SC/ST benefits available to Christians reconverting to Hinduism: Kerala HC

Mahir Haneef

KOCHI: A member of a scheduled caste or tribe (SC/ST) who had converted to Christianity from Hinduism can claim the rights and benefits available to SC/ST members if he reconverts, the Kerala High Court has held.

The court’s decision assumes much significance in the backdrop of ‘Ghar Wapsi’ reconversion campaign introduced by the Hindu right-wing group Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) last year. Earlier this month, VHP had claimed that it had reconverted over 33,000 persons and had ‘prevented’ over 48,000 conversions.

It was a petition filed by a father and daughter whose forefathers belonged to Hindu Cheramar community that was considered by the court. Those who approached the court were 46-year-old MA Chandraboss of Ramapuram in Kottayam and his 18-year-old daughter Alida. They were born as Christians as Chandraboss’ father had converted to Christianity. In 2009, Chandraboss and his family reconverted to Hinduism by undergoing ‘Shudhi Karma’ under the auspices of Arya Samaj.

Chandraboss’ daughter Alida appeared for the common entrance examination this year and sought admission in the SC/ST quota. However, her claim to SC/ST quota was rejected on the basis of an anthropological report by a state government agency named Kerala Institute for Research, Training and Development Studies (KIRTADS). An appeal filed before the government against this also came to be dismissed.

At the high court, their counsel G Krishnakumar argued that though they had converted to Christianity, they retained the essential character of the caste to which they belonged and suffered the disabilities and disadvantages of other members of their caste.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/SC/ST-benefits-available-to-Christians-reconverting-to-Hinduism-Kerala-HC/articleshow/48241482.cms

Opposing the claim, state government submitted that the petitioners, having born into Christianity and having lived as Christians till their reconversion, are to be treated as Christians and not as a scheduled caste member. It is a conversion of convenience, the government counsel argued.

Ruling in favour of the petitioners, justice K Vinod Chandran held, “The 2nd petitioners (Chandraboss’ daughter) definitely was brought up in her father’s house, may be as a Christian, but a Christian-Cheramar. There being generally no accepted caste discrimination in Christianity, the identity in the Cheramar community was essentially retained.”

The court further said in the judgment, “It is to be noticed that Christianity, as it is generally understood, does not have any caste discrimination and the very fact that the 1st and 2nd petitioners (Chandraboss and his daughter) were all along issued with community certificates as belonging to Christian-Cheramar would indicate that they had their origin in the Hindu-Cheramar community. Considering the question of a Christian convert reconverted to Hinduism, this court in Ponnamma’s case (Ponnamma vs Regional Director, 1983) held that the child of parents who (had) converted to Christianity at the time of the birth of the child, could always convert back to Hinduism and claim the rights of the caste of her forefathers once she converts back to Hinduism. The rights of a child born as a Christian, to Schedule Caste parents who converted to Christianity, to reconvert to Hinduism and claim the rights available to a Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe, was affirmed by the constitutional bench of the Supreme Court.”

10 Secrets The Catholic Church Hopes You’ve Forgotten

NATHAN WOLD

  1. The Lies Of Mother Teresa

Although Mother Teresa was beatified as a saint by the Catholic Church in 2003, in reality she was far from the saint the Church would lead you to believe. In fact, Mother Teresa isn’t even her real name; she was born Anjeze Gonxhe Bojaxhiu in Albania. The issues certainly don’t end with her pseudonym. Researchers today have called Mother Teresa an empty “PR ploy” by the Vatican to rehabilitate their tarnished image.

Mother Teresa’s claim to fame is helping poor around the world, but she did quite the opposite throughout her lifetime. Mother Teresa made niceties with right-wing Haitian Dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier and accepted money from him which had been stolen from Haiti’s poor. Duvalier was known for stealing millions from Haiti’s poor so that he could maintain his own lavish lifestyle. He spent $2 million of Haiti’s money to pay for his extravagant wedding. Duvalier also profited fromdrug trafficking and selling the body parts of deceased Haitians.

Mother Teresa rubbed elbows with another thief by the name of Charles Keating. If that name rings a bell for you, it should; Keating is the banker best known for defrauding American taxpayers out of over $3 billion during the savings and loan crisis of the ’80s and ’90s. Keating donated $1.25 million to Mother Teresa and lent her his private jet so that the missionary could jet set around the world. Keating would later be convicted in state and federal courts of a litany of crimes including racketeering, fraud, and conspiracy. After Keating was convicted, Mother Teresa refused to return the stolen money and asked one of the courts to overturn his sentence.

What she did with the money remains in question. The care she gave to the sick and poor in her hospices was observed to be wholly unsanitary, medical care was wholly insufficient, and crucial pain management for the dying was cruelly inadequate. Her hospices were found to not even distinguish between terminally ill patients and those who could be cured. Consequently, patients with curable illness died from the poor, unsanitary treatment they received from Mother Teresa’s facilities.

Her motivation for setting these hospices may have been less compassion and more fundamentalism. Mother Teresa callously encouraged those who worked in her hospices to baptize dying patients, regardless of the patient’s religious beliefs or consent. Mother Teresa’s fundamentalism stretched beyond the subject of baptism. She claimed that abortion was “the greatest enemy of peace in the world,” and opposed contraception even in the cases of rape and incest.

Mother Teresa also defended a pedophilic priest named Donald McGuire, trying to get him leniency after he was convicted of raping children. She wanted him to be reinstated as a priest despite his heinous crimes.

The greatest irony of it all is that by the end of her life, Mother Teresa didn’t even believe in the fundamentalism she spouted or the religion she spent her life serving. After her death, letters Mother Teresa had written to the Vatican surfaced and revealed that she had stopped believing in the religion she plugged. Mother Teresa wrote: “What do I labor for? If there be no God, there can be no soul. If there be no soul then, Jesus, You also are not true.”

  1. Alliance With Radical Islamists

n 1994, 180 countries met to draft a proposal with the United Nations to address the coming crisis of overpopulation. The plan met an unexpected foe in the Catholic Church. In its opposition to the plan, the Catholic Church reached out to unlikely allies: radical Islamists.

The population plan drafted by representatives from 180 countries sought totamper overpopulation by including measures to increase women’s rights and reproductive rights around the world. The Catholic Church felt the language went against their conservative views on abortion rights and sexual freedom. But the Catholic Church had a hard time finding allies around the world to join in their opposition to the measures, so they allied themselves with “radical and fundamentalist governments and groups in Islamic countries.”

The move received swift denunciation from Western countries around the world. Western diplomats worried that the Vatican was bolstering Islamic radicals with plans to overthrow governments around the Middle East and form their own radical Islamic state.

After Iran signed on with the Catholic Church, Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammad Hashemi Rafsanjani hinted at a grander alliance between the Vatican and Iranian Islamist. Rafsanjani said that “Collaboration between religious governments in support of outlawing abortion is a fine beginning for the conception of collaboration in other fields.”

The Vatican also struck a similar alliance with Libya and other Islamic fundamentalist governments. As a result of the deal, the Vatican tried to help Libya quell its conflicts with Western nations. The Western nations sought to clamp down on the dictatorship after it sponsored the Lockerbie terrorist attack of 1988, which resulted in the deaths of 259 individuals.

  1. Jozef Tiso

The Catholic Church is known to have allied itself with fascists in World War II, most notably with Mussolini by signing the Lateran Treaty. However, one lesser-known fascist dictator of the time was actually a practicing Catholic priest.

Before Jozef Tiso got into the dictator game, he cut his teeth in a prestigious seminary in Vienna and became an ordained Catholic priest. Father Tiso then worked as an assistant priest before becoming the Spiritual director of one of Slovakia’s largest seminaries. Soon, Tiso began to moonlight in politics. He joined Slovakia’s fascist party and served as an editor of a Slovakian newspaper in which he published a series of extremely anti-Semitic articles in the run-up to the Holocaust.

It wasn’t long before Tiso became one of the leaders of the fascist Slovak People’s Party. Father Tiso and his confidants shifted the party to the hard right in line with the nearby Nazi party, embracing the clerical nationalism and fascism inspired by Tiso’s own brand of right-wing Catholicism.

