There have been times when the Christian community celebrated Christmas with peaceful heart. Gone are those days when we thought of Christmas as times of peace, joy and happiness. The carol singing was considered as taking the message of peace and joy that come with a birth of Christ to the people but the recent happenings of violence against the carol team in different parts of county and the threat calls issued by the hard-core Hindu fundamental organizations have made it an event inviting troubles and violence. Under this circumstances the question comes to our minds is that, will the Christianity that has faced numberless persecutions throughout the history stop preaching the message of peace? Will these acts mindless violence force the Christians from doing charity and humanitarian services as demanded by Christ?
How much truth is there in the allegation of forced conversion of people belonging to the economically weaker sections, very specially tribals and scheduled caste? The Christians in most of the states are very minuscule minority which has no politically voice. The number of families in most village churches can be counted on fingers. So how will the powerless Christians force the villagers to get converted to Christianity? The churches in these villages are mostly very shabby and runs in small rooms which silently proclaim the bad economic condition of the churches and families associated with it. How could one justify the allegation of alluring Hindus with regular or irregular economic aid to get converted Christianity?
The Christian community must be running more than twenty five thousand educational institutions across the country. And adding to it, the Christian community in the country runs thousands of charity organizations supporting millions of peoples to improve their lives. If these organizations and educational institutions as alleged by the fundamental organizations, were working with the sole aim of conversion, then what would have been the population of Christians in the country? If these allegations to be true then how could many of leaders of the Hindu fundamental organizations and Bhartiya Janta Party leaders including Mr L.K. Adwani (Former Deputy Prime Minister) remain a Hindu? In the recent years in Chhattisgarh many personal working in educational institutions were attacked in very many ways including very serious allegations of sexual abuses. In spite of all these the faith of people in the services offered by the community is still in a growing pace. So do the allegations of using educational and charity organizations for conversion stand ground?
If we analyses these attacks on the institutions, some of them are organized just to popularize to fundamental list ideology and to stop Christians from working for the poor and downtrodden peoples belong to be lower strata of the society. Some of them are planned and executed to get access to the administration of the educational institutions so that leaders of fundamental organizers get their choice of students, get admitted to the schools. One of the majour reasons could also be that the Christian community is branded as supporters of Congress Party and the socio-political organizations following Hindutva ideology take political vendetta on the Christians. It is true that there may be few incidents of violence taking place due to religious reasons.
A clear study of attacks on Christians could reveal the fact that in many of these cases fundamental organizations have executive their vicious plans with the help of the police. In some of the incidents the victims were beaten up, man handled and very badly abused in the presence of the police or in the police stations but police made little efforts to stop them. In the case of the recent attacks on priests and brothers (Christians) in Satna and Bhuranpur and Aligarh in U.P are clear examples of police supported violence. There are many cases reported that the members of the fundamental organizations in the midst of the prayer came with the police and took away the pastor and believers who objected to the police stations. If police find that the arrested persons have no influence in the higher ups, then they are mentally and physically tortured and in many cases police register cases under the Freedom of Religion Act and other sections of IPC and send them to jail. One might tend to ask the question, are these police men safeguarding the rights of people or executers of the plans of the fundamental organizations?
There are serious violations of freedom of religion guaranteed in the Article 25 of the Constitution of India which grantees every citizen freedom to practice and propagate his/her faith. How could one interpret conducting prayers in houses, conventions, retreats, Bible studies, carol singing, etc as methods of forcing or alluring people to conversion? The misinterpretation and misuse of the provisions in the Freedom of Religion Act is a clear violation of the spirit of the Article 25 of the Constitution of India. We need to place the Christmas and the worries of the Christians in the background of these rising unseen violent situations. In the midst of most uncertain times we pray, Oh! Lord, Have Thine Own Way, yes it calls for a total surrender of oneself at the feet of the Cross.
Fr Dr Anand Muttugnal