News Analysis Christianity hasn’t failed in India. Conversion isn’t its only goal

Christianity hasn’t failed in India. Conversion isn’t its only goal

It is not that Indian churches are without their problems. But Dilip Mandal is wrong to use proselytisation as the yardstick to measure Indian Christianity.

Periodically, experts of mainstream media come up with theories on why Christianity is a “failed project” in India. Recently, senior journalist and author Dilip Mandal put forth the argument that Christianity has no future in India and, therefore, there is no reason for the Rashtriya Swayamevak Sangh or the Vishva Hindu Parishad to spread false alarm or panic about the proselytising capacity of Christian missionaries. Mandal also points out that the Christian population in India is either static or dwindling.

Mandal is, obviously, not open to recognising the idea that conversion was not the main purpose of the educational, medical and social work of Christian missions in India. Compassion International, a Christian organisation mentioned by him, in a detailed statement pointed out that their sole purpose in India was social outreach. And no official complaint of conversion has been filed against organisations such as Compassion International.

Dilip Mandal’s severe criticism that the Christian missionary’s work in India became “a tool for Brahmins and elites” seems baseless. He argues that the failure of Christianity in the early centuries in Kerala and elsewhere was because they confined themselves to converting Brahmins. However, the theory that there were Brahmins in the first century CE in the region that later became Kerala (when St Thomas is believed to have come to that region) has been disputed by scholars. According to some historians, there was no Brahmin presence in that region till the 8th century CE.

Further, Mandal also questions the quality of education imparted by Christian schools. As he puts it, these schools practised “elitism” and caste-based education because they taught English only to elite Indians while Dalits were forced to study in the vernacular languages. If he had a chance to meet a Dalit or Tribal Christian, Mandal may get a different perspective. Or, perhaps, he could read B.R. Ambedkar’s The Annihilation of Caste where he stated: “The Hindus … will probably not admit that the aborigines have remained savages because they had made no effort to civilize them, to give them medical aid, to reform them, to make them good citizens. But supposing a Hindu wished to do what the Christian missionary is doing for these aborigines, could he have done it? I submit not. Civilizing the aborigines means adopting them as your own, living in their midst, and cultivating fellow-feeling — in short, loving them. How is it possible for a Hindu to do this? His whole life is one anxious effort to preserve his caste.”

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