By P. Soma Palan –
I refer to the above titled Article in the Colombo Telegraph by Prof.S. Ratnajeevan Hoole (Prof. SRH) which stirred me to respond due to the questionable views expressed on the Right to Religious Conversion. I enumerate as follows:
1. Prof. SRH mentions that “(a) Saint, more correctly Thirugnasambanthar killed 8000 Jains who refused to convert to the Saiva Religion (b) King Sangili killed 600 Roman Catholics who refused his Order to revert”. Firstly, I must clarify that in Hinduism there is no consecration of a religious title like Saint to religious persons as in Christianity, where a religious person is canonized as a Saint by the highest Apostolic Church Head, the Pope. Hinduisms has no stratified Priest-craft, and not an organized institutional religion. What is the evidence for these historical incidents? Were these killings directly committed by them? It gives the impression that Thirugnanasambanthar and the King Sangili killed a collective of 8000 and 600 people respectively, by personaly gunning them down or hacking them. Or, it could have been a religious riot by an enraged people. Incidentally, he refers to “Saiva Religion”. Saivaism is not a separate religion. In Hinduism there is the practice of one worshipping his chosen “Ishta Devata”, the Deity. Those who worship mainly Lord Shiva are referred to as “ Saivites”. Similarly, those who worship their Ishta Devata, Lord Vishnu, are referred to as “Vainavites”. These are not two separate religions. It does not mean that a Saivite worship exclusively Lord Shiva and rejects other Hindu Gods. Hinduism is one religion, but there are different forms of worship. Similarly, Christianity is one Religion with One Saviour, Jesus Christ. Thus, Catholicism, Protestantism, Anglicanism, Methodism etc are not separate religions but doctrinal denominations. As a religion, Christianity is one. A non- Hindu like Prof. Hoole , who believes in One God , One Book, the Bible and one only Life-time, are incapable of understanding a complex religion like Hinduism, leave alone knowing it. To connect these killings without evidence to a King and a Holy person is a tendentious, malicious design to denigrate Hindu religion as a fiercely intolerant religion. On the contrary, if there is a religion in the world whose intrinsic nature and characteristic is one of peace and non-violence, based on the principle of Dharma, coming down from the unfathomable antiquity spanning many millennia, it is Hinduism. Hinduism has from the beginning of time survived to -date, without any propagation and conversion by force, violence or material enticement. Instead, seekers of Truth are drawn to Hinduism by its universalism. Hinduism has never waged religious wars, like Christianity, and Islam. Religious conversion is considered an anathema and abhorrence in Hinduism.
2. Historically, Christianity waged religious wars like the Crusades. Central Asia gave birth to Christianity. It is a strange irony that the very Rome which crucified Jesus, hijacked Christianity, and made Rome the centre and apex of the Western Christian Church called the Papacy, the Vatican, which is a State by itself.
3. The Popes issued what is notoriously called Papal Bulls, and called upon navigators, Colombus and Vasco da Gama, under the guise of Voyages of Discovery ,to undertake naval expeditions to conquer new lands and propagate Christianity by threat of military force, and convert the so-called heathens, the indigenous religious people to Christianity. This colonization zeal was led by Portugal. If not for these religious marauders, the Portuguese, Prof. Hoole and the Hindu Tamils Sinhala Buddhists could not have become zealous Christians. Prof. RJH‘s ancestors could not have been any other than Hindus. They were forced and intimidated to be converted to Christianity by material inducements, a new status in the social ladder, Missionary education, western dress and western culture, by jettisoning their original rich Hindu culture and heritage coming down from ageless Vedic civilization, nursed and nourished by Epics Ramayana and Mahabharatham, the Puranas, and the profound Vedanta Philosophy of Vedas and the Upanishads.