Father Tiso was elected into Slovakia’s parliament in 1925, but he would ascend to the role of dictator when Nazi Germany occupied Sudetenland in 1938. Tiso swiftly established a dictatorship and made an alliance with the Nazi party. Slovakia was turned into the Slovak Republic, a puppet state of Nazi Germany.

During this time, 16 of 63 members of Slovakia’s parliament were priests. Slovakia’s fascist parliament quickly began passing anti-Jewish legislation. Slovakia then became the first country to begin deporting its Jewish residents to concentration camps run by Nazi Germany, effectively setting the Holocaust into motion.

According to a December 1940 census, there were 88,951 Jews in Slovakia at the time. First, Tiso’s Slovakia sent 20,000 Jews to the Nazis to be used in work camps before they were killed. By June 1924, around 52,000 Jews were deported from Slovakia—almost 60 percent of Slovakia’s Jewish population. Most were sent to Auschwitz, where they were murdered by the Nazis.

Hitler witnessed one of Tiso’s speeches in 1942 in which Tiso touted his Jewish deportation scheme. After the speech, Hitler remarked, “It is interesting how thislittle Catholic priest Tiso is sending us the Jews!”

Tiso was removed from power in 1944 during the Slovak National Uprising. Just before being ousted, the Vatican radio told its listeners that Father Tiso retired in his role as a monsignor for the Vatican, “owing to his political activities.” After Slovakia was liberated from Nazi control by the Soviet Union the next year, Father Tiso was captured by American troops in June 1945. He was hanged for treason in 1947.

Throughout the entirety of his political career, he remained a practicing Catholic priest.

Tiso isn’t the only dictator to start off as an aspiring priest in seminary. USSR dictator Joseph Stalin also studied to become a priest at Russia’s leading Orthodox seminary, the Tiflis Spiritual Seminary.

  1. Excommunication Policies

In 2009, the Catholic Church in Brazil came under fire for punishing an underaged girl who was raped and subsequently had an abortion. The Church couldn’t excommunicate the girl herself because minors cannot be excommunicated, but the Church did excommunicate her mother. The Church also excommunicated the doctors who performed the emergency abortion. However, they did not excommunicate the girl’s rapist.

In fact, the Catholic Church opposes abortion so vehemently that not only is it worthy of excommunication; the Church believes it’s worthy of death in some cases. The Catholic Church has previously established that it would rather have a woman die than get a life-saving abortion.

The scandal highlighted an even larger problem for the Catholic Church that stems from its core doctrine. First and foremost, it doesn’t consider rape a crime worthy of excommunication, even though having an abortion after a rape an act is worthy of excommunication. The Vatican’s bizarre standards on excommunication also broach its problem with pedophilic priests. The Catholic Church doesn’t consider pedophilia and child abuse crimes worthy of excommunication in and of themselves.

In fact, the Catholic Church didn’t even excommunicate the Nazis for the crimes against humanity they committed, despite the fact that many Nazi leaders were practicing Catholics. There is only one Nazi to be excommunicated by the Catholic Church, and that was Joseph Goebbels. The Vatican didn’t excommunicate him for starting World War II or the Holocaust; instead, the Church excommunicated Goebbels because he married a divorced Protestant.

Until recently, no pedophilic priest who had abused children had been excommunicated by the Catholic Church. Late last year, Pope Francis broke Church precedent and issued the first excommunication of a pedophilic priestwho had sexually abused children. The priest had been convicted of the abuse and sentenced to 14 years in prison three years earlier.

But if you think Pope Francis has totally overhauled the Church’s excommunication practices, think again. Pope Francis also excommunicated a priest for advocating that women should be able to be priests and for believing that gay marriage is perfectly reasonable.

  1. Money Laundering And Tax Evasion

The Vatican Bank is notoriously poor, if not corrupt in managing its finances. While congregations in Catholic churches around the world may think the money they pour into collection plates is going to charity or priests, the truth is that the money goes to far more lurid activities.

In 2013, Vatican Bank’s director, deputy director, and senior accountant were all charged with using their positions to engage in a massive money laundering scheme. The Vatican Bank had been under investigation for money laundering for years.

Italian police claimed the Vatican Bank had been operating as a “trust company” that harbored secret monies of the corrupt politicians and companies, along with the Mafia. The bank also used its finances to bribe political parties.

The Vatican bank is so intertwined with the Mafia, that after Pope Francis sought to tamper corruption in the bank months ago, Italian prosecutors believed he was in danger of being assassinated by the Mafia.

The Vatican’s ties with the Mafia are so strong that it accepted one billion lire to bury a notorious Italian crime boss in its basilica next to former popes.

  1. Age Of Consent

The Catholic Church has famously been plagued by cases of widespread child abuse carried out by its priests. Oddly enough, the child abuse wasn’t as illegal in Vatican City as it was in the rest of the world. That’s because the age of consent in the Vatican was only 12 years old. In fact, the age of consent in the Vatican was only 12 until July 2013, when Pope Francis raised the age of consent up to 18 in the wake of the Church’s pedophilia and prostitution scandals.

Until the shockingly recent change, the Vatican had the lowest age of consent in the world. The 12-year-old age of consent tied the Vatican with the Philippines, Mexico, Angola, and Zimbabwe, all of which have a 12-year-old age of consent to this day.

This frighteningly low age of consent may explain why the Catholic Church often doesn’t consider the child abuse carried out by its priests’ pedophilia. High-level church officials like the Vatican’s secretary of state have claimed that homosexuality is to blame for its priests’ child abuse, not pedophilia, calling homosexuality a “pathology.”

  1. Fueling The Illegal Ivory Trade

The ivory trade is a horrific practice. The often illegal trade has caused numerous species to become endangered, decimating the elephant population in Africa. Elephants, one of the most intelligent species on the planet, are senselessly and inhumanely killed and their ivory tusks are ripped off. The rest of the elephant’s mauled body is discarded as waste. Perhaps the primary reason the illegal practice exists is because of organized religion.

In order to stop the violence, 180 countries got together and formed the CITES treaty, or the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. The treaty’s purpose is to keep endangered species from going extinct by stopping practices that have obliterated their populations, like the ivory trade or the shark fin trade. There was one notable exception among the signatories: the Catholic Church.

The Catholic Church opposed the attempt to protect endangered species because the Catholic Church buys lots of ivory. It does so not out of necessity, but out of tradition. Many of the decorative crucifixes in Catholic Churches are made out of ivory, which can only be made by slaughtering an elephant.

  1. Questionable Charity Policies

The Catholic Church bolsters its image by labeling itself as a charitable organization. Its congregations are led to believe their donations to the Church fuel charitable causes around the world. However, the Catholic Church’s objective for this charity is often advertising rather than altruism.

Recently, the Catholic Church claimed it would stop all of its charity work in Washington, D.C. if the city passed a law legalizing same-sex marriage. Although they didn’t actually stop working in Washington, D.C. when gay marriage was legalized, the Washington Catholic Charities did cease to provide benefits to all spouses of both homosexual and heterosexual workers. To legally avoid providing benefits to people in gay marriages, they stopped providing benefits to everyone.

The Catholic Church attempted to use its influence to prevent charities around the United States from supporting rights for gay citizens. When the Catholic Church heard that the YMCA was patterning with an organization that supports LGBT rights, the Catholic Church told the YMCA to cut its ties with the group orlose $60,000 of its funding. The YMCA didn’t back down, so the Catholic Church yanked its funding from the YMCA, along with eight other charitable groups. When all was said and done, the Catholic Church yanked over $300,000 in fundingfor charities solely because they began to support equal rights for the LGBT community.

  1. Forced Castration Of Abused Boys

https://youtu.be/lQo2PNnwOww

Castrato was a classical style of singing; male singers would sing in a higher range, which can usually only be sung by women. In order to produce this highcastrato voice in males, the singer needs to be literally castrated before he begins puberty, preventing his body from reaching sexual maturity and his voice from dropping.

You may be wondering, why not just get women to sing the high notes? Well, the Catholic Church never thought it would be an option to allow women to sing in their church choirs, citing a Bible verse: “let women keep silent in church.” In 2001, it was revealed that the Catholic Church had encouraged choir boys to be castrated in order to alter their singing range. Beginning in the 16th century, the Catholic Church castrated its prepubescent choir boys to deliberately prevent them from reaching sexual maturity.

