape.?

6. Genocide (Brazil) ? There are many accounts of genocide committed by Missionaries but they rarely reported in Christian media because of the perverse nature of the crime and because they are usually committed against remote tribals. One of the most horrific massacres was of Brazilian tribals by the grossly misnamed Indian Protection Service, which Christian Missionaries supported and often assisted in killings.

In just a few years, the following tribes population was reduced due to Missionary genocide:

? Munducurus tribe: reduced from 19,000 to 1,200
? Guaranis tribe: reduced from 5,000 to 200
? Cajaras tribe: from 4,000 to 400
? Cintas Largas: from 10,000 to 500
? Tapaiunas: completely extirpated
? Other tribes were reduced to only a few (one or two!) individuals and some by only a single family.

The Missionaries employed some of the following methods in their killings:

? The Cintas Largas were attacked by dropping dynamites from airplanes.
? The Maxacalis were given alcohol and then shot down when they became drunk.
? The Nhambiquera were killed in huge numbers by machine gun fire.
? Two Patachos tribes were exterminated by giving the unsuspecting Indians smallpox injections.
? Some of the Indians were murdered by presenting them with food laced with arsenic and formicides.
? One missionary persuaded 600 Ticuna Indians that the end of the world is taking place and they will only be safe on a ranch. On that ranch the Indians were made slaves and tortured.
? The Bororos tribe was banned from performing customary religious rites on the dead. Deprived of their cultural identity, the Bororos, instead of converting, committed suicide on by one, until the tribe was extinct.

7. Intentional Denial of Medicines- In another New Tribes Mission (NTM) mission camp, many of the natives either died from starvation or from diseases transmitted by the missionaries for which they had no immunity against. In one such mission camp in Paraguay, the German anthropologist, Dr. Mark Munzel, reported that food and medicine were deliberately withheld by the missionaries. From a total of 277 natives in April 1972 only 202 survivors were left three months later. A US congressional report confirmed that 49% of the camp population had vanished!

In Bolivia, William Pencille, of the South American Missionary Society, was called in to help when white ranchers moving into the tribal areas came upon the Ayoreos. Pencille persuaded these natives to stop resisting the encroachment of the cattlemen and to settle on a patch of barren land beside a railroad tract. The natives, having no resistance to common diseases of the “modern” man, began to die. Throughout all this Pencille had the means to save the lives of these people. He had access to many modes of transport, including an airplane, and to funds which could easily have been used to buy medicines for them. Yet this is what he said: “It’s better they should die. Then I baptize them (on the point of death) and they go straight to heaven.”

The above is only a small sampling of the atrocities that have been committed by Missionaries. It can be seen that Missionaries do not hesitate rape, torture, enslave and murder in order to forcibly spread Christianity. Though all these events occurred in the past, some occurred as recently as only a few years ago, and they still continue today on an even larger scale unreported by Western media

Pastor?s wife accuses him of sexual abuse of minor girls


In her police complaint, Priyalatha has charged Shantaraju, pastor of Bethel Church and Bethel Student Centre, with having sex with young girls and getting them to abort

S Shyam Prasad

Pastor Shantaraju with a minor girl whom he is said to have sexually abused

A city pastor has been accused by his own wife of being a paedophile and of misappropriating church funds. The charges against K Shantaraju, the 45-year-old pastor of the Bethel Church and Bethel Student Centre in Siddhartha Nagar, Jalahalli West, are being probed by the police after a complaint was filed by his wife Priyalatha at Gangammanagudi police station on Wednesday.

Priyalatha said she deferred filing a police complaint against her husband all these years because she thought it fit to first raise the issue with his superiors. She also believed she could prevail upon him to mend his ways, but having failed she has now provided the police with photos which show Shantaraju in various poses with an alleged minor girl.

?The children who were brought to the centre for the purpose of education are being used for illegal activities. Minor children are being used for sexual activities in the centre. He has sexual relationships with many girl children. I have witnessed these activities. When questioned, he threatened to kill me and my two children,? Priyalatha says in her complaint.

Priyalatha has been married to Shantaraju for 15 years ago. After the death of her father-in-law Moses, her husband inherited the Bethel Church and Bethel Student Centre and she alleges that her husband has been misusing donations from abroad that the centre and church receives.

Shantaraju, who claimed that he has been separated from his wife for 11 years and is fighting a divorce case, denied all charges. ?The whole thing is a plot to gain control over the trust and its properties. We used to receive Rs 2.5 lakh per month to provide for 275 children. She has made these allegations to the donors and donations have stopped in the last few months. She has brainwashed my mother and brother and they are also making false claims against me,? Shantaraju told Bangalore Mirror.

?Our second daughter is just seven years old; now explain that,? said Priyalatha, in a curt response to Shantaraju?s claim that they had been separated for 11 years.

Shantaraju also alleged that the photos were taken in 2005 and that his wife has manipulated them to show him in bad light. ?The girl is 21 years old now and not a minor. My wife is trying to cheat the law with old photos. I have been called by the police now and I will show them the real facts. I am a trained pastor and my only aim is to continue the good work of my father in helping poor children,? Shantaraju said. Priyalatha clarified that the photos have been in her possession after she came across an unexposed roll of film two years ago. Suspecting something amiss, she got them developed and printed.

Gangammanagudi police station?s inspector S D Chabbi confirmed the complaint and said that a FIR has already been registered and investigation is on. ?I do not want to pass any comments on the issue and we are still investigating the matter.

There has been no arrests made. There are two parties, Shantaraju on the one side, and his wife, mother and brother on the other. The wife has complained to donors and they have stopped funding the organisation. We also came to know that they is a marital dispute between them and they are still fighting a divorce case. We are humans first and do not want to make arrests and then investigate,? Chabbi said.

The couple has two daughters and Priyalatha revealed that they have been sent to Hyderabad for their safety. In her complaint, Priyalatha mentions that she is living in a shed in the compound of the centre along with her mother-in-law Shantamma and brother-in-law Vinay Kumar Mathew.