4. Hindu Caste Classification
Prof. RJH says that “according to classical Hindu theory as expounded in the Bhagavad Gita by God himself, the four categories of occupations were created according to peoples’ qualities and activities.” The origin of Caste pre-dates the Gita, the ageless Rig Veda. Krishna in the Gita is not a God but a human personality, but an Avatar of God Vishnu. The Gita is a condensed essence of the Vedic literature explained to Arjuna in the battle field of Kurushetra. The Caste divisions (4) were made on the basis of occupations and not on quality but on human Gunas. Gunas are the inherent nature of man and not a physical quality. The word quality gives rise to a differentiation such as low and high quality or superior and inferior. Caste is a division of labour. The Caste system had its virtue. For instance each did his traditional work and did not encroach upon other’s work. Continuity of employment ensured from one generation to the other. Further, it promoted specialization and enhanced skill. The Brahamin caste are the religious temple priests; Kshatriya are the Rulers and warriors: Vaisnawa are the Traders : Sudras are the manual workers.
Prof. RJH poses the question, “who indeed is to tell us, the Sudras, that we must accept the authenticity of the Gita as God’s Holy word whereby we are the filthiest of God’s creation in terms of quality? Not me.” Prof.S RJH has no qualms of blindly accepting the authenticity of the Bible of Christianity based on the sayings of multiple disciples (Gospels) and written down decades after the death of Christ, by editing, revising, interpolating and called as New Testament, which meant there was an Old Testament. Whereas the Mahabharata was written by a single author, Veda Vyasa Rishi and Gita is an integral part of it. Nowhere in the Vedas or Gita, the Sudras are referred to as the filthiest. This is Prof. RJH‘s self-description. Whereas, Prof.RJH, gleefully accepts the authenticity of the Bible, when it castigates that all humans are born as “Sinners” on the basis of a so-called Original Sin committed by a fictitious Man and Woman, called Adam and Eve.
5. Prof. RJH states that “Dignity- theoscience demands that we change our religion when we do not like our religion or think another better. We Tamils were once animists, then Jains and Buddhists and now mostly Saivites. How can one stop conversions away from one’s religion to another in light of ICCPR”. This statement reveals Prof.RJH ‘s cleaver escapism from the truth and reality that Tamils were Hindus prior to their conversion to Christianity. According to him, Tamils were only animists. He fails to know that even King Ravana was a devoted Hindu Shiva worshiper at the time of Ramayana, 12000 years B.C. He disowns that his ancestors were Hindus before being inveigled into Christianity. It is a preposterous statement to say that when the Portuguese arrived in Lanka in 1505, the Tamils were Animists. If not for the arrival of Portuguese, no Tamils and Sinhalese could have been Christians today. Prof. SRJH poses the question “How can one stop conversions away from one’s religion to another in light of ICCPR.” This is an interesting question. He takes refuge under the ICCPR- (International Convention on Civil & Political Rights). Our Constitution also guarantees the freedom to practice one’s religion. However, this freedom to practice one’s religion cannot be construed to mean the freedom to interfere with another’s freedom to practice his or her religion and be converted through force, intimidation, social duress such as poverty, ignorance, material inducements to another religion. Vulnerable segments of the population exposed to poor economic and social conditions and educational facilities are prone to religious conversion by organized missionaries of Christian Churches. Even die-hard church goers are enlisted by the churches for conversion by creating rifts in families and also promoting inter-faith or mixed marriages with ulterior motive to covert partners and their progeny. Many subtle modus-operandi is used to convert to Christianity from other religions. One’s religion is a birth right- one is born into a religion. One is free to change his or her religion to another by own volition, and not by external intervention of Christian missionaries by unethical propagation. The provocation for Prof.SRJH’s article is the prevention of Pastor Thinakaran to speak in Jaffna. Why Jaffna? Because it is a fertile grounds to convert. Aftermath of the civil war, had left severe economic and social problems for the people and particularly widowed mothers. Thus, an easy prey for the Pastor to convert Hindu Tamils. Like the Pope sending Mother Theresa, backed by limitless financial resource, to the slums of Calcutta in the name of altruistic humanism to convert the poverty stricken people to Christianity, as if in the Christian western countries there are no slums and poverty stricken people needing humanist attention of Mother Theresa. She even was rewarded with Sainthood by the Church. The freedom to practice a religion is a right. But the freedom to convert is not a right, because it interferes with the right of another’s freedom to practice his or her religion. There is no such thing as a right to be converted, in the light of the right to change or accept another religion, if one desires so, on his own choice, voluntarily, but not by external intervention of Church Missionaries.