Some of the castrato singers, like Alessandro Moreschi, were famous among Europe’s opera-goers of the time. Moreschi and those like him were prized for their ability to utilize the vocal strength of the male body with the high register of the female voice. However, the majority of the castrated boys were rendered unable to sing or live normal lives. They were therefore discarded by the Church, thought to be “useless even as circus freaks.”

In 1902, the Catholic Church issued a decree which banned the practice within the Sistine Chapel, but the Vatican continued to tolerate the practice. The lastcastrato singer thought to be affected by the castration practice retired in 1959.

But the Catholic Church’s use for castration sometimes had an even darker intention. In 2012, it was revealed that the Catholic Church in the Netherlands had been forcibly castrating its choir boys who threatened to tell the police that they had been sexuality abused by its priests. Dutch investigative journalist Joep Dohmmen discovered the story of a young boy in a Catholic boarding school who was sexually abused by a Dutch monk and reported the abuse to the Dutch police in 1956. After the Dutch Catholic Church found out that the boy reported the abuse to the authorities, they put him into a church-run psychiatric ward, declared him to be homosexual, and forcibly castrated him.

There have been at least 10 other similar cases among the boy’s classmates, who were also sexually abused by priests and then forcibly castrated by the Catholic Church when they tried to report it.

  1. The Rwandan Genocide

The Rwandan genocide—the slaughter of the Tutsi minority and some Hutus by the Hutu majority—claimed an estimated 800,000 lives in only four months in 1994. As much as 20 percent of Rwanda’s population was senselessly killed, and about 70 percent of the Tutsi minority. After the bloodshed ended, the country—if not the world— frantically looked for the murderous perpetrators to bring them to justice. Many of the killers behind the genocide suddenly vanished, and the Catholic Church may be responsible for their escape.

At the time of the genocide, the Catholic Church was called “the most powerful social institution in Rwanda.” Around two-thirds of the population of Rwanda is Catholic. Human rights groups and survivors’ groups claim the Catholic Church was complicit in allowing the genocide to occur, while some Catholic clergymen participated in the massacre themselves. In addition, the Catholic Church and its clergy have helped some of the perpetrators of the genocide flee Rwanda to escape persecution or shielded them from extradition.

As other priests did with the Nazi ratlines after World War II, an organized network of Catholic priests helped and protected the genocidal priests. The network smuggled the criminals out of Rwanda to Europe, where they could besheltered from prosecution and even continue preaching in Catholic churches. Many fled to Italy because of the Catholic Church’s strong presence in the country and ability to fight extradition.

One such priest was Father Athanase Seromba. During the Rwandan genocide, Father Seromba told around 2,000 Tutsis that they could take refuge from the violence inside the church he operated. On April 6, 1994, when 2,000 of the Tutsis gathered inside, Seromba ordered the Church to be bulldozed with the Tutsis inside. After the Church was flattened, Father Seromba and his henchmen shot the remaining survivors.

After the genocide was stopped, Father Seromba fled Rwanda with the aid of a network of sympathetic clergymen. He continued to practice as a priest for the Catholic Church under a false name in a church near Florence, Italy. He went unnoticed until 2002, when he was uncovered by investigators working with the International Tribunal for Rwanda. The Chief Prosecutor for the tribunal claimed the Vatican had fought Father Seromba’s extradition to face his trial. The Vatican told the prosecutor that Father Seromba was “doing good works in Italy.”

Human rights advocates around the world have long called for the Catholic Church to apologize for its role in the Rwandan genocide and its aftermath. Thus far, the Catholic Church has not issued any such statement.

Nathan is a freelance journalist and screenwriter.

http://listverse.com/2015/03/10/10-secrets-the-catholic-church-hopes-youve-forgotten/

What ‘Majority’ hindus lost in India and ‘Minority’ Hindus gained in UK

Capt (retd.) J.K. Sharma,

Recently we have come across political think tanks in Britain, airing the view that, “One million votes from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities helped put David Cameron back into Downing Street, according to a new survey research into attitudes among minority voters”.

It is understood that to solicit the support, Cameron visited Indian Temples and promise of giving first PM of Asian Origin and that in case he returns as PM , he would pay a visit to the Akshardham temple in Delhi. He is reported to have said, “When I look at the Ramayana and my understanding of the Hindu religion, there’s so much that you have to say about the importance of family, the importance of community, the importance of voluntary service-these are all the values that our country needs more of. So as you celebrate your values, let’s make them our values, and let us have more of then in Britain.”

If true, “Does it not mean that the voice of so called Minorities as defined in Britain as ‘BAME’ have assumed centre stage in Political Scene of British Democracy?” That only time will tell.

How is it that the Hindus are praised in Britain and getting exterminated in their own country of origin. We will have to see what transpired after 1947 in India.

The partition of Indian Sub-Continent was based on ‘Two-Nation Theory of Jinnah and reluctantly accepted by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. Gandhi came to be known as a Mahatama and the father of Indian nation. He had also proclaimed that “A civilisation can be judged by the way it treats its minorities.”

India’s first Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru is reported to have said, “….By education, I am an Englishman, by views an internationalist, by culture a Muslim, and I am a Hindu only by accident of Birth.” He certainly belittled the Hindu Community by making this statement. Though politically unsavoury, he still made this statement, in complete knowledge that Hindus were not a cohesive entity; they were a divided lot, having ’33’ million Gods and Goddesses and “tolerant” to the extent that they will be ready to put living guru’s also at a pedestal higher than their Gods.

Notwithstanding, the above statement, the Indian nation, which was predominantly a Hindu Majority state, made a demi-God of Nehru and the nation started an appeasement policy. In India, the Congress party toed the line of Nehru and Gandhi and it declared itself ‘Secular” by amending the preamble of Constitution of India.

On the other hand in Pakistan, ethnic cleaning/forced conversion of minorities took place, and it has declared itself to be an Islamic State. 67 years ago at the time of birth in 1947 in Pakistan, Hindus formed 34% of population and today they are less than 1%. Similarly erstwhile East Pakistan now Bangladesh, had 15% Hindus in 1947, which was reduced to 1.6% in 1998.

So much so for the ‘tolerance’ and ‘secularism’ and the price paid by the Hindus, on the land mass of their ancestors. On the other hand Muslim population today stands at 14.88% which in absolute terms is nearly equal to population of Pakistan. The growth of population in India shows, that the Muslims in India have thrived unlike the Hindus in Bangladesh and Pakistan.

The extra-ordinary exhibition of ‘Tolerance’ among the followers of ‘Sanatana Dharma’, which is world over accepted not to be a religion but -‘A way of Life’, whom rest of the world relates as ‘Hindus’, is at the root of extermination of millions of them in the Indian Subcontinent.

The main line media, the communists and intellectuals are ever so eager to brow-beat the word “Hindu”. Any incidence involving Muslims is a news, worth debating on prime time. A recent news of a Muslim being denied a job because of religion has been hogging the lime light recently. It is a different matter, if any industry headed by a Muslim industrialist, does not employ any Hindus. That is not even an issue. There is enough evidence on this count, if only any one seeks to take note off.

In Indian political context, Bhartiya Janta Party has been blaming the Congress Party for following pseudo secular policies of ‘Appeasement of Minorities’, who were seen as ‘En-Block Vote Bank’. On the other hand, the Congress and other parties also do not let go of any opportunity to brow beat BJP as a party of ‘Hindutva’ and ‘Bhagva Brigade Party’ , which is not in the best interest of secular India.

Although the Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs, Parsis and Jains are defined as the minority communities under the Charter of Ministry of Minority Affairs, which was carved out of Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment by the UPA Government on 29th January, 2006 to ensure a more focused approach towards issues relating to them, the Government of the day had not defined the criteria for designating these communities as ‘Minorities’.

It is of importance to note, the Sikhs, Parsis, Jainis, Buddhists have never agitated to be categorised as ‘Minority’. One look at their contribution to Indian society will reveal as to why these religious denominations were not interested in getting for themselves a label of ‘Minority’. Apparently, the Govt of the day, did not want to look partisan in their approach towards Christians’ and Muslims’, so it clubbed these communities also under the category of ‘Minority’.