Priyalatha rubbished her alleged interest in getting hold of church property. ?His allegation against me of trying to gain property is the latest to hide his sins. He started having an affair with this girl when she was just 14. She got an abortion at the age of 16. In front of me they have lived together. Of course, she is a major now. Other minor girls were also abused by him and had abortions. Their parents are afraid to come forward for fear of spoiling their lives. My own daughter who is 15 years old now has gone into depression after seeing his affairs with minor girls,? she explained.

This is not the first complaint against Shantaraju. An anonymous letter sent to the Karuna Bal Vikas, an organisation in Chennai that funds the Bethel Student Centre, earlier this year had accused Shantaraju of sexually exploiting minor girls in the centre. This letter also had photos of Shantaraju while on excursions with female students.

Priyalatha?s advocate RLN Murthy said that a complaint has also been given to the city police commissioner?s office. ?A pastor should be a model to society. Ordinary people look up to him. The allegations here are of a very serious nature. It also calls for keeping a check on dubious institutions which are using foreign donations for nefarious activities,? Murthy said.

Pastor arrested for murdering minor girl


Guntur (AP), Jun 30 (PTI) A local pastor was arrested for allegedly murdering a teenager after she became pregnant with his child, police said today.
The victim, identified as Monica (17) from Nadendla village in the district was working as a cook for the pastor, S Ajay Babu for the past one year.
Babu became intimate with the girl after his wife left him and the girl allegedly became pregnant with his child.
She was brought to a government hospital with 90 per cent burns where she succumbed to her injuries yesterday, they said.
The pastor was arrested after the family members of the girl lodged a complaint.
He allegedly set her on fire to avoid the matter from coming to light.

Militant Christianity – Evangelical Christianity: Devils in high places


In his explosive new book The Armies Of God: A Study In Militant Christianity, British-born, Malaysia-based academic Iain Buchanan blows the lid off a subject that most scholars and journalists tend to shy away from: the rise of US evangelism as a force in global affairs.

His book looks at how some of the powerful evangelical outfits operate ? often as US government proxies ? in countries such as Indonesia, Thailand, and of course, India, and the disastrous effects this has had on the relationship between the Christian West and non-Christian cultures, religious communities and nations. He also unmasks the role played by the seemingly secular ?success motivation? industry, and its leadership gurus such as Zig Ziglar and Ken Blachard, who are not only management experts but also conscious agents of US-style Christian evangelism. Excerpts from an interview:

What led you to write this book?
I grew up in an agnostic family with respect for spirituality of all kinds ? from animism to true Christianity. I suppose one of my strongest incentives for writing the book was to show how, in the West, inherently decent things like liberal secularism and Christian spirituality (no necessary conflict here!) are so deeply corrupted by political power and so dishonestly vaunted as marks of cultural superiority.

Not many would want to come out in the open and talk about the issues raised in your book. Was that a concern for you?
In the West, certainly, there is a reluctance to enquire too deeply into the affairs of organised Christianity ? both at home and overseas. Western culture is a deeply, subliminally Christian culture, and even committed secularists have trouble avoiding Christian parameters in their arguments, and recognising the Christian capacity for wrong-doing. Among other things, this leads to a rather benign view of the behaviour of our missionaries overseas ? fed partly by ignorance, and partly by a sense that the Christian mission can be equated with civilisation. And such myopia has increased dramatically over the past 40 years, as the secular West has managed to define a global order largely in its own terms, with decisive help from its Christian missionaries.By contrast, of course, the behaviour of non-Christians (especially Muslims) is scrutinised ruthlessly, misunderstood, and demonised.

Academics who have attempted to study the work of missionaries in India have been accused of helping the right-wing Hindutva brigade. Has this been your experience too?
The glib response to this would be to say that religious extremism of any kind needs to be exposed. But it is more complex than this. There is a need to go beyond the purely religious objection to Christian missionising, and examine the global forces which define it, and which are subverting countries like India in a far more comprehensive and profound way than most people realise.

A key contention of my book is that the extremism of Christian evangelicals is no more benign than the extremism found in non-Christian religious groups. Indeed, its local impact can be hugely destructive ? precisely because of its ability to draw upon a vast global network of forces (including powerful secular ones), and its ability to penetrate and shape local forces, whether they be ethnic, religious, political, or social, according to alien priorities.

You speak at length of the US?s use of Christianity for it own geopolitical designs. Is this manifestly part of US strategy worldwide?
Most Western leaders (not just Bush and Blair) will claim they are inspired by their Christian beliefs. Sometimes, as with both Reagan and George W Bush, they quote chapter and verse in support of policy, although usually it is not so blatant. Certainly, deep in Washington, self-professedly Christian pressure groups (like the Fellowship Foundation and the Council for National Policy) have a highly influential membership and a powerful grip on policy.

Of course, one can debate whether US strategy is manifestly Christian in inspiration ? few Americans would say it is not, although most would probably insist that such strategy is guided primarily by secular concerns.

But there is no doubt at all that US strategy makes deliberate (and somewhat cynical) use of Christian agencies in pursuit of foreign policy ? and that the distinction between the religious and the secular is deliberately blurred in the process. There are over 600 US-based evangelical groups, some as big as large corporations, and between them they constitute a vast and highly organised network of global influence, purposefully targeting non-Christians, and connecting and subverting every sector of life in the process.

Most of the major evangelical corporations (like World Vision, Campus Crusade, Youth with a Mission, and Samaritan?s Purse) operate in partnership with the US government in its pursuit of foreign policy goals. World Vision, which is effectively an arm of the State Department, is perhaps the most notable example of this. There is also the benefit of a custom-built legislation, with the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 providing necessary sanction to bring errant nations into line.

This means that evangelisation is an intensely secular pursuit, as well as a religious one. In turn, of course, the secular powers, whether they be departments of state or corporate businesses, find such evangelicals to be very effective partners.

