India is a secular democracy where “…religious liberty of both the individuals and associations of individuals united by common beliefs, practices and discipline” is constitutionally guaranteed. The Indian constitution in Article 25 grants to the citizens of India of all religious persuasions freedom to profess, practice and propagate their faith in a way that does not disrupt public order and does not affect public health and morality adversely. Although the Article 25 of the Indian Constitution ensures a fundamental human right of the Indian citizens in no case to be subverted otherwise, several differing attitudes have emerged since its promulgation. Objection to conversion is one of them.
Hindu fundamentalists claim that Christian missionaries and workers forcefully convert Hindus to Christianity. Therefore, Hindu antagonism towards Christianity has accelerated the attitude of Christian persecution spreading across India. Mass re-conversion ceremonies, destruction of churches, and brutal assaults on Christians and pastors have been increasingly evident in the recent months.
Therefore in spite of the constitutional guarantee as a fundamental human right of every Indian citizen to practice and propagate her/his religion, today there is a strong opposition and challenge to it from Hindu fundamentalists in different forms in various parts of India. Anti-Conversion Bills have been passed in almost 10 states in India. Hence, the Christian believers are falsely alleged against, threatened, and forcibly curbed against practicing and propagating their faith. Those who have not encountered the explained conditions however live in fear of imminent persecution of whatever form. This situation requires us to see the issues involved in a little deeper level.
Today all the Christians need to have a clear understanding about their purpose of their mission in the contemporary society. All the Christians need to know the struggles of people and response to the need of the people around them. There are various ways in which the Christians can do mission in the midst of the present day challenges.
1. Commitment to the Humanistic Nationalism and Nation
The Christian should strengthen the humanistic nationalism. They must show concern for the weak and marginalized, which is the characteristic of Christian life. The Christian approach to nationalism should start with an active involvement in the struggle for democracy without partiality. Christians have to be convinced that participating in the civic and political life is an essential expression of Christian faith. All the Christians need to love the nation and need to do the best for the upliftment of the nation.
2. Establishing a Just Society
For the Christians, proclamation of the Gospel is the service in which the church can render to every individual and to all humanity. Service is the basis of Christian mission and justice is its primary concern. God is just, so the mission of the church is not only to preach the Word of God, but to bring justice and peace. The Christian’s mission is to fight against all kind of oppressive structures and establish righteousness.
3. Getting Into the Politics
Hindutva is a religious ideology, but it is used in India to achieve political ends. The church therefore, should co-operate with any group, both religious and secular, to raise social consciousness among the people. The church should not be churchy, dealing only with the pious activities within the church compound, but they must be conscious about the things going on around them. The Christians must cooperate with the politicians, government, etc…, to eradicate the evil of religious violence.
4. Answer to Violence
Hindutva is also the ideology of religious violence. As an ideology of violence, it needs a hate object to keep itself through aggression. So for them Christians and Muslims are hate objects. Thus, the church as a whole should not look into their threats, but should stand against it and continue the option for justice even in the midst of suffering.
5. Having an Inter Faith Dialogue
Dialogue with other Faiths is the characteristics mode of the church. It will help people from other Faiths to develop positive attitude in the society by giving importance to religious harmony and peace. By maintaining a proper dialogue there will be mutual understanding between different religions.
6. Using of Proper Terms like Conversion
The term conversion often leads to misunderstanding in the context of religious pluralism. Therefore, Christian conversion needs to be reconsidered and interpreted in the light of recent developments in pluralism. The reason behind Christian mission is to transform the lives of the people and not to convert them into new religion or doctrine. The Christians must not have an aggressive attitude towards people of other Faiths or convert the people by force. Rather the Christians need to think openly from the standpoint of religious faith and response positively to the claims of others in the pluralistic socio- religious context of multi- faiths.
7. Maintaining Indian Identity
The Christian identity should not be mixed with that of west. A Christian Indian identity needs to be developed in India. In fact, Christians do participate in the life of the nation along with the people of other Faiths. But it is important to assert their Indian identity. They must be acquainted with the culture. They must heal it and preserve it.
Hindutva and its ideology reflect the threat to Indian society. The promoters of Hindutva have intensified their efforts to change the country into a monolithic Hindutva mould. Their efforts have resulted in innumerable atrocities being inflicted on religious minorities. Such acts of violence and the ideology that legitimizes them, threaten to destroy the very democratic, secular, and civilizational fabric of the Indian society. It erases the pluralism that underpins the unity of the nation. It undermines the principles of freedom, equality, and justice, as well as to the multi-religious and plural-cultural nature and heritage of Indian society. Therefore, we need to respond with utmost caution and alertness in the present day context.