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Paul Vadakumpadan, Shillong says,
THE CONFUSION CALLED CONVERSION
By Fr. Paul Vadakumpadan SDB
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Shillong, Feb. 28. The Confusion called Conversion was the title of an interesting book that appeared thirty years ago ( Sunder Raj, New Delhi: TRACI, 1985).


One would have thought that conversion and the confusion surrounding it were old topics by now. But suddenly they have become  live issues in modern India, even as the country rivals China in economic growth and prosperity and soon hopes to overtake that giant. Not a day passes without these topics being discussed in television programmes.  The changed political scenario in the country, with the impressive performance of parties allied to the Hindu right wing in the last general elections, has much to do with it.

Conversion is a  biblically rich word that is part of the Christian tradition. But this way of using the term has nothing to do with the way the term is used by religious extremists today. Conversion simply means  turning to God, abandonment of sinful ways, living a holy life by doing God`s will. Even if in some cases, this is accompanied by a change of religious affiliation, that must done in perfect freedom. The emphasis is not on nominal external changes, the way one eats or dresses, but on deep interior convictions, which in any case cannot be forced. Pope Francis himself went to the extent of calling proselytism nonsense. Free decision and genuine commitment are  of the essence of the Christian concept of conversion. There is no problem when a person freely chooses to accept one religion or another. The law of the country recognises this right. So does the law of the Church.

The sort of conversion drive undertaken by extremists in the country is anything but that. It is a political not religious activity. It is purely external and has nothing to do with deep convictions. It is difficult to believe that inducements, including material favours, are not the means used to canvass adherents. Effectively it is exploitation of religion for narrow political and sectarian goals. Men who do this, more than carrying out religious ceremonies, are making political statements.  
These groups understand conversion as forced conversion. Hence when they carry it out, obviously that is what they do. Conversion as a free decision is a Christian practice. These groups, very anti-Christian in their approach, cannot be expected to follow the Christian practice of free conversion.

There are very clear laws in the country dealing with propagation of religious belief. The demand for a new law betrays a hidden agenda. The real purpose is to prevent those who freely and willingly want to become Christians from doing so. As indeed with all extemists, violence is their preferred  means of imposing their ideas on others. Genuine religious values, of all religions, only unite people. It is narrow mindedness and sectarian thinking that divide. The recent statements made by the Prime Minister favouring personal freedom in religious matters are to be wholeheartedly welcomed by all people of good will. Every effort should be made to see that these words are also  facts.    

The Catholic Bishops of India in their plenary assembly held at Bengaluru, 3-9 February 2015, expressed their ``deep anguish and concern over increasing threats to peace and communal harmony in the wake of various untoward incidents affecting the Christian community in different parts of the country. Hardly a day has passed off in recent months without reports of attacks on Christians, Churches and Christian institutions from across the nation...Amid canards being spread and open threats against religious minorities by belligerent groups and their leaders, even elected representatives of people have made shocking statements brazenly challenging the freedom of conscience guaranteed by the Constitution of India under Article 25(1) which says: Subject to public order, morality and health and to the other provisions of this Part, all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion.``

The Indian secular democracy is one of the great success stories of modern times. That over a thousand million people, belonging to different religions, cultures and languages can live together in relative peace and harmony and work to create a modern developed nation is a matter of pride not only for Indians but for the whole of humankind. May we all continue to cherish that pride.

Comments


necktop777 India Gurgaon
December 29, 2016

I read this book two decades ago. I know TRACY HOUSE which published this book. I now need a PDF urgently. this is a book every indian must read. No other book is so well researched and so blunt and honest. CAN SOMEONE HELP ME GET A PDF PLEASE? MY whatsapp is 9310561777 and email is sozo_baxter@yahoo.com

THARAKAN John India Hyderabad
March 07, 2015

Interesting article. After decades of fighting for the right to convert, now we are fighting against the right to reconvert. If we can look at the biblical meaning of 'conversion', we could also look at the biblical meaning of following Christ. If only our bishops could stay right there! We fight for the right to convert. I am still to hear about the right to live our faith. I am toying with the idea of writing an article on "Evangelisation 73/27". The idea is borrowed from communication which is 73% non-verbal and only 27% verbal. Applying to evangelisation, it would be 73% proclamation by our life and only 27% proclamation by our preaching, campaigns, etc. God save the Church! (TD John)





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