Indeed, most missionaries are not obviously religious. A case in point is the Success Motivation industry.Many of the most popular ?leadership gurus? ? Zig Ziglar, Paul Meyer, Os Hillman, Richard DeVos, John C. Maxwell, and Ken Blanchard, for example ? are not just management experts, they are also evangelical Christians and conscious agents of US-style evangelisation. Conversely, groups which, on the face of it, are primarily religious, may also serve a powerful secular agenda, such as the collection of intelligence, the grooming of political or commercial elites, or the manipulation of local conflicts.

Some accuse the church of fomenting dissent among poor tribals by exploiting them; others say the church is a liberating force. This debate has gone on for decades in India?s North-East. What is your view?
The situation of India?s tribal people, like that of tribal people elsewhere in Asia, is certainly tragic. And it may be that Christian activity offers an opportunity to escape the various forms of homegrown oppression ? state and corporate abuse, Hindu contempt, and so on. But Christianity in India is a very diverse thing. There are many situations where the Christian church has taken firm root, and is deeply involved in local administration, social welfare, education, and so on. Nagaland is a case in point. There are movements for tribal welfare elsewhere which are Christian-inspired and doing excellent work.

But there are many cases, too, of evangelical missions which go into tribal areas with little respect for local realities, and with an agenda far removed from tribal welfare. In this, they may be no better and no worse than the home-grown oppressor. But there is an important difference. Such missionaries often belong to an evangelical network whose strategic purpose is defined elsewhere, and which has little loyalty to the local population, its cultures, its communities, and its welfare, let alone to the nation as a whole. This is particularly true of the new breed of US-inspired evangelicals, led by Baptists and Pentecostalist/Charismatics, who have spearheaded evangelisation over the past 50 years. It is the working of this wider, and self-consciously global, structure of behaviour which is of concern.

It is unfortunate that missions doing good work in tribal areas have their efforts tarnished by others whose approach is more opportunistic and exploitative. For the new evangelicals, distaste for paganism is just part of the equation ? oppressed tribal groups are a relatively easy target to penetrate in a much wider war against non-Christians generally, and for influence in strategic (especially border) areas. In this respect, even a relatively long-established Christian presence ? as in Nagaland ? has utility as a strategic outpost.

These are turbulent times for India as its number of hungry and poor are growing exponentially even as the wealthy in the cities are becoming billionaires. Does this make harvesting of souls easy? Do missionaries love turbulence?
It certainly seems, sometimes, that evangelicals thrive on suffering and disaster. India?s own KP Yohannan, for example, welcomed the tsunami of 2004 as ?one of the greatest opportunities God has given us to share His love with people? ? and he was only one of many expressing such sentiments. There is no question that many evangelicals exploit the poor and marginalised for reasons which have a lot to do with narrow theology and political self-interest, and relatively little to do with long-term practical help.

But evangelicals court the wealthy and the powerful of a society with equal passion. One of the most telling features of the new evangelism is the way it has turned Christianity into a force for protecting the rich and powerful. US Protestantism, in particular, has worked hard to undermine the impulse in the church towards social justice and reform. A measure of its success has been the defeat of Liberation Theology and the remarkable expansion of US Pentecostalism in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. More than a quarter of all Christians now belong to Pentecostalist and Charismatic churches.

In these, as in most new evangelical churches, great attention is paid to a ?theology? of economics which stresses individual profit, corporate obedience, the sanctity of making money, and the power of ?miracles, signs, and wonders.?This ?theology? is a key part of modern imperialism: it offers something to both rich and poor, it is safely counter-revolutionary, and it ties tightly into the wider global network of more secular influences (in business, government, education, the media, the military) which underpins Western expansion.

So the evangelical church has a key role to play in a society as disparate as India?s. It is a form of social management: it gives divine sanction to the rich, it gives hope to the struggling middle class, and it cultivates discipline (and distraction) amongst the poor ? and it does all this with a keen eye to the West?s self-interest. This is not to suggest that India does not have its own mechanisms for doing the same things. But such evangelisation, as a concomitant of Westernisation, is bound to strengthen as India urbanises and looks ever more Westwards.

A recent issue of the Texas-based magazine, Gospel For Asia, says: ?The Indian sub-continent with one billion people, is a living example of what happens when Satan rules the entire culture… India is one vast purgatory in which millions of people …. are literally living a cosmic lie! Could Satan have devised a more perfect system for causing misery?? How and why does such propaganda work in a developed country like the US in the era of the Internet and the media?
There are two important points here. First, we must not assume that the ?developed? West is free from wilful ignorance. Indeed, wilful ignorance is often a very useful weapon. We need enemies, and, as religious people, we need demons. The utility of Islamophobia is a case in point.Besides, there?s a useful role for such bigotry within the system: as a foil for the liberal powerful to prove their liberal credentials.

But such attitudes are nothing new, of course. Christians have waged such ?spiritual warfare? against their enemies for centuries, and with the same kind of language. What is new is the vastly increased facility, offered by the electronic media, for fighting such a war. And this is the second point.

New technology is spreading, and hardening, such bigotry. Since the mid-1960s, the evangelical movement has systematically computerised its entire global operation, creating huge databases of information on its non-Christian enemies, centralising administration, and linking some 500 million ?Christian computers? worldwide for the purposes of fighting ?spiritual warfare? against non-believers in strategic places. And ?spiritual warfare?, for the evangelical Christian movement, is not just a matter of prayers and metaphor: it is also, very decisively, a matter of ?virtuous? troops, tanks, and drones.

Suspected religious conversion racket busted in Mangalore


Social welfare department officials on Sunday busted an alleged religious conversion racket in Haleyangadi gram panchayat limits in Mangalore city police limits.

The officials raided ?Ebenezer prayer hall? run by a couple, KJ Joy and Elizabeth, without a licence following complaints of child labour being used on the premises. However, policemen, accompanying the raiding party, ended up cracking a religious conversion racket allegedly run by the couple.

Five children, including four girls, were confined to the hall. One of girls had been allegedly raped by Joy.