It is widely believed that the word “Minority” has its origin in the Medieval Latin. The Government has used the term ‘Minority’ to designate Muslims, Christians, Budhists, Sikhs, Parsis and Jainis a differentiated group based on their religious beliefs from the majority denomination ‘Hindus’ , which is in any case not a religion but a multiple fragmented splinter group practicing a ‘way of life’ .

However, it is of academic importance to revisit, what father of the nation, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi had to say, “It cannot be said that Sikhism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism are separate religions. All these four faiths and their offshoots are one. Hinduism is an ocean into which all the rivers run. It can absorb Islam and Christianity and all other religions and only then can it become the ocean.” Even, Article 25 of the Indian Constitution, declares Sikhs, Buddhists, and Jains to be Hindus.

The word “minority” is defined, the world over as:

a) A group of people who are different from the larger group in a country, area, etc., in some way , such as racial, religious, region, political, nationality, colour, sex, economic, financial, social, immigrants, refugees.

b) A group having little power or representation relative to other groups within a society.

c) A smaller party or group which is susceptible to oppression at the hands of a majority.

The Congress party has been at the helm of political affairs, ruling the country for most of 62 years. In 2014, for the first time the Congress Party, which has been projecting itself to be Champion for the interest of Muslims and Christians, lost political ground much against the wishes of western powers to Modi Wave of “Development for all- Ache Din”

Mr Narindra Modi, will do nation a yeoman service, if he can truly bring about that change, ‘Development & Quality Life for all”. Nothing is a bigger curse than poverty, be it any religion. And poor among any religion are subjected to exploitation

The humanity can be humane, only and if only people are educated and enjoy equal rights for all without any kind of prejudices for and against based on religious beliefs, caste, sect, region and where no one needs any kind of reservation.

On the basis of numbers, there cannot be any sect more miniscule than the Parsis who deserve to be called a ‘Minority’. They are less than 1% of Indian population. Through their sheer hard work, without seeking any kind of reservations, the community controls and contributes towards a major chunk of India’s GDP generation.

Moot question which seeks answer is, “If Hindus are a majority, then why Bhartiya Janata Party was not able to come to power earlier?”

In reality, Hindus do not have any bargaining power and the division among them in various sects, castes, creeds and regions has always been exploited. The Hindu has still not voted en-mass for the BJP in last election in 2014. It was the Indian Muslim who realised that they have been exploited by the Congress and thus they jettisoned the approach of casting votes en-mass to the Congress and a sizable majority of them did vote for Mr Modi’s call for “Development for all”.

All said and done, the minority of Hindus in UK have more bargaining power than the majority of Hindus in India. The concept of ‘Majority/Minority” must be seen and defined from the angle of bargaining power and not the sheer numbers.

http://indiatomorrow.co/columns/3327-what-majority-hindus-lost-in-india-and-minority-hindus-gained-in-uk

Why Muslims and Christians are safer in India than most places on earth

MINHAZ MERCHANT

Our country, the birthplace of nearly half the world’s nine major religions, has long been a haven for the other half.

02-06-2015

MINHAZ MERCHANT

When the Narendra Modi government took office last May, dire warnings were issued. There will be communal riots, predicted one newspaper. The Samajwadi Party (SP), the Left and the Congress joined the chorus. The Economist, analysing Modi’s first year, wrote: “This newspaper chose not to back Mr. Modi in last year’s elections because of his record on handling religious strife … We are happy that our fears of grave communal violence have so far not been realised.”

Keki Daruwala, a former member of the National Commission for Minorities, challenged that view in The Economic Times in an article on May 30, 2015, provocatively titled: “So What If There’s Been No Riots?”

Daruwala wrote: “There has been no sectarian riot worth the name since the NDA government came to power in May 2014. But is this the measure of the well-being of minorities? No houses burnt, no Muslims or Christians stabbed, so all is hunky-dory? Rajeshwar Singh of the Dharam Jagran Samiti, the man reportedly behind the RSS’ ghar wapsi programmes, states in Etah, UP, that ‘India, will be made free of Muslims and Christians by 2021. India is the country of Hindus alone.'”

Two articles (including one last week) by Julio Ribeiro, the former director-general of Punjab Police, argued in the same vein as Daruwala: no riots, true – but Muslims and Christians are unsafe in India, circa 2015.

It is time, therefore, to bury this myth and exhume the facts.

India is secular not because Indira Gandhi inserted the word into the Constitution in 1976 but because Hindus are innately secular. Of the world’s major religions, Hinduism is the only one without a prophet. No one “founded” Hinduism – unlike Christ, Mohammad, Zoroaster, Abraham, Confucius, Mahavira, Buddha and Guru Nanak.

Hinduism, or Sanatana Dharma, evolved organically. The Vedas (circa 1800 BC) predate the second oldest religious text, Judaism’s Torah (circa 1300 BC), by several hundred years. Sanatana Dharma is the world’s oldest organised religious philosophy. It was followed by Judaism, Zoroastrianism and then in quick order by Jainism, Buddhism, Confucianism and Christianity. Islam is a relatively young religion as is Sikhism. Of these nine major faiths, four were born in South Asia (Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism), four in West Asia (Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity and Islam), and one in North Asia (Confucianism).

Thus every major religion is of Asian origin. Europe appropriated Christianity through Rome. Jesus Christ was a brown-skinned, dark-haired Semitic Jew born in Bethlehem. His ancestry was Middle Eastern. Later depictions of him in popular culture (movies, plays, photographs, media) showed him as Caucasian with European features and fair hair. The myth endures.

India, the birthplace of nearly half the world’s nine major religions, has long been a haven for the other half. The first Jews arrived in India on the Malabar coast in 542 BC and form one of the world’s oldest and most peaceful Jewish communities. (India, unlike Europe, has never seen anti-Semitic persecution.). The first Christians came to India, again in Kerala, in 52 AD, before Christianity had even encountered Europe. Zoroastrians fled Islamic persecution in Persia (today’s Iran) and found refuge in Gujarat in 720 AD, becoming one of India’s most successful communities (Parsis).

Sword-wielding Islam, meanwhile, was conquering large swathes across Europe, its armies reaching the gates of Vienna before being defeated in battle in 1529. It turned its attention to India. The Mughals were Chaghtai Turkish warlords from Central Asia. Unlike Christians, Jews and Parsis before them, they came to India to conquer, not seek refuge.

The final foreign invasion of the subcontinent was by the British, following the Battle of Palashee (Plassey) in 1757. The British were shrewder than earlier invaders. They sensed that religious conversions would complicate their main objective in conquering India: to make money, usurp Indian raw materials to fuel the industrial revolution back home, and expand the British Empire through trade backed by guns and warships. The British had lost their American empire in 1776 just as they were building a new one in India. Without India, there would have been no British Empire.

Britain, a Protestant country, rarely converted Indians during its 190-year occupation of the subcontinent. That is why there are relatively few Protestant Christians in India: the bulk of Indian Christians are Catholics, converted by Portugese, Irish and Spanish Jesuits who both preceded and followed the British into India (Goa, Puducherry, the Deccan and elsewhere). Their focus, unlike the Protestant British, was not trade. It was religious conversion.

They failed on an epic scale. While the cannier British did not aggressively proselytise, the Portugese, Irish and Spanish (all Catholic nations) ceaselessly did. But the conversions of Dalits and other disenfranchised Hindus to Christianity over several centuries led to just 1.5 per cent of India’s population being converted to Catholicism. The number converting to Protestantism was even lower: 0.7 per cent.

Islam followed a different route. The Mughals converted Hindus in three ways: one, by inducement – the allure of finding a place in the hierarchy of the Mughal court; two, to avoid paying the jizya tax imposed on Hindus; and three, to escape from the dehumanising caste system into a more egalitarian if harsh, didactic Islam.

This historical background is necessary to put in perspective the debate over “the safety” of Christians and Muslims in India. Much of this debate is skewed and some of it is fraudulent. While fringe elements of the Sangh Parivar have made provocative statements, the government has clamped down on them. The prime minister on Monday (June 1, 2015) did so unequivocally. But in a free society, fringes on the right and the left will still occasionally stir the pot.

Where the fraud lies is the deliberate attempt to create an atmosphere of a communal crisis where none exists. Nearly 210 million Muslims and Christians live in India. The vast majority are not discriminated against. Jews and Parsis have lived trouble-free, prosperous lives in India for centuries. But dodgy NGOs, agenda-driven websites and self-styled evangelists and mullahs are now creating false paranoia in the minds of minorities.

