Religious minorities and the mainstream in a pluralist secular democracy-Part 3
- Part - III
At this stage I feel compelled to refer to the issue of conversion. While I
doubt very much whether there is large-scale conversion as often made out I
have no doubt that conversion in this country�s present context should be
legally monitored. In the beginning the Church did not accept in its fold
everybody who rushed in. They had to prove that there was a genuine change
of heart. The church considered itself a congregation of saints whose
value-system was distinct. Anybody who thought of joining had to be a
catechumen to start with: in fact it is based on this analogy that Lenin who
organised the Communist Party on the model of the Roman Catholic church
introduced the status of �candidate member� in his organisation. Unless
conversion is totally voluntary and effects a transformation that enhances
the worth and self-esteem of the person who is converted the whole exercise
becomes one of statistical assimilation that really erodes the worth as well
as identity of the person. The European psyche spoiled the image of
Christianity in this country. While I certainly admire their contribution to
our society in many respects their spiritual arrogance was unbearable not
only for the educated Indians who were not Christians but also to the
indigenous Christians as evidenced by the strong rejoinders of Paremmakkal
Governador and, among the non-Catholics, by documents like the Mavelikkara
Padiyola. The European could not understand how we had developed our own
myths like the consort of Poornathrayeesan being a Christian woman or St.
George being the blood brother of Lord Vishnu! I find no reason to object to
a law that regulates conversion from one religion to another. As I see it
such legislation will only be a parallel to the anti- defection law. What
really happens now mostly is conversion within the Church: members of the
Catholic and Orthodox churches leave to join charismatic groups and home
churches. If this perturbs the Pope or the Catholicose I wonder why we
cannot understand when a Sankaracharya expresses concern at the conversion
of Hindus. Therefore I feel that while conversion should be possible if
someone genuinely wants to convert it should neither be through coercion nor
through allurement. I say that conversion should be permissible because we
are all born human beings and grow up as Hindus or Christians through the
accident of our parentage- at least to start with. Had I been born to Hindu
parents it is doubtful that I would have come to depend on Jesus and Mary as
much as I do today. But we have no right to say that a Marxist should for
ever remain a Marxist and likewise I must have the freedom to leave my
church to become a Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, or Roman Catholic for that
matter. At the same time I would consider it a violation of human right if
someone were converted through compulsion or allurement. It is for this
reason that I plead for legal monitoring and transparency in the process of
I had referred earlier to the rights of the minorities guaranteed by the
makers of our Constitution. These rights are sacrosanct. When I say
sacrosanct I mean that their exercise should also be as a sacred trust. If
it leads to corruption or even where it does not lead to corruption to
alienation the minorities should willingly surrender those rights. When I
was Education Secretary I upheld the minority right upheld by Chief Justice
M.S.Menon, but it was I who initiated the control of admission to the
Teacher Training Institutes run by minorities but funded by Government: many
a bishop was unhappy but the High Court finally upheld the principle though
not all the details I had proposed.To put it differently, I may say that the
minorities should maintain a high standard of accountability and
transparency. Christians have been called to be the leaven and NOT to be
empire-builders or conscriptors. If minorities invoke Article 30 more often
than Article 25 they are more concerned about their institutions than about
their faith. I used to say in a light vein that when meeting me as Education
Secretary priests cited the name of Justice M.S.Menon more frequently than
that of Jesus Christ! Such adherence to the claim can only become an
oft-misused privilege of the Establishment more than an amenity of the
community. As a Christian I feel that our calling is no longer to run
institutions which others can run equally well. We should escape the PLUS2
The minorities should regenerate themselves and work in areas where there is
need for trendsetters. Leave super specialties to the less enlightened and
start hospitals for lepers and lunatics, run halfway homes for those
ex-lunatics who are rejected by their families, take care of ex-prisoners,
and families of prisoners whom the society, quite undeservedly, punish
through ostracisation or ridicule; leave ordinary schools for those in the
run complaining that they have not got the numbers they deserve and run
schools for the mentally retarded, physically handicapped, polio-affected
precious children who are as much God�s creation as the suited-booted-�tied�
elite who are born to write entrance examinations and IIT-JEEs. Let
minorities explore new avenues of service as for AIDS-victims, the aged, the
victims of dementia and Alzheimer�s and the like. The majority should help
the process. Do not judge any community by its past: crusaders did not
reflect Christian values, Muslim conquerors did not reflect Islamic charity
and CHATURVARNYA did not reflect the true ethos of India that is Bharat.
To be continued......
Bar 'Eato Briro Dr. D. Babu Paul
Member Id No: 075
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