Locals stormed the prayer hall and assaulted Joy. However, the police prevented the situation from going beyond their control. Both Joy and Elizabeth were arrested.

The couple had been running the ?prayer hall? on the pretext of rehabilitating destitute children. The locals alleged that the five children had been kidnapped by the couple.

The police said they were looking into all angles. The rape victim said she was goaded every day by the couple to convert to a different religion.

The rescued children were sent to the child protection centre. Cases of wrongful confinement of minors, physical and mental abuse of the children and running a prayer hall without permission of the authorities and polluting the area have been registered against the couple.

Our Public Schools Their Mission Field


?The Gospel has been taught freely in public schools all over the world for some time. Now children in the U.S. have that opportunity, too!? ? from the Child Evangelism Fellowship website

A fundamentalist Christian organization, Child Evangelism Fellowship, has recently ramped up their presence on public grade school campuses. They are emboldened by a supreme court decision that said, to paraphrase: if schools lease facilities to anyone they can?t exclude religious groups like CEF. Clarence Thomas, who wrote the majority opinion, asserted that the establishment clause was not at issue, because CEF activities were clearly distinguished from school sponsored activities. But are they? Can children in first grade really tell the difference? Or has CEF crossed a line? In this interview, a Seattle parent, John Lederer, talks about what happened at his daughter?s school.

Why don?t you start by telling us what Good News Clubs are.
It?s easiest if I simply quote from their website: ?Good News Club? is a ministry of Child Evangelism Fellowship? in which trained teachers meet with groups of children in schools, homes, community centers, churches, apartment complexes, just about anywhere the children can easily and safely meet. Each week the teacher presents an exciting Bible lesson using colorful materials from CEF Press?. This action-packed time also includes songs, Scripture memory, a missions story and review games or other activities focused on the lesson?s theme.?

What is their goal?
Child evangelism 24/7?Their mission speaks for itself: ?CEF is a Bible-centered, worldwide organization composed of born-again believers whose purpose is to evangelize boys and girls with the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, disciple them in the Word of God and establish them in a Bible-believing church for Christian living.?. . . ?As with all CEF ministries, the purpose of Good News Club is to evangelize boys and girls with the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and establish (disciple) them in the Word of God and in a local church for Christian living.?. . . Each club includes a clear presentation of the Gospel and an opportunity for children to trust Jesus as Saviour.?

These folks see the public elementary schools as a great vast recruiting ground. Currently they have 140 Good News Clubs in Washington State, 100 in public elementary schools. Their goal is to double that. They say currently one out of ten children currently has access to Good news club; they are shooting for one in five. They claim to have 3400 of these Good News Clubs in public elementary schools all around the country. Some fundamentalist parents may like having their child receive religious instruction after school, but, frankly, that is not the mission of the organization.

Yikes. So what exactly do they do to ?evangelize and disciple? children?
If you ask, they won?t share the curriculum or lesson plans. The materials are tightly held, so parents don?t have a good idea of what this is. They had posted that parents are welcome, so we sat in on two of their sessions and saw some stuff that was not actually kosher. Then they told us that we were no longer welcome.

They teach a very fairy tale version of the Christian faith. For example, they give the kids little puzzle toys that are fun to play with but really it is a wordless tract. A black heart shows the original sin in each child, gold is heaven, a red cross represents the blood of Christ, a white heart represents the pure child who has found salvation. My kid played with it for 20 minutes. I didn?t tell her what it is supposed to represent. The idea is that the kids bring it to school and other kids ask about it.

These kids are easy to manipulate. Cake, cookies, balloons are very attractive to them. They use enticements like these to get children to say to their parents, ?Can I go?? Children can?t tell the difference between good news club and school sponsored activities like chess club.

I take it you are not a fan of religion.
On the contrary. We are an interfaith family, and we regularly attend Trinity United Methodist Church with our children. But as parents, we want to be the ones who teach our children about spiritual matters. I resent that there is an organization trying to go around me and recruit my child through her peers in her school to forms of belief that we do not share. They are interfering with what that first spiritual learning is going to be, which I believe should be between a parent and child.

How did you get caught up with this issue?
In November or December of 2008, my daughter was in 1st grade. I was on the playground volunteering, and another parent said, ?Did you know that there was this evangelical group running a program out of the school?? They had sent a flyer home by kid mail. I was surprised. I thought it was illegal. Why were they showing up in my child?s school? When I read their mission statement and values and principles it was clear that this was a very theologically conservative, right wing and evangelical form of Christian faith. My initial concern wasn?t that they existed but that they had targeted my child?s school and my child is only 6 years old. They are targeting very very young children.

But they are renting the space, right? Isn?t that what the supreme court approved?
Well, that?s another story. In Seattle, all of this is being subsidized by us the tax payers because they get the space for free. Two policies apply: Religious groups can rent facilities but need to pay the rates prescribed. Religious activities can?t be held during school hours except in areas that have been leased. But Community use by certain groups that are engaged in youth character building youth sports, YMCA, . . . boys and girls club are able to use school facilities after hours at no charge. So in their application they called it ?building character in children with biblical principles.? Initially it was classified as a religious organization. Then it was reclassified. They claimed to be child character building and the district never asked to see the curriculum. The district made their decision on the basis of not wanting to be sued. This has happened repeatedly across the country. The CEF website says explicitly that they are about religious instruction, which means that providing space for free, subsidizing their facilities costs, is a tacit endorsement of their teachings.

How can this Not be an issue of church state boundaries?
There is an actual supreme court decision that made this possible in 2001. In a nutshell, prior to 2001 a religious organization couldn?t rent space at a public school and provide religious education. That was seen to be in violation of the establishment clause of the constitution. In 2001, a decision was written by Clarence Thomas in a case known as Good News Club vs. Milford School District. It was a six to threedecision, but there were five separate opinions among the nine judges. They couldn?t agree about how to justify their decisions. The basic finding was that if a school district makes its facilities available to community organization they can?t discriminate. It doesn?t raise an establishment clause issue because there was no way that any of the students, staff or parents could perceive that it was endorsed by the school. It was held after school, no teachers involved, no staff involved, no way that anyone could think it was a school or PTA activity. For that reason the establishment clause was irrelevant. Since the decision that part of his reasoning has been ignored by the actions of CEF.

