INSIGHT XX: Reality of Christian missionaries through the lens of Arun Shourie's book

Namaskar, the new series "INSIGHT" is an attempt to present the central thought of a thought-provoking book. "Missionaries In India Continuities, Changes, Dilemmas", a book by Shri Arun Shourie compels readers to contemplate various points put forth.

NewsBharati    19-Nov-2022 12:33:23 PM   
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The missionary activities continued for over a century with ' British Imperial Control' openly. The author writes that the act of missionaries of Indian origin not joining the independence movement was not an accident. ( Probably it was planned.)

The withdrawal of the British from India in a way forced the Church to change many things. The church lost the position as ' the other half of the rulers ' then, which in a way was an unofficial status of the Church. The church as an institution turned into a spokesperson for a minority that was posed to be in danger. The expression became a little careful but the target groups remained the same. Only the methods changed to suit the new scenario. The explanation became more aggressive but slightly different. The ' fashionable vocabulary ' of the fifties came into use. The ' Liberation Theology ' started being used as it was developed and probably found success in Latin America which attempts to address the problems of poverty and social injustice as well as spiritual matters. Instead of mass conversion, there was an attempt to ' encourage, project and assist Dalit leaders '.

INSIGHT XVIII: Reality of Christian missionaries through the lens of Arun Shourie's book

Initially, there were attempts to oppose the government programs like setting up schools in tribal areas. No benefits were allowed to reach tribals, on the contrary, they were instigated against any such efforts.

' The Christian Missionary Activities Committee Report ' reproduced a letter from Father Vermiere of Jashpur Roman Catholic mission, written to his superior. Its concluding part makes the thinking of the Church clear.

He wrote about the protest by Church. He described the team that visited, as a spy ( a member of the team belonged to the Servants of India Society ). The group was sent by the Prime Minister of our country, but it was declared that it was sent to ruin the mission. And the protest was organized to block the efforts completely. The protest was based on a completely false and defamatory design. The letter unambiguously stated that the team was sent to prevent mission from the conversion of tribals. It was mentioned that children from other faiths were even persuaded to move away from missionary schools.

The author observed that the reaction of The Church was the same as it used to be in past. ( During British rule ) Gandhi Ji could read it, but the anti-untouchability campaign organized by him disturbed all the missionaries, as it was taking away missionarys' popularity.

Gandhi Ji believed that if it was the case of serving people then it should not worry missionaries who served people. Missionaries viewed the efforts of the government of helping tribals as a ' small proof of repentance '. Gandhi Ji stated that we should never think of opening a hospital where there was one, but Gandhi Ji would definitely think of opening a school even if there was one. He thought that if the objective ( of missionaries ) was purely humanitarian then it should be viewed that it was the duty ( of our people )to put the house in order. He clearly mentioned it, but his missionary friends did not work with a purely humanitarian spirit. The object was to add numbers to their faith ( Christianity ). This made Gandhi Ji think that complaints or doubts about their objectives were more than justified.
When it gradually became difficult to prevent government efforts to provide facilities in the tribal areas, missionaries modified their methods.

It was stated that conversion was an essential element of Christianity, it was the duty of every Christian, it was not just articles 25 & 26 that conferred the right. They successfully fought against every effort of the state where there was a possibility of scrutinizing conversions. Janata government when tried to prevent conversion through force, fraud and allurement, the missionaries fought against it carefully.

Missionaries always kept criticizing the caste system for two centuries and claimed that Christianity does not recognize caste. But missionaries always argued in favor of the benefits of reservation to Christian scheduled castes and tribals. ( Even today missionaries support the reservation after the conversion)

They could not prevent the government to a great extent in expanding medical, educational, and other facilities in tribal areas, they started discrediting the agencies.

Obviously, the Church could not expect protection and cooperation from the state after 1947, it changed its strategy.

Prof. Vidya Deshpande

Professor Vidya Deshpande has had a journey of more than four decades in the field of education. Her  main expertise is in the subject of Philosophy,  and she has worked as a teacher of philosophy and logic with Nowrosjee Wadia college for 36 years. She has been associated with the Janakalyan Blood bank for last for 38 years and has also carried out the responsibility as a management committee member of Karve Stree Shikshan Sanstha for 10 years. Her special fields of interest are Philosophy of social sciences, school education, development of skills for self reliance,  and top up skills to make students profession ready,