Why proselytize? To the Editor
Guyana Chronicle
November 24, 2001

In his letter (Chronicle, 11.20.01), Mr. Amar Panday [ please note: link provided by LOSP web site ] pronounced that it is essential to be released from the (Christians') "harrowing anathema of religious intolerance and aggression". The Webster Third New International Dictionary, 1993, states that the word "anathema" refers to "anything devoted to evil; a curse". This is quite a new portrait in describing the "Christian philosophy" and it differs from many including Mahatma Gandhi, as we shall see below.

Though some Christians might be guilty of "aggression", I find it difficult to fathom Mr. Panday's abstraction of the Christians' "religious intolerance". Judging from the letters to the media on this religious contention, the impartial reader knows who are the ones that cogitate religious intolerance.

Mahatma Gandhi, indeed, was totally against religious conversion. However, this must be seen in the backdrop of two factors. First, conversion could have been used to build up one's own communal power and incidentally to undermine the political power of the other community. Second, Gandhi Ji's experience of Christianity left little to be desired from his watershed experience in South Africa and in India; (this negative experience of Christianity is underlined in Mr. Panday's last quotation of Gandhi). In addition, the Christians' insensitivity to the Indian people in evangelising made conversion doubly insipid.

Though Gandhi Ji opposed religious proselytism, he had the strongest admiration of Jesus Christ. As a matter of fact, the only portrait he had on his wall in Sevagram, was that of Jesus (Louis Fisher, "A Week with Gandhi", 1942, p. 14). And Gandhi Ji also declared, "there have been many times when I did not know where to turn. But I have gone to the Bible... and have drawn strength from its message" - ("Young India", p. 50). Some of the Mahatma's closest confidantes were Christian missionaries.

When queried by E. Stanley Jones about how to make Christianity more "Indian" and more delectable for the spiritual, social and other benefit of Indians, Gandhi Ji replied, "First, I would suggest that all of you Christians, missionaries and all, must begin to live more like Jesus Christ. Second, practise your religion without adulterating it or toning it down. Third, emphasise love and make it your working force, for love is central in Christianity. Fourth, study the non-Christian religions more sympathetically to find the good that is within them to have a more sympathetic approach to the people" - (E. Stanley Jones, "Mahatma Gandhi: An Interpretation", 1963, p. 65). The Mahatma's words are ever so appropriate for Christians today!

The controversy in question is pivoted on one's beliefs in 'truth', as Mr. Panday established. And since Hindus could see truth constructed from one's own "paradigm based on its endemic circumstances, factors such as geography, culture, history and language for the realization of God and truth", the Christians' claim to 'truth' seem arrogant and offensive. However, Christians are not the only ones guilty of having this asseveration; Jews and Moslems and even some Hindus think that they have the handle on the 'truth'. I know of Sadhus, for example, who think that the only way for them to find moksha and ultimate vedanta (what may be referred to as "salvation") is to be vegetarian, become half-naked or naked, and to keep standing for twelve years! Similarly, the Hari Krishna devotees think that the only way to achieve ultimate bliss (salvation?) is to constantly chant the name of Krishna. Does Mr. Panday find these Sadhus' and devotees' conviction in itself an "imposition"? Don't these Jews, Muslims, Christians, Sadhus and devotees have a right to actualise their ideas of 'truth' as long as these are not imposed on others?

We must appreciate that 'truth' concept or entity is dynamic and often changes. And the truth of Christ is changing for me to be bigger and better as I seek to grow in the knowledge and obedience of God. Swami Veda Bharati (formerly Swami Usher Bhoad's) idea of truth has also changed drastically since he no longer embraces the traditional Arya Samaj principles which he had espoused in Guyana. I pointed out in my last letter that Christianity is very 'Hindustani' because of its nexus to India; hence there are more than thirty million Hindustanis in that land who believe that Jesus is the only way for their salvation. So why are Hindus angry with me if I do not want to live by mere karma, but to embrace Jesus Christ as my mode for my concept of the ideal "Aryan Dharma" and ultimate vedanta? I can communicate in Hindi, appreciate Indian culture and love much of Indian music. So why do people like Mr. Balwant Prasad consider me a pariah to the Indian race? Is my particular strain of bhakti such an offence?

Mr. Panday referred to the "pristine legacy" of the Hindustani people being denigrated. I recall the headlines of the newspapers in India during the Kumbh Mela when the most "holy" Sadhus were involved in a fierce fistfight over the right to first dip in the Ganges River at the "auspicious" time! No people or no one has had a "pristine legacy"; the Bible says that all humankind have sinned (but God provided a way out through his grace!).

I am trying to do some research on Mr. Panday's claim that Christians deemed the Hindustani people's discovery of 'zero' as "satanic". I would be grateful if such claims are cited.

The underlying question lingers, however, why "proselytize"? I share the good news of Jesus Christ because of the incredible transformation that he has brought in my life. I hope that if Mr. Panday or whoever experiences something extraordinary that he also would want to share it with the world - I'd be glad to listen! India's most famous Christian convert, Sadhu Sundar Singh, a brilliant patriot and son of high priest was propelled with joy and zeal as he earnestly walked hundreds of miles to proclaim the good news to his country men as well as those abroad. This incredible mystic had a particular burden for Tibet and was literally walking towards that land when he probably died from either the natural elements or from natural causes.

I do not impose my faith on anyone; I share my faith because I feel that it is my moral and spiritual responsibility. And I shall be a witness of Christ in whatever form that may be appropriate; it may be more prudent to demonstrate the love of God not by words but by my actions and my life. Let us respect each other's beliefs and of course respect each other. And not impose our beliefs on the other but care enough to share.
(Acharya) Devanand Bhagwan