Are they in violation of the Supreme Court decision and the establishment clause?
Child Evangelism Fellowship recruitingCEF has systematically violated all of the conditions of the supreme court decision. They clearly are not about character education they are about reaching children who are unchurched and bringing them into their belief system. In this mission, they try to leverage the legitimacy of the school setting. By putting fliers in kids? back packs they are clearly using the school?s communication channels. By trying to put an Ad in the PTA auction book at our school they tried to use the other vehicles of the school to legitimize what they are doing and to integrate it with the school?s activities.

But the third and most egregious example of overstepping at Loyal Heights was when the leader of the Good News Club began volunteering in a kindergarten classroom four days per week. This person, who didn?t have a child in the school, who was leading the Good News Club on Fridays was present in the kindergarten classroom, presumably so she could identify students who she might be able to recruit and build relationships with them. A kindergartener can?t tell the difference between a teacher and a volunteer. Both are authority figures who they implicitly trust. So, from the perspective of the students it was a clear violation of the principle that it needs to be separate. There should be no chance of confusion about whether it is part of a school.

What can school districts do about this?
One thing the school could do is insist that all parents have full access to the curriculum. Child Evangelism Fellowship claims that no child ever participates without a written permission from their parents. This was cited in the 2001 decision: it?s all voluntary. But there is no school district in the country that is actually enforcing that, and the way that materials are safeguarded means that there is no way for parents actually to give informed consent. Here?s what I would recommend at the district level:

– Policies prohibiting participation by teachers, volunteers and staff in the CEF activity at the same school where they work.

– The enforcement of policies that prohibit school staff and volunteers, when on the job, from speaking or acting in a manner that can be easily perceived as promoting or endorsing religious instruction or practice.

– Policies that prohibit CEF from using school and PTA communication vehicles to promote their activity, or from sponsoring school activities.

– Enforcement of student anti-harassment policies that protect students from aggressive proselytizing.

– Assurances that the CEF, as a religious organization, will pay for the use of the space they occupy, and that Good News Club meetings occur well after the end of the school day.

– Assurances that interested parents will have access to the CEF curriculum for inspection and that their meetings will be open to all students and parents.

What can parents do?
Here are the recommendations we came up with out of the Loyal Heights experience.

* Review the CEF curriculum. This allows parents who may be thinking of participating in the CEF?s activity to make an informed decision about whether the program comprises the initial religious and moral indoctrination they want for their children.
* Review and understand those school district policies and procedures that can help ensure that CEF?s religious activity are separated from the school administration, operations, and instructional program. If necessary, push for revision of those policies and procedures.
* Be watchful and ensure that students are not subjected to pressure or harassment with regard to their religious beliefs and practices while at school. Report incidents to the school administration.
* Try to convince other parents that while CEF may have a legal right to rent space at a public elementary school, their activity is best suited for a neighborhood church or similar location. Offer to assist CEF in moving their activity to a nearby location.
* Speak up and make your concerns known to other parents, school staff, and CEF leadership.

Has pushing back worked for you and the parents at Loyal Heights?
Well, at my daughter?s school they now meet in a portable. They no longer advertise on campus. They don?t give out t-shirts for kids to wear to recruit other kids. I see this as a clear effect from the parents getting organized. They may now actually be serving families who share their beliefs. But I fear that it?s a temporary victory. They are going to wait us out. They will once again want to put up their balloons, their signs, and do all of the things they aren?t allowed to do.

Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington. She is the author of Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light, (Revised ed of The Dark Side) and the founder of Her articles can be found at

Caste divide


Tensions run high within the Christian community in Thachur village, and the government has adopted a hands-off approach for now.


The Roman Catholic church at Thachur village.

THE wrinkles on S. Royappan’s face are a result of advancing age, but the ridges and furrows in them tell a story of humiliation of this Dalit Christian, as also others like him. Royappan, 82, was a bonded labourer, or padiyaal, in Thachur village in Tamil Nadu’s Kancheepuram district, but it is the ?bond’ with the Roman Catholic church in the village that remains vivid in his memory.

The 175-year-old Arockiya Matha (Our Lady of Health) church has a chequered history, and the most recent additions to it may have the potential to be a turning point for Dalit Christians in the village. The events were the burials of two Dalit Christians in the cemetery attached to the church and the opposition to them by upper-caste Reddiar Christians, who claim the cemetery is only for their dead. The Reddiars’ behaviour failed to unnerve Royappan, though; he had seen worse.

An eerie silence pervades Thachur, and most of the men of Reddiar families stayed away from the village for several days fearing police action. The Dalits in the village had overcome stiff resistance from the Reddiars and asserted their right twice in January when they buried the brother of a Dalit priest and a Dalit farm worker in the cemetery. The priest’s brother, Velankanni, had died of natural causes on January 22, but the farm worker, Rajendran, was murdered; his body was retrieved from the lake in the village on January 24.

THE CEMETERY IN the church compound. All along, "upper-caste" Christians have resisted Dalit Christians’ attempts to bury their dead here.

The full import of the development in Thachur, a predominantly Christian village around 80 km from Chennai, can be understood only by delving into the past.

Though the church building was constructed in 1922, the village is considered to be one of the oldest parishes in the State because the first Christians here arrived in 1836. The parish was then under the Pondicherry-Cuddalore diocese. In 1969, it came under the Madras-Mylapore diocese and moved to the Chengalpattu diocese created in 2002.

The population comprises Reddiars, who migrated from Andhra Pradesh, and Dalits, including Adi Dravidars and Arunthathiars. Though almost all of them are Christian converts, a sharp division existed right from the beginning on the basis of socio-economic disparity. Varna vyavastha (caste hierarchy), which is deeply rooted in Hinduism, has been absorbed by the converts and this has deepened the hiatus further.

