Christian Evangelism: Whither Decency?
By Harendra De Silva
The world (or more correctly, the west) appears infatuated with "Muslim fanaticism." We are told over and over again that Islam preaches fanaticism, and that Muslims are allegedly violent and have a blind hatred of non-Muslims. But really, how true are these vacuous claims? They are stories made to justify violent attacks on the Muslim community around the world, and take attention away from those who really harbour ill-will against followers of other religions. The media has not given enough attention to the insidious campaign that is taking place this very minute to reduce and wipeout Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and the various other religious traditions that are followed by large sections of humanity.
When I look around, the only people I see trying to wipe out other religions and other peoples' belief systems are the Christian evangelists and their loud supporters. I have never ever encountered a Buddhist, Hindu or Muslim preacher barging in on my privacy and pushing their holy books in my face, nor have I seen Buddhists, Hindus or Muslims set up organizations purely for the sake of converting others through hook and crook. Despite having a similar religious heritage, we can clearly see that it is the Christian evangelists who are the real religious extremists, and not the Muslims as loudly claimed by various sections of the media.
Christian evangelism today does not appear to have any respect for cultural and religious diversity. Its aim is to wipe out all non-Christian cultural and religious traditions and replace them with Christianity - more often than not the western version of it, which has very little in common with the country or society it is targetting. Many tribal societies across the world have lost their heritage and are in the process of losing them due to the activities of these evangelists. In refusing to see the good in other religions and other ways-of-life, Christian evangelists take on an extremely fundamentalist position that is an affront not only to non-Christians, but to moderate Christians as well.
I am often quite amazed and plainly shocked at the fanatical zeal shown by these Christian evangelists, who wish to convert the entire world to Christianity through whatever means necessary. Entire organizations, or more correctly enterprises, have been set up with the sole purpose of "harvesting souls for God," and there are many individuals whose job in life is to convert non-Christians to Christianity, and they are paid handsomely to do it. No expense is spared in this task of trying to bring every single person on planet earth to the "light of Jesus Christ," and no thought whatsoever is given to the religious and cultural diversity that makes this world such a wonderful place.
For these extremists, the sooner all the non-Christian "pagan" and "Satan-inspired" religions perish or are annihilated, the better the world will be; a rather fanatical, nazi-esque position if there ever was one. By sending evangelist teams around the world and setting up shop in non-Christian majority countries, these evangelist organisations work to destroy the pillars of religious coexistence and tolerance and erect their own pillars of religious supremacy and intolerance in those countries. And Sri Lanka is just another one of their many targets - yet another country "infested with evil pagans" who need to be brought to the "light of Jesus Christ."
With the kind of mentality explained above, these evangelists have no qualms about using whatever means necessary to gain converts. As they have invaded countries that may not be wealthy, and as is the case in Sri Lanka, they use material inducements to convert the poor and destitute non-Christians to Christianity. For them, buying souls for their God is not an issue, but the tally of supposedly "saved souls" is. Conversion today has become a big business with big bucks behind it, and, unfortunately, the world we live in appears a battle ground for the Christian evangelists where the competitors are not only the non-Christian religions but rival Christian sects as well.
And to them, all is fair in war. Encouraging new converts to smash statues of the Buddha and Hindu gods and godesses, burn pictures of the Buddha and Hindu gods and godesses, burn Dharma books and renounce "pagan" cultural activities are all considered suitable methods of propagating Christanity. Giving potential child converts biscuits fashioned in the shape of a Buddha image, and encouraging the kids to eat them while preaching Christianity do not strike the evangelists as insensitive and indecent. And following in the footsepts of the colonials in Sri Lanka, these cash-rich evangelists offer food, money and employment to convince poor Sri Lankans to convert to Christianity, asserting that it is the Christian God that is the harbinger of prosperity and that it is the "Satan-inspired" Buddhist/Hindu/Muslim traditions that continue to keep them in poverty.
It is no wonder that many Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and moderate Christians are simply apalled at the way the evangelists carry out their proselytism, and are extremely worried about the impact it will have on religious harmony in this country. It can already be seen that the provocative activities of Christian evangelists have led to the destabilsation of peace and harmony among the various religious communities, and if these evangelists continue with their unethical and iconoclastic methods of proselytism the situation is bound to get worse. Sri Lanka could very well do without these people who are hell-bent on creating a religious imbroglio in this beautiful island.
Christian evangelists in Sri Lanka and the greater Asian region need to reconsider their unethical and aggresive methods of proselytism. They need to start according respect to other systems of belief instead of treating them as sworn enemies. The current mentality that drives proselytism, as well as the actual methods of proselytism employed by the evangelists are going against accepted norms of decency and are creating a negative image of Christianity at large.
By caring naught for religious harmony in Sri Lanka, Christian evangelists are doing this country a huge disfavour. And as Sri Lankans, we cannot sit idly by and watch the religious harmony which we treasure so much disintegrate before our very eyes. We cannot affort to ignore the threat unethical and aggressive evangelism poses to peace and harmony in this country. To do so would mean the victory of fundamentalism and intolerance.
So there is an important question that we must ask ourselves: when will the ideological and iconoclastic war waged by Christian evangelists against the Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims of this country end? Because as long as the evangelists wage a war to dismantle and/or destroy Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam in this country, there can never be true religious harmony. A predator-prey relationship is not conducive to peace and is always marked by stress. This is especially the case for the prey. The predatory desire to see other religions perish and to have Christianity "triumph" over these other religions cannot be condoned and should never be condoned by anyone with a sense of decency. It is a fundamentalist position that is not in tune with our culture and way of life which gives priority to religious harmony and religious tolerance.
Religious pluralism is what Sri Lanka is about and the evangelists
want to destroy that. We cannot and must not let them succeed.
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