Recent examples:

  1. Vandal attacks on churches were called communal attacks. Investigations proved virtually all were non-communal, random criminal acts.
  2. A Muslim boy was refused a job and a Muslim girl evicted from a rented flat because they were Muslim.

Both cases were proved to be either embroidered or part of India’s centuries-old segregated community tradition (Saraswat, Parsi and Hindu housing colonies, Muslim-only jobs, etc). Segregation and discrimination on the basis of caste, religion or region is appalling but a fact of everyday life in India.

Why then are attempts being made to communalise India’s historically secular ethos that though has well-recognised millennia-old structural societal flaws? The answer: a curious mix of local politics, geostrategy and religion.

Minister of state for home affairs Kiren Rijiju was asked specifically about the role of foreign-funded NGOs. His terse reply: “If the NGOs react in a manner prescribed in the rules and the conditions, there is no reason for the home ministry to place any restrictions on them. All NGOs should conduct themselves in conformity with provisions of law. If anybody violates law, it is incumbent upon the Government of India to act. And it is also incumbent upon NGOs to follow norms. The responsibility and onus is on both. When you are registered under FCRA (Foreign Contribution Regulation Act), you have to file returns; if not, inform the MHA why it has not been done. You are still supposed to inform the status of annual returns. If you have received funds from foreign donors, you must use that money for the purpose for which it has been funded.”

So are foreign-funded NGOs to blame for fanning communal flames? Are foreign governments which want India to fall in line over World Trade Organisation (WTO) and climate change protocols using the bogey of communalism to put pressure through a section of the media on a government they sense is vulnerable to such criticism? Do the clutch of websites that have sprung up in the last year echo such anti-government views as part of the same strategy: to make communalism a self-fulfilling prophecy and weaken the government?

The worst sufferers in this chicanery are minorities themselves. The media overkill damages the country’s secular fabric, breeds anti-minority paranoia and widens religious chasms.

In Pakistan, minorities (Hindus, Christians and others) have been virtually exterminated. In the Middle East, minorities (including Hindus) don’t even have basic civil rights. In Europe, minorities (Muslims) live under strictures (no hijabs in public places in France and Belgium, no new minarets on mosques in Switzerland). In the US, cartoons of the Prophet are drawn in defiance of Islam’s tenets and copies of the Koran burnt.

India, meanwhile, remains for all communities the secular haven it has been for centuries. US ambassador Richand Verma and German ambassador Michael Steiner should remember that – and the racial and religious prejudices that still weigh down their countries – before they fish in India’s secular waters.

http://www.dailyo.in/politics/secularism-islam-hindus-religion-persecution-tolerance-muslims-christians-safe-india/story/1/4090.html

We don’t need religious freedom lectures from the US

‘Your constant reiteration on the lack of religious freedom in India has sown doubts about the kind of information that you are being fed and based on which you seem to be making adverse references to India and its tradition of religious tolerance.’

Dear members of US Commission on International Religious Freedom,

It has become a virtual annual ritual for you to bash India in your report. We understand your zeal to promote a ‘Flat Earth’ ideology or encourage the harvesting of poor souls in India (the sort of soul commerce that evangelists of your country are busy at in our country).

Out of politeness, we will not point out instances of racial discrimination (real or perceived) that has seen violent expression in your country in the recent past.

We Indians are grateful that you took the trouble to read our Constitution and reminded us about Article 25 and the importance of religious harmony. It is self evident to most of us and despite the adverse propaganda by our adversaries, we are proud that we are one of the few countries in the world that give not just equal but special rights to the religious minorities.

Your constant reiteration on the lack of religious freedom in India has sown doubts about the kind of information that you are being fed and based on which you seem to be making adverse references to India and its tradition of religious tolerance.

The partnership between India and the US cannot have much of a future if there are such obvious gaps in the perception of the Indian reality.

It is hoped that this letter will help remove the cobwebs of misinformation regularly churned out by our own RNIs (Resident Non-Indians) that seems to have affected you. Nearly a century-and-a-half ago Thomas Babington Macaulay had described these WOGs (Westernised Oriental Gentlemen) as Indians in appearance but foreigners in thinking!

You are obviously influenced by non-governmental organisations in India who have perfected the art of crying wolf on religious freedom to garner dollar donations to enrich themselves.

It needs to be remembered that Indians embarked on path of a plural democracy in 1947 in wake of a secession of a part of India on the basis of religion. India is plural, not because of its Constitution or Article 25, but this liberal Constitution is due to the fact that the majority in India has pluralism and religious tolerance as its civilisational ethos.

It must be reiterated that India gave equal rights to all its citizens on August 15 1947. Your country gave these rights to the coloured people only in 1963 and that champion of parliamentary democracy, the United Kingdom, gave equal political rights to the Roman Catholic Christians of Northern Ireland in 1968. It is more than a little rich for the West to lecture India on equality.

Some of you spend time in India in a security bubble. But if you go to the terrace of your hotel early in the morning, you would have heard the azaan broadcast from Delhi’s numerous mosques. You can experience this in every Indian city.

If you go to any Indian city, you will find educational institutions run by Christians occupying a prominent place in urban life. For the minuscule Christian population, you will find a large number of churches, a relic of Christian British rule of over 200 years.

India has sport/entertainment icons belonging to different faiths. In fact, our film industry, the second biggest after Hollywood, is dominated by Muslims. I wish to remind you that others like one of the richest Indians, Azim Premji of Wipro, or the heads of large pharmaceutical companies like Cipla, Wockhardt or Himalayan Pharma are all Muslims.

As far as the Christian minority is concerned, at one time we had an air force chief, defence minister and ruling party supremo all professing the Christian faith.

Despite all this, an assiduous attempt has been afoot to portray India as a country where religious minorities are being oppressed or are under threat. There is also a new ‘mythology’ conjured up in our neighbouring country of Partition having taken place due to the ‘oppression’ of Muslims.

US religious freedom report

‘Your constant reiteration on the lack of religious freedom in India has sown doubts about the kind of information that you are being fed and based on which you seem to be making adverse references to India and its tradition of religious tolerance.’

Dear members of US Commission on International Religious Freedom,

It has become a virtual annual ritual for you to bash India in your report. We understand your zeal to promote a ‘Flat Earth’ ideology or encourage the harvesting of poor souls in India (the sort of soul commerce that evangelists of your country are busy at in our country).

Out of politeness, we will not point out instances of racial discrimination (real or perceived) that has seen violent expression in your country in the recent past.

We Indians are grateful that you took the trouble to read our Constitution and reminded us about Article 25 and the importance of religious harmony. It is self evident to most of us and despite the adverse propaganda by our adversaries, we are proud that we are one of the few countries in the world that give not just equal but special rights to the religious minorities.

Your constant reiteration on the lack of religious freedom in India has sown doubts about the kind of information that you are being fed and based on which you seem to be making adverse references to India and its tradition of religious tolerance.

The partnership between India and the US cannot have much of a future if there are such obvious gaps in the perception of the Indian reality.

It is hoped that this letter will help remove the cobwebs of misinformation regularly churned out by our own RNIs (Resident Non-Indians) that seems to have affected you. Nearly a century-and-a-half ago Thomas Babington Macaulay had described these WOGs (Westernised Oriental Gentlemen) as Indians in appearance but foreigners in thinking!

You are obviously influenced by non-governmental organisations in India who have perfected the art of crying wolf on religious freedom to garner dollar donations to enrich themselves.

It needs to be remembered that Indians embarked on path of a plural democracy in 1947 in wake of a secession of a part of India on the basis of religion. India is plural, not because of its Constitution or Article 25, but this liberal Constitution is due to the fact that the majority in India has pluralism and religious tolerance as its civilisational ethos.

It must be reiterated that India gave equal rights to all its citizens on August 15 1947. Your country gave these rights to the coloured people only in 1963 and that champion of parliamentary democracy, the United Kingdom, gave equal political rights to the Roman Catholic Christians of Northern Ireland in 1968. It is more than a little rich for the West to lecture India on equality.

Some of you spend time in India in a security bubble. But if you go to the terrace of your hotel early in the morning, you would have heard the azaan broadcast from Delhi’s numerous mosques. You can experience this in every Indian city.