Fr John Suresh, a priest who is also the director of the Chengalpattu Rural Development Society, said the cross-shaped church enabled the upper-caste Christians to occupy the centre, while the sides were earmarked for the Adi Dravidars and the Arunthathiars. The administration of the parish was under the control of a team of dharmakartas (trustees) belonging to the Reddiar caste. The Dalits were denied a role even in the day-to-day affairs of the church, not to speak of its administration. They could not assume the role of readers or lectors at Mass. They challenged this decades-old discrimination in the 1990s. The protracted legal battle resulted in the closure of the church for over 10 years until a path-breaking tripartite agreement was reached in November 2006.

But caste discrimination even in death continues in Thachur. The village has three cemeteries, one for each group. The one inside the church complex is claimed by the Reddiars, while the other two groups have theirs on the outskirts of the village.

The site in the cemetery where Velankanni, brother of a Dalit priest, was buried overcoming "upper-caste" opposition.

The Dalits’ struggle drew support from some political parties, including the Communist Party of India (Marxist), and organisations such as the Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front (TNUEF), the Dalit Human Rights Centre, and the Chengalpattu Rural Development Society, which work for the welfare of oppressed people.

According to Bharathi Anna, convener of the Kancheepuram district unit of the TNUEF, even today the vast stretches of fertile land on the Palar river bed belong to the Reddiars. The majority of the Dalits work in these fields. A few of them are marginal farmers and a minuscule number have government jobs. Though a sizable number of upper-caste Christians have migrated to urban areas, including Chennai, they continue to own land in the village.

Reddiars, Adi Dravidars and Arunthathiars reside in different localities in the village. Most of the Dalits continue to be farmhands though the padiyaal system has by and large vanished. A good number of them have become construction workers, while some Dalit youth have entered the portals of higher education.

However, the Reddiars have been reluctant to relax their grip over the administration of the church. Royappan and several other residents of the village narrated the treatment meted out to them and others. There was a time when the padiyaals were flogged with tamarind twigs or tied to the wheel of a moving bullock cart as punishment. The Dalits employed by Reddiars had to drink water and gruel poured into their cupped hands. Such practices continued in the feudal society for long.

With some parish priests initiating steps to democratise the administration of the church, besides striving for the economic independence of the oppressed people, Dalit Christians slowly started raising their voice against discriminatory practices, said Fr John Suresh. As a result, the priests incurred the wrath of the upper-caste Christians. Some of them were even assaulted, alleged Fr John Suresh.

In another incident at R.N. Kandigai village under the same diocese in 1995, a parish priest who was seen to be pro-Dalit was manhandled by upper-caste Christians with a view to hindering his priestly duties. The church was closed indefinitely by the Archdiocesan authorities.

Recalling the legal battle in the local courts, L. Yesumarian, director of the Chengalpattu-based Dalit Human Rights Centre, said upper-caste Christians had set the ball rolling in 1995 by filing a case against a change in the route of the procession of Mother Mary as part of the parish’s feast celebrations. They said the car procession should take the ?customary route?, that is, it should not pass through the Dalit localities.

THE CEMETERY OF the Adi Dravidar (Dalit) Christians on the outskirts of the village.

The next case was filed by the same group a couple of years later, seeking the transfer of the then parish priest, Fr K.M. Joseph, a Malayalee, and the appointment of a priest who had knowledge of Tamil and Telugu. In turn, Fr Joseph filed a case seeking a direction that the parish priest would be the sole authority to administer the parish and to decide the mode of celebrations. In the same year, the Reddiars filed a defamation case against the Adi Dravidars. In 1999, the Adi Dravidars filed a case pleading for orders not to open the church until the suits in the courts between the parishioners were settled and decided.

When the legal battle was on, the Dalit Christians carried on different forms of agitation demanding a due share in the administration of the parish. They also called for steps to end the caste-based discrimination in the church and in the village. The control over the land belonging to the church also became a contentious issue.

Sustained struggles by the Dalits of Thachur resulted in the agreement of November 28, 2006, signed by representatives of Reddiars, Dalits and the diocese in the presence of officials of the Revenue Department.

The 12-point agreement laid down that all Christian groups in the parish should accept the authority of the bishop of Chengalpattu diocese and of the parish priest appointed by him as per Canon Law. The annual festival of the parish, it said, should be held with the involvement of all members of the parish under the direct supervision of the bishop. It also said all the groups should maintain unity to ensure that the car procession passed through all the habitations in the village.

The accord urged the parties concerned to abide by the diocese’s decision on the issue pertaining to church land. All the places of worship and movable and immovable properties within the parish’s jurisdiction should be brought under the administration of the diocese and the direct supervision of the bishop, it said. It also provided for the setting up of a parish council with elected representatives and for the appointment of pious groups.

Above all, all stakeholders agreed that acts of caste discrimination in the church or its administration would not be allowed. All the groups were advised to withdraw the cases pending before various courts. It was also agreed that the Sunday evening Mass would be in Telugu, while on other days it would be in Tamil.

A ROAD-ROKO AGITATION by Dalit Christians in the village demanding the arrest of the killers of Rajendran, a Dalit farm worker.

Only a few of the provisions, such as the car procession being taken to all the areas in the village, were implemented without any major impediment, said residents. However, caste animosity continued to haunt Thachur. Particularly, the Dalits were not allowed to use the cemetery in the church complex to bury their dead. The Reddiars ended their dependence on the local parish priests to perform rituals by bringing Telugu-speaking priests from other dioceses.

The Dalits were biding their time to break this barrier; a couple of attempts they made earlier had failed. But Velankanni, they decided, would be buried inside the church complex. They faced stiff resistance from the Reddiars while conducting the funeral mass and burying the body. At one stage, the Reddiars even locked the gate of the church, Bharathi Anna said. He added that the incident occurred even as the CPI(M) MLA G. Latha and other leaders were consoling the relatives of the deceased.

