Regular venom towards Christianity To the Editor
Guyana Chronicle
November 15, 2001

Over the past few months there have been regular venom spewed from Hindus towards Christianity and Christians. I certainly understand this anger, as I have been part and parcel victim and victimizer in the Hindu convert experience. Mr. Balwant Prasad in his letter captioned, "Where are his facts and figures?" (Chronicle, Nov. 2) went so far as to question why I went to study in India instead of Palestine where my "Saviour was born, lived, died and resurrected." What a loaded question - a question that deserves answers!

First, Mr. Prasad should know that I, like many people, did not convert to the Christian faith because I am ashamed of my Indian ancestry or because of a psychological deficiency. On the contrary, I was a conscientious, devout and almost militant Arya Samaji who despised Christianity. I have followed Christ not because of human cajoling but because God drew me to himself in and through Jesus. I have found new life, hope, joy, peace and liberation through Jesus Christ - because he first loved me!

My conversion to Christ, unfortunately, called for a total relinquishing of my Indian culture by the church in Guyana. Though it was okay to see "decent" movies such as "The Sound of Music" and "Gone with the Wind", I was not allowed to see Indian movies. Indian music, Indian dress and Indian culture on the whole were deemed sinister. The church did not distinguish the difference between culture and a faith and consequently I fell into the same mould and indulged in the same mentality; I threw out the baby with the bath water. That was until I first went to Bangladesh and India as a tourist and was first catapulted into a paradigm shift as I observed that people could worship Jesus Christ in the Indian and other cultural forms.

I agree with Mr. Prasad's argument in his letter captioned "The word,'Hindu' referred to a people, not a religion" (Stabroek News, Sept. 10). In that letter, he stated that "it is correct to say that a Hindu can be a Buddhist, Sikh, Muslim, Jain and so on, as Guyanese can be. The difference is the form of worship only. From Sindhu, came the words Hindu, Indus, India, Hindustan and Hindustani". I wonder why Christianity was left out of this list!

I am ethnically and culturally an Indian. I speak, read and write Hindi and am familiar with some Sanskrit phrases. I am relatively quite informed regarding Indian music and relish in Indian clothes such as the kurta. I sing bhajans and conduct Yeshu Kathas and (Christian) Satsangs. I am a "Krist Bhakta", that is, a follower of Christ. Furthermore, I am a PIO (Person of Indian Origin). (The government of India recently has implemented a policy that persons of Indian origin could have virtually all rights of an Indian in India except to vote or hold political office). So, Bhai Jee Balwant, I have many good reasons to study and even work or live in India.

Though I believe that Jesus Christ is the only way for salvation, I do not impose my faith on anyone. However, I like to share my faith just as Swami Vivekanand did when he visited America and addressed the Parliament of Religion in Chicago in 1893 on the importance of Hinduism and Hindu philosophy. Similarly, Swami Usher Bhoad came to British Guiana in the 1960's to share his Arya Samaji lifestyle. I visited this Swami's ashram in the foothills of the Himalayas a few years ago and discovered that he has changed his name and his orientation to his "study of truth" philosophy. Swami Veda Bharati is now much more open-minded to Christians and other religious "truth" than he used to be. Does this change make this most respected Swami less Indian because of his modified faith and religious form?

Mr. Amar Panday in his letter to the Stabroek News on October 1, lashed out and claimed that "the introduction of Christianity into India marked the beginning of the attempt to undermine the ancient traditions, cultures and values of the land". I agree with Mr. Panday, unfortunately, that the Indian culture was often despised by some of the early missionaries as they shared the Christian faith. Many have recognised this mistake and seek to correct it. However, Christians were also responsible for many social changes in India. "Sati" (wife-burning) and child sacrifice are only two that comes to mind. Evangelical missionaries such as E. Stanley Jones, as well as the late Mother Theresa respected, appreciated and even adopted the Indian culture as they lived their day-to-day lives.

Christianity did not come to India with the advent of British imperialism, as Mr. Panday alluded. India has had a nexus to Christianity for millennia after St. Thomas (an apostle of Christ) went to Malabar in South India to spread the gospel. Evidence of this apostolic following is still traced in the Marthoma Church in South India. Using Mr. Prasad's (correct) definition, Christianity is very "Hindustani" since it has existed in Hindustan for two thousand years, and therefore certainly should have its rightful place in Indian society.

Indians in Guyana and Trinidad also know that they owe a lot of gratitude to Christians for the education and respect given to their people, especially the women. My late mother and other Indian women had the opportunity of an education because of the generosity and care of Christians in Queenstown. The manager, principal and teachers did not mind that she was a Hindu; they did not seek to Christianise her but only thought of her general welfare. Similarly, the Canadian Presbyterian Mission, for example, sought to preserve some semblance of the Indian culture about 50-60 years ago by singing bhajans and encouraging the use of Hindi in church and in the community and sought the upliftment, particularly of Indian women.

To address Mr. Prasad's question about "facts and figures", these are too numerous to list in a letter column. There are many books on the topic but I recommend "The Case for Christ" by Lee Strobel. Retracing his own spiritual journey from atheism to faith, Strobel, a former legal editor of the Chicago Tribune, cross-examines a dozen experts with doctorates from schools like Cambridge, Princeton and Brandeis who are recognized authorities in their own fields. Strobel challenges them with questions like "How reliable is the New Testament?", "Does evidence exist for Jesus outside the Bible?", and "Is there any reason to believe in the resurrection was an actual event?". The difference between "The Case for Christ" and Holger Kersten book, "Jesus lived in India" is that one is an investigative, credible research project; the other is not.

It is time that people recognize what the Christian faith has done for the lives of people before they constantly impose a wholesale attack on the faith. And it is also high time that Christians recognize, appreciate and retain cultural forms when practising their faith without compromising Biblical truth.
(Acharya) Devanand Bhagwan