If you go to any Indian city, you will find educational institutions run by Christians occupying a prominent place in urban life. For the minuscule Christian population, you will find a large number of churches, a relic of Christian British rule of over 200 years.

India has sport/entertainment icons belonging to different faiths. In fact, our film industry, the second biggest after Hollywood, is dominated by Muslims. I wish to remind you that others like one of the richest Indians, Azim Premji of Wipro, or the heads of large pharmaceutical companies like Cipla, Wockhardt or Himalayan Pharma are all Muslims.

As far as the Christian minority is concerned, at one time we had an air force chief, defence minister and ruling party supremo all professing the Christian faith.

Despite all this, an assiduous attempt has been afoot to portray India as a country where religious minorities are being oppressed or are under threat. There is also a new ‘mythology’ conjured up in our neighbouring country of Partition having taken place due to the ‘oppression’ of Muslims.

Tthe stark and undisputed fact of the history of India is that a large swathe of territory in northern India was ruled (often brutally) by a Muslim minority. Except for a brief period in the 18th century, this Muslim rule was replaced by the rule of the Christian British.

The religious minorities in India were the oppressors of the hopelessly divided so-called majority. The consequences of this were that our ‘Bethlehem’ and ‘Jerusalem’ were lost, our oldest universities at Nalanda and Taxila burnt down and the natives treated as second class citizens with a religious tax like jizia imposed.

Many religious minorities have not yet adjusted to their loss of political power and patronage and hark back to the bygone era. Loss of special rights and privileges is portrayed as ‘oppression.’

This does not mean that the religious minorities in India do not face problems, they do. Some members of these communities are socially and economically backward. They also suffer from hidden discrimination in day to day life. These are the real issues and not an issue of religious freedom. The problematic relationship between the communities in India is far more complex than the black and white picture you seem to have painted.

A couple of years ago, as a reaction to events in Myanmar and Assam, Muslims in Mumbai indulged in violence against the police, Oriental-looking Christian Indians from the North-East were hounded out of some cities.

Till date, over 400,000 Kashmiri Hindus live as refugees since they were driven out of their homes 25 years ago by Muslim separatists.

Indians, irrespective of faith, played down the plight of the Kashmir refugees so as to prevent a backlash against Muslims in other parts of the country. Even during the Bangladesh war of 1971 the fact that Pakistan had carried out a selective genocide of Hindus was kept carefully hidden from the Indian public (with the consensus of all political parties and the much maligned Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh).

This does not mean that there are no crazies in India. Like the Tea Party fringe in your country, there is an extremist fringe in India as well. But like the US, this does not represent the majority and is just that, a fringe element.

Frequent uninformed interference in India’s internal issues will only delay the process of Indian minorities’s acceptance of equal status and giving up the yearning for a return to the days of special privileges.

Way back on October 1, 1906, a delegation of 35 Muslim leaders led by the Aga Khan met British Viceroy Lord Minto. The principal demand of this delegation was that giving due weightage to past rule by Muslims over India, though just 13 per cent of the population, the Muslims should get 50 per cent representation in government. This was the rationale behind the secession and much of the current anguish of the minorities in India.

Curiously, Lady Minto, the Viceroy’s wife, writing in her diary, debunked this exercise and mentioned that this was engineered by the British as a part of their divide and rule policy.

America is deficient in genuine social science research. When it comes to understanding foreign civilisations or nations, Americans have a dismal record. Even your best and brightest failed to read Vietnamese nationalism — as a result you fought a 10-year war and lost 60,000 men.

This letter is a humble attempt to promote a holistic understanding of the Indian situation lest you lose a country that has nothing but friendly feelings towards the United States.

One hopes that your comments are motivated by intentions other than following the British example. The harping on religious freedom when the real challenge is elsewhere is neither in the interest of minorities nor of India.

For the sake of the future of India-US relations one hopes that better sense will prevail.

Yours sincerely

An aware Indian

Colonel Anil A Athale (retd) is a military historian and coordinator of the Pune-based think-tank, Indian Initiative for Peace, Arms-control &Disarmament

http://www.rediff.com/news/column/we-dont-need-religious-freedom-lectures-from-the-us/20150508.htm?pos=2&src=NL20150511&trackid=PnhNQR4EPIrnTNXUo7cg0vKom/3RFzlX3teKqfGb9k0=&isnlp=0&isnlsp=0

Christianity in China

Introduction

China has witnessed a religious revival over the past four decades, in particular with the significant increase in Christian believers, accounting for 5 percent of the population, according to Pew Research Center data. The number of Chinese Protestants has grown by an average of 10 percent annually since 1979. By some estimates, China is on track to have the world’s largest population of Christians by 2030. Though the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is officially atheist, the rise of Christianity presents Beijing with challenges as well as new options for contributing to services, such as health care and education, to an increasingly demanding public. The government recently launched a series of initiatives to further regulate, and at times restrict, Christian adherents.

What is the history of Christianity in China?

Early waves of Christianity began with the arrival of Italian Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci in China in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. China’s first Protestant missionary, Robert Morrison, traveled to China in 1807 on behalf of the London Missionary Society and translated (PDF) the Bible into Mandarin. In the mid-nineteenth century, Christianity became a mobilizing political force: Hong Xiuquandeveloped a Christian-influenced ideology to mount the Taiping Rebellion (1850–1864) against the Qing Dyansty, attracting missionaires and revolutionaires alike. The rebels amassed control over more than one-third of Chinese territory and established a rival political order, known as the “heavenly kingdom.” The ensuing civil war killed an estimated twenty million people.

The establishment of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1949 resulted in widescale religious repression in mainland China. In keeping with its Marxist roots, the Chinese Communist Party declared itself atheist. “Maoist Thought,” a sinification of Marxism-Leninism that placed the future of the Chinese revolution in the hands of the rural peasants, was the dominant ideology. This was especially true at the height of the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976) when places of worship were closed and religious practices were banned.

Mao Zedong’s death and his successor Deng Xiaoping’s subsequent reforms reopened China to the outside world, in turn granting greater freedoms to Chinese citizens. A surge in Christian adherents can be traced from the period beginning in the early 1980s. Today, China’s Christian population encompasses (PDF) a range of citizens, from all ages, from the countryside and urban centers, including students and professionals. China is also the world’s largest producer of Bibles: By the end of 2014, the Amity Printing Company, a joint venture between the Amity Foundation, a Chinese NGO, and the United Bible Societies, printed more than 140 million bibles in many languages for both domestic and international markets. However, while the government exercises a certain tolerance of religious practices, religious freedom is still constrained and regulated.

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What is China’s policy on religious practice?

The PRC officially recognizes five religions: Buddhism, Catholicism, Daoism, Islam, and Protestantism. The activities of state-sanctioned religious organizations are regulated by the State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA), which manages all aspects of religious life including religious leadership appointments, selection of clergy, and interpretation of doctrine. Christianity in China is overseen by three major entities: the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, the China Christian Council, and the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association. To register as a state-sanctioned Christian organization, religious leaders must receive training in order to “adapt” doctrine to Chinese thinking and culture. China does not differentiate among Christian denominations beyond Catholicism and Protestantism.

“No one may make use of religion to engage in activities that disrupt public order, impair the health of citizens or interfere with the education system of the state.” – China’s constitution

Spirituality and religious practice have long been embedded in traditional Chinese culture, says Freedom House’s senior research analyst for East Asia, Sarah Cook. Article thirty-six of the Chinese constitution protects freedom of religion, however that protection is limited to so-called “normal religious activities,” explicitly stating that “no one may make use of religion to engage in activities that disrupt public order, impair the health of citizens or interfere with the education system of the state.” These provisions provide authorities with flexibility when determining which religious practices are consistent with party policy and which fall outside the state’s guidelines. The constitutional provision goes on to specify that religious bodies cannot be subject to foreign control. The Holy See and Beijing do not have formal diplomatic ties, but Pope Francis signaled in August 2014 that he hoped to thaw China-Vatican relations.