Rajendran, the Dalit farm worker, assisted the family members of Velankanni in digging the grave. He was found murdered a couple of days later. The police initially filed a ?man missing? case but later, on the basis of the post-mortem report, changed it to one of murder. Dalit Christians staged a road-roko protest in the village demanding the arrest of those involved. The police said they had arrested a few persons in the case.

Such acts of discrimination against Dalit Christians exist in several other villages, including M.N. Kandigai, R.N. Kandigai and K.K. Pudur under the Chengalpattu diocese, said Fr Yesumarian. According to him, in many villages dominated by Telugu-speaking upper-caste Christians, language has been used as camouflage to continue with the discrimination against Dalits.

?Though there are as many as 20 priests, 60 nuns and three bishops belonging to the Reddiar caste in Thachur, none of them cares to explain to their own caste members that they should not violate the Canon Law,? he said.

Arunthathiars in these villages are virtually caught in the crossfire between Adi Dravidars and upper-caste Christians. ?One group has muscle power and the other has money power. We are powerless. We find no other course but to maintain equidistance in the given situation as we depend on the rich farmers in the Reddiar community,? lamented a resident of the Arunthathiar habitation in Thachur.

Reddiar Christians of Thachur deny all the allegations against them. They only want to protect their rights as a linguistic minority, a spokesman of the Reddiars said, adding that Dalits were being instigated by some priests belonging to the oppressed community.

Regarding the November 2006 agreement, he said, some Reddiars had signed it without the consent of others. Denying any caste-based discrimination against Dalits, he said the Reddiars would demand an independent probe into the recent untoward incidents in the village. Official sources say that the government wants to adopt a cautious approach to the sensitive issue. The district administration has taken steps to ensure law and order in the village. Though the government may intend to evolve a consensus among the contending groups of the same religion, it will not impose any remedy, as it may become counterproductive, say official sources.

Any attempt by any group or section of people to promote untouchability is highly condemnable, said Fr A. Vincent Chinnadurai, Chairman of the Tamil Nadu State Commission for Minorities. The commission would extend all assistance to restore normalcy in that village, he added.

The emergence of the Dalit Christian Movement and the Dalit Christian Liberation Movement and the support extended to them by secular and democratic forces have raised the hopes of Dalit Christians that they will win the relentless battle against caste-based discrimination in various denominations of Christianity, said activists of these movements.

Dalit Christians constitute more than 70 per cent of the Christian population in Tamil Nadu. Their sustained campaign, with the support of the secular and democratic forces, resulted in the 10-point programme charted by the Tamil Nadu Bishops’ Council in 1990 for the integrated development of Dalit Catholics, they pointed out. After evaluating the implementation of the programme in 2003, it was further pruned for focussed action, they said.

However, the different forms of discrimination, such as the violence against Dalit Christians in Erayur in Villupuram district in March 2008, the attempts to preserve the dividing wall in the cemetery in Melapudur, the construction of churches with a design to maintain the caste hierarchy, as in Thachur and several other places, still continue, the activists pointed out. This underscores the fact that the struggle has to be intensified, they added.

‘Eppadium’ (Anyhow), the most recent novel of Fr Mark Stephen.


WIELDING the pen with power and determination to smash the injustice and discrimination against Dalit Christians and other oppressed masses is part of the priestly duties of Fr Mark Stephen.

When he was the parish priest of Ongur, a predominantly Dalit Christian village in the Chengalpattu diocese, during 1984-1990, he followed with utmost concern the humiliations meted out to the oppressed people by the upper castes within the Christian community in several villages. Close observation and evaluation of the situation prevailing in certain villages, including Thachur and K.K. Pudur, led him to conclude that the discriminatory practices could be curbed only by building a powerful mass movement. As one who had never concealed his sympathies for the downtrodden, he took part in the Dalit Christian Movement and supported the cause of the oppressed sections within the fold of Christianity.

His experiences in Ongur forced the writer in him to record the events in the form of a novel titled Yaathirai (Pilgrimage). He completed the work after his transfer from the village and it was published in 1992. The novel highlighted the paramount need for a people’s movement to end the atrocities against Dalit Christians, such as denial of their rights in the administration of the church and in the conduct of festivals, and to a place in the cemetery to bury their dead.

In the epilogue, the author appeals to readers to decide for themselves on which side they should stand ? the oppressed or the oppressors.

Much ahead of Yaathirai, Fr Mark penned his first novel, Suvargal (Walls), focussing on the discrimination of Dalits even in burial grounds. The need to demolish the walls that divide the tombs of Dalit Christians and upper-caste Christians in cemeteries in different places, including Tiruchi, was the theme of the novel. The story was set in an imaginary village.

Eppadium (Anyhow) is his most recent work. The novel deals with the unpleasant situation prevailing in Vembar, a coastal village in Tuticorin district, where Christian populations belonging to Nadar, Paravar and Dalit castes run their own schools and administer separate parishes. Without hypocrisy, the author takes the bull by the horns. He narrates the insults heaped on Dalit Christians in the village through the denial of any role in the parish administration.

Lessons from Conversion by Burning Temples and Cutting the Head of Buddha Statues in Korea


Over the last decade, a large number of Buddhist temples in Korea had been destroyed or damaged by fanatically devout Christians. More recently, the Buddha statues, regarded as the devil, were attacked and beheaded in the name of Jesus.


One of the important tasks for researchers in social science is prediction, anticipation, with the usual methodology of presenting scenarios and situations and forecasting their probabilities of occurrence, as well as predicting by intensity and level.

Here we are also following the usual method of analyzing expected situations. However, we stick to the case of Korean Buddhism, Buddhism in a country that is heavily affected by conversion, and from which possible situations that can occur to Buddhism in Vietnam are presented.

From many complex changes in history, for which Korean Buddhism is also partly responsible, Buddhism, at the present time, is a minority religion in Korea, ranking second to Christianity.

Buddhists account for 22.8% of the Korean population (according to the Wikipedia?s article "Religion in Korea"), while Christians account for 29.2% (both Protestants and Roman Catholics combined, with Protestants dominating).