Underground house churches exist parallel to state-sanctioned Christian churches. These organizations operate outside of the guidelines of the government, and their regulation by party authorities is largely determined by local leaders. Much like official Christian organizations, their membership is also growing across regions and demographics, according to surveys by independent polling groups. A 2010 Pew Research Center report charted that thirty-five million (PDF) of China’s fifty-eight million Protestants belonged to independent house churches. Other Christian organizations estimate a much higher number.

Why has the number of Christians surged?

Social scientists have observed the rise of a spiritual vacuum, following decades of unprecedented economic growth. Modern China has emerged as a wealthier and more educated society with renewed interest in religion. Consequently, experts say that as the CCP’s ideology loses public traction, Christian churches, official and unofficial, appear to be filling some of this void. Believers are not only searching for meaning in their own lives but also for the future of their country as China adapts to a rapidly changing economy and society. Protestantism “appeals to Chinese traditions of ritual and community,” according to French Jesuit and China scholar Benoit Vermander. Moreover, experts say Chinese Christians are also attracted to the faith’s sense of fellowship, comprehensive moral system, organized structure, and solidarity as part of an international movement.

Christians in China are predominantly Protestant, drawn to the religion’s emphasis on egalitarianism and spiritual community within the church, says Fenggang Yang of Purdue University’s Center on Religion and Chinese Society. The sense of fellowship among Chinese Christians is attractive compared to the hierarchal structures of other religious and social organizations, Yang adds. It is also possible that more Chinese may choose Christianity over other faiths, such as Tibetan Buddhism, Islam, or Falun Gong, because Christianity is more tolerated and is potentially a safer option in China, says Freedom House’s Cook.

Christian religious practice resurfaced after the end of the Cultural Revolution and has been gaining ground in Chinese society ever since. The number of Christians in the early 1980s was estimated at about six million. Today, estimates vary widely: The government tallied twenty-nine million Christian adherents, while outside organizations have placed their estimates substantially higher. In 2010 the Pew Research Center calculated a total of sixty-seven million (PDF) Christians in China, approximately 5 percent of the country’s population. Other independent estimates suggest somewhere between 100 and 130 million. Purdue’s Yang projects that if modest growth rates are sustained, China could have as many as 160 million Christians by 2025 and 247 million by 2032. Much of the discrepancy between official government numbers in China and expert estimates can be attributed to Beijing’s nonrecognition of Christians engaged in religious activity outside of state-sanctioned religious organizations.

Experts reference two historical events as drivers of China’s religious awakening. Deng Xiaoping’s opening and reform policy changes triggered a religious revival in the 1980s, with Christianity first spreading in house churches formed in rural areas. The second major event was the crackdown on democracy activists in Tiananmen Square in 1989. This marked a major turning point for urban communities; intellectuals who had hoped to promote democractic ideals as an alternative to Maoist thought pivoted to religious practice—to Daoism, Chinese Buddhism, and eventually Christianity.

On the economic front, Beijing shed traditional Maoist policies and has pursued amarket economy. As a result, social structures in rural and urban areas were dissolved. Religion entered the fold as a new form of social organization, mostly through conversion. As China works to strike a balance between what are anticipated to be difficult economic structural reforms and adapting to the changing needs of Chinese citizens, experts say that the Christian revival is likely to continue.

How has the government reacted to the surge in Christians?

Christians have faced growing repression in recent years. China ranked twenty-ninth on the 2015 World Watch List compiled by Open Doors, a U.S.-based Christian non-profit, that tracks the persecution of Christians worldwide, up from thirty-seventh the previous year. Repression campaigns have not been consistent, but they have recently targetedboth house and state-sanctioned churches—be it through the harassment and detention of Christian oberverants, blocking entry to sites of worship, interrupting gatherings, dismantling crosses, or demolishing churches. In 2014, party officials in the eastern coastal province of Zhejiang’s city of Wenzhou, known for its large Christian population,ordered the removal of hundreds of crosses and demolition of dozens of churches that allegedly violated construction regulations. In February 2015, Zhejiang party officials announced that the party would enforce a ban on religious belief among party members to prevent the “penetration of Western hostile forces.” These campaigns raised fears of possible widespread action against Christianity, but they seem to have been isolated cases.

The CCP identifies religious groups as potential threats to national security, social harmony, and core interests. Ye Xiaowen, former director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs, argued in 1996 that “religion became a weapon in the hands of dissidents for inciting the masses and creating political disturbances.” Though the state’s regulation of religious practice tends to be cyclical—revival, repression, and back again—religion in China remains inherently political. Purdue University’s Yang wrote “faith-based organizations are perceived as one of the most serious threats to the Communist party,” in his 2012 book Religion in China: Survival and Revival under Communist Rule. According to Terence Halliday, co-director of the Center for Law and Globalization at the American Bar Foundation, “Christianity now makes up the largest single civil society groupingin China. The party sees that.”

A number of party members are concerned that Christianity could be used as a tool to influence China. Today, an increasing number of human rights advocates and lawyers are Christian adherents, stoking party suspicions that Christianity could be a unifying force to challenge its authority. While religious leaders and practicioners may have no intention of undermining the party, the very perception of a threat by party leaders sets the stage for possible confrontation between churches and the state.

Implementation of religious policy is largely left to local party officals. Though some have repressed religious groups (two high-profile cases included crackdowns on Beijing’s Shouwang church and Wenzhou’s Sanjiang church), elsewhere, leaders have turned a blind eye or been more tolerant, choosing not to interfere in Christian religious activities. A leading priority for local officials is ensuring good party performance, which prizes social stability.

At the top level, Beijing has signaled attempts to inject party influence into Christian ideology. In August 2014, Beijing announced its bid to nationalize Christianity at a conference entitled the “Sinicization of Christianity.” According to state media, SARA director Wang Zuoan said that Christan faith should first and foremost be compatible with the country’s path of socialism and that “the construction of Chinese Christian theology should adapt to China’s national condition and integrate with Chinese culture.” To complement this initiative, Beijing enhanced efforts to bring unregistered churches and their members under the larger umbrella of the state-sanctioned authorities. If successful, the SARA would have greater oversight over the Chinese Christian leaders, activities, and beliefs of adherents. More traditional Chinese beliefs, such as Chinese Buddhism and Confucianism, have also been championed by Beijing to promote a harmonious society. Some experts suggest that this push indicates a move by authorities to buffer (PDF) against the spread of Christanity.

Freedom House’s Cook says that with Xi Jinping’s concentration of power there may now be a window of opportunity: If the central party leadership decides that Christianity is good for China, there could be broader leniency as officials look to gain favor within the party. But Cook also emphasizes that the persecution of Christians appears to have increased under Xi.

http://www.cfr.org/china/christianity-china/p36503

Allah’s soldiers are ignorant of Islam

By , Toronto Sun

The soldiers of Allah have struck again.

On Monday, Elton Simpson, a convert to Islam and his Pakistani-American partner, Nadir Soofi, attacked a convention centre in Garland, Texas, where 200 people were attending a contest to draw cartoons of Prophet Mohammed.

Thanks to a quick-thinking traffic police officer, both men, carrying assault rifles, were shot dead in a 15-second exchange of gunfire that left an unarmed security officer injured.

Islamic clerics in Texas denounced the terror attack, but also called on Muslims “not to be baited” into anger.

The hint behind this message was that contest organizer Pamela Geller had provoked Muslims into acting violently.

At the root of Muslim protestations is the false belief Islam prohibits the depiction of Prophet Mohammed.

There is no prohibition on creating images of Prophet Mohammed in the Qur’an.

Up until the 14th century; such depictions were common in the non-Arab Muslim world.

On my website, www.tarekfatah.com, I have posted many depictions of Prophet Mohammed, drawn mostly by Muslim artists.

Even if it were true that such depictions were prohibited, the prohibition would not be applicable to non-Muslims.

Unfortunately, in the wake of Monday’s terrorism, few Muslims invoked Voltaire’s profound statement, “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”

On the contrary, many Muslims rejected Geller’s right to freedom of expression, admitting that even as Americans they believe there should be limits to free speech enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.

Here in Toronto, one well-known local Muslim tweeted: “This has nothing to do with free speech, don’t kid yourself. Go do a ‘Draw a Jew’ event & see what I mean.”

I asked him to expand a bit on why he had inserted Jews into the discussion, but he did not respond.

Other Muslims produced conspiracy theories.

Youssef Sayyed, a London-based journalist, claimed the “Texas Attack is a CIA stunt to take focus off Baltimore in the national media.”