Thus, although the religion has become a minority with a second rank, but when compared to each branch of Christianity, which can be considered as separated religions, Buddhism is still the leading religion with the most followers in South Korea.

The above ratio is still high if compared to the percentage of adherents across the population, which is only 18% according to official statistics. However, if compared to the ratios in East Asian bloc countries, the percentage of Christians in South Korea is the 3rd highest (after the Philippines and East Timor).

But compared to other countries influenced by the Chinese civilization, then Korea would stand as the most converted country and also with the fastest speed.

One-third of the Korean population has become Christian sheep, while nearly half are recognized as atheists. A good percentage of these are shifting towards Christianity, mainly Protestants.

Korea and Vietnam are similar, with both countries influenced by Chinese civilization and a 2000-year history of a Mahayana Buddhist tradition. Buddhism is deeply entrenched in people’s spiritual life, but it also is a key focal point of Christianity. Christian adherents are growing fast, and, especially, leading in the conversion of Buddhists are several Protestant denominations that are extreme and sometimes fanatical.

The phenomenon of Buddhist conversion by Protestant churches in Vietnam took place long ago. Before 1975, it seemed to occur at the same level as Korea?s. After 1975, the conversion seemed more discreet, though silently but still strong.

Thus, the Protestants have trained a number of pastors and teachers, and missionary activities have taken off in the 1990s and 2000s.

Conversion activities carried out by Protestants in the last 10 years have moved from discreet and quiet to frantic on the exterior side. The situation is becoming more similar to that occurred in Korea, and some activities in Vietnam have been advised, organized and even directly managed by Korean Protestants from behind the scene.

The event ?fire burning at My Dinh? in late 2010 marked a significant step in the process of conversion activities in Vietnam. It has switched from silent to public and frantic, and from public and frantic to challenging and extreme, with "fiery" events, provocations and challenges.

With such reality, what predictions can we make about the conversion of Buddhists in Vietnam, compared with the process that took place in Korea, and in the context of a number of Koreans who are responsible for conversion activities, are actually present and direct these activities in Vietnam?

Conversion through church preaching is normal, but it is objectionable to organize activities that cause conflicts and provocations in an extremist and fanatical manner. Following are the situations that happened in Korea:

– The scenario based on government powers and support. This situation certainly cannot happen in Vietnam on a large scale, in official policy, but it also does not exclude acts in the back door with some officials that are corrupted and ignorant.

However, we should also learn about this situation, such as using the common excuse of public work to remove the signposts to the pagodas, their names and visitor guidelines in the official documents published by the government, using the police to harass and search the pagodas, and, particularly, the South Korean police had humiliated the leaders of the Buddhist sect Jogye who were treated as common criminals.

– The situation of using provocative, hostile and violent acts against Buddhism indirectly to satisfy the manic episodes of religious excitement.

Wikipedia, in its article "Religion in Korea", has briefly described this in the section on "Religious Conflict". Christian activities against Korean Buddhism represent a unique case (compared to other religions).

"Some South Korean evangelical Christians have expressed hostility to Buddhism. There have been dozens incidents of arson and vandalism against Buddhist shrines and facilities over the last two decades, including the destruction of several large temples.

In some of these incidents, the perpetrators were identified as Christians, or left messages denouncing "idol worship."

The exhortation of acts against Buddhism has become public, similar to the Declaration of Belonging to God during the fire night at My Dinh.

In a crowded preaching in Busan, Korean Christians had prayed, according to the article "Persecution of Buddhists" of Wikipedia, "Lord, let the Buddhist temples in this country crumble down!", and they did not wait for the hand of God but they had carried out: "Over the course of the last decade a fairly large number of Buddhist temples in South Korea have been destroyed or damaged by fire by misguided Christian fundamentalists. More recently Buddhist statues have been identified as idols, and attacked and decapitated in the name of Jesus ".

It also need to be told clearly that the sneaky burning of temples and Buddha statues by Christians in South Korea happened for a long time ago before President Lee Myung-bak took office. He is the president who publicly supports the actions to eradicate Buddhism.

According to the descriptions in online documents, these acts of religious fanatics "in the name of Jesus" are usually conducted at night, and it is very difficult to find the culprits for heavy damages caused to the Korean Buddhism.

This is a situation that will likely occur in Vietnam, when the conversion process has reached the level of "fire" as in the My Dinh event in December 2010.

Speaking insults against ancestors during that fire-excited night, they no longer have to fear anyone, even Buddhism which is a very peaceful religion, but a thorn in their eyes.

There are many reasons for Vietnamese Buddhists to stay alert against the sneaky burning of temples as in South Korea.

Besides the reason that there are several Korean missionaries who are present in Vietnam and direct the activities of conversion, fanaticism can reach an extremely high level and Christians could attack Buddhism in a sneaky way to release their pent-up resentment of the superficial development (it is emphasized, just superficial development) of Vietnamese Buddhism in recent years.

And, in the same way, when they hate someone, but if that person is too strong and they cannot not do anything about it, then to revenge and release the pent-up resentment, they will attack the beloved relatives of the hated person.

When a religion considers Buddhism as enemy and announces excited episodes, whose history is related to the burning of temples and destruction of statues "in the name of Jesus", then warnings such as those in this article are very necessary for Vietnamese Buddhists to take protective measures.

When they talk about "excited episode" we may be concerned similarly to "Religious ecstasy" (roughly translated as "religious ecstasy pills, "religious stimulation"). Please see the above terms in Wikipedia.

A reader had a very reasonable opinion that gathering a large number of people, starting fires, taking ecstasy pills, dancing, screaming …are too dangerous for themselves and others.

As such, this article has passed the alarm level of conversion, and has reached the more alarming level about the dangers of violent means of conversion, when the conversion process has reached the threshold "fire."

Vietnamese Link

Written in Vietnamese by Minh Thạnh

Translated by Nguyęn T?nh

2011 Lunar New Year