While American Muslims were issuing “explanations” about why the Texas terror attack could not be solely blamed on the terrorists, other Americans seemed to be providing excuses and rationalizations for the attackers.

Rukmini Callimachi, a respected foreign correspondent for the New York Times who focuses on Islamic extremism, appeared to suggest the cartoon contest organizers were partly to blame for the attack.

“Free speech aside, why would anyone do something as provocative as hosting a “Muhammad drawing contest”? she asked.

Even a PGA golfer tweeted the terror attack was somehow understandable.

Bob Estes, who is from Texas, tweeted:

“If you feel the need to mock Muhammad in a cartoon, just realize that Muslims may decide to exercise their #2A (Second Amendment) rights on you.”

By contrast, ISIS was unequivocal about the purpose of the attack.

In a radio statement it said: “We say to the defenders of the cross, the U.S., that future attacks are going to be harsher and worse. The Islamic State soldiers will inflict harm on you with the grace of God. The future is just around the corner.”

Geller is no saint and is a polarizing figure when it comes to relations between Muslims and the West.

But dismissing her as a hate-monger is not going to stop ISIS from attacking those of us who cherish free speech.

It’s time to choose sides; it’s time to stand with Voltaire.

http://www.torontosun.com/2015/05/05/allahs-soldiers-are-ignorant-of-islam

What India Can Teach Us About Islam and Assimilation

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali, Muslim-born émigré who is one of Islam’s fiercest critics in the West, warned in TIME that Americans should stop thinking of Charlie Hebdo-style massacres as something that “couldn’t happen here.” Sure, America doesn’t have Islamists calling for the “United States of Sharia,” as in Europe. But the Muslim population in America is on track to grow at over twice the rate of that in France over the next 15 years, she maintains. And this is a problem given that even moderate Muslims might be resistant to the American melting pot because they’ll want ultimately to live in a society governed by sharia. Therefore, they may instinctively “turn a blind eye to the use of violence and intimidation tactics…against apostates and dissidents.” And Americans need to wake up from their torpor and confront the threat.

The suggestion that Americans, who have spent trillions on multiple wars and an intrusive “homeland security” apparatus post 9/11, are insufficiently alarmed about Muslim extremism is more than a little bizarre. But setting that aside, how accurate is Hirsi Ali’s suggestion that Muslims are inherently incapable of assimilating in non-Muslim societies?

Not very, if the experience of India, the world’s most populous democracy, is any indication. Muslims make up almost 15% of India’s population, compared to 0.8% in America. And they couldn’t be any more dissimilar to the portrait drawn by Hirsi Ali.

If Hirsi Ali were right about the perennial allure of radicalism for Muslims, India, a country where I grew up and lived before moving to the United States and making Michigan my home, should be Ground Zero for Islamic militancy. Instead, Indian Muslims participate fully and enthusiastically in their nation’s civic and cultural life, including, remarkably, its majoritarianHindu religious traditions, without experiencing too much cognitive dissonance. As of last year, four of them were known to have joined ISIS — while the total number who may have gone is unknowable, it appears to be far fewer than the numbers in Europe and America that Hirsi Ali plays up. Those known cases may be four too many. However, as I’ve pointed out elsewhere, there are always some malcontents in liberal societies who are attracted to illiberal ideologies. Some Americans left for the Soviet Union during the heyday of communism.

Muslims have lived in India for a millennium, first arriving in small pockets as traders and then in large numbers as invaders. They established the Mughal dynasty that ruled the country for 300 years till the Hindu majority took over and established a secular democracy after colonial rule ended in 1947. If Hirsi Ali were correct, the ignominy of being deposed from power and subjected to infidel rule would bring out their worst extremist tendencies.

Instead, India’s Muslims are no more prone to violence than anyone else. Muslim insurgency has broken out in some parts of India like Kashmir. But that’s at least partly a response to an abusive and obtuse central government that has ignored local needs, much like the Sikh separatist Khalistan movement in the 1980s. That’s why George W. Bush famously introduced Manmohan Singh to Laura Bush as “the prime minister of India, a democracy which does not have a single al-Qaida member in a population of 150 million Muslims.”

Rampant prejudice in housing and elsewhere — along with occasional outburst of Hindu nationalist violence — has hindered Muslim progress, relegating Muslims to the lowest socio-economic rungs. Yet, Indian Muslims have avoided the sword and eagerly seized the opportunities afforded to them by their country’s (imperfect) democracy.

Consider: Four Muslims have served as India’s president — a ceremonial but high office reserved for civilians of major accomplishment. One of them, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, played a leading role in developing India’s ballistic missile and nuclear weapons program with no apparent qualms that he was boosting the military of a nation of infidels. The founder of Wipro, a software giant that is India’s pride and joy, is Prem Azmji, a Muslim man. Muslims are among India’s most prominent cricketers, a sport that means even more to India’s national pride than a moon landing may someday.

Muslims are an integral part of every facet of Bollywood, India’s 125-year-old film industry whose open veneration of romantic love is deeply subversive of puritanical Islamic strictures. Indeed, Bollywood’s three top male stars right now are Muslims (all with the last name of Khan) — and Muslim women have always been among Bollywood’s top actresses. Also, some of these stars are among India’s most vocal progressives fighting for the rights of gays, women, and minorities — not to mention sexual liberation.

But nothing speaks more to the depth of Muslims’ cultural assimilation in India than the fact that Muslims have written, composed and sung some of the most popular bhajans or Hindu devotional songs. The late Mohammad Rafi, a Muslim singer who is a household name in India, sang bhajans so poignant and soul stirring that they bring tears to the eyes even of a Hindu-turned-atheist like me. Iqbal, a Muslim poet, wrote the lyrics of arguably the most patriotic song in India that celebrates “Hindustan” as the best nation in the world. More recently, A.R. Rahman, an observant Muslim composer who won an Oscar for his score in Slumdog Millionaire, has recorded the most goose-bump-inducing rendition of Vande Mataram — an ode to the Hindu Motherland. (Conversely, Hindu musicians have created many moving Islamic Qawwalis or Sufi songs dedicated to allah.)

Indian Muslims are proud of their tradition of tolerance and moderation and guard it zealously from Wahhabi influence. They’ve even refused to bury the bodies of Muslim suicide bombers, including the Mumbai attackers, the ultimate punishment because it forever deprives the bombers of a spot in heaven. Indeed, in recent years many Indian Muslims have been fighting tooth-and-nail against Saudi-funded Wahhabis who are trying to take over India’s madrassas and Muslim shrines. Some even submitted a memorandum to Indian authorities demanding that madrassas be reformed to include modern education alongside traditional religious instruction.

In other words, the moral high ground among Indian Muslims is decisively on the side of moderates, not extremists — in complete contradiction to Hirsi Ali’s predictions for America.

Furthermore, notes William Dalrymple, a celebrated British writer who has written extensively about the Islamic world, Indian Muslims are not all that unique. Even in countries where they are the majority, Muslims are often doctrinally flexible, allowing a great deal of give-and-take with other religions and sharing their festivals and sacred spaces (Saudi Arabia and other countries where Islam is the sole religion are a different story). For example, he notes, the Coptic festivals in Egypt attract thousands of Muslims as do many Christian shrines in Syria, such as the pilgrimage church of Our Lady of Seidnaya outside Damascus, which attracts many Muslim couples seeking children. He is a friend of Hirsi Ali, and admires her spirit, yet regards her fears that Islam is inherently — and ineluctably — prone to extremism as “entirely wrong-headed.” Her reading of Islam is colored by her own tragic experience growing up in Somalia (where she endured genital mutilation), he argues, not from a wide-ranging familiarity with Islamic practices. “She has now spent much more of her life in Europe and the Beltway than in the Muslim world,” he says.

All of this suggests that if 150-million-plus Muslims have managed to “melt” in the “pot” of India’s young and fragile democracy without boiling over into violence, they’ll be able to do so in America even more easily, especially given that its democracy is stronger and more established, and their numbers are much smaller. What won’t help, however, is anti-Muslim fear mongering based on a narrative knit from gaudy acts of extremism that fails to take full measure of the broader Muslim reality.

http://time.com/3817133/india-muslim-assimilation-islam-us/