two blurbs on Hinduism and Christianity
This morning's service included a video testimony of a man who converted from Jainism and Hinduism to Christianity. He was baptized in last night's service. After telling his parents about his conversion, he was disowned and ostracized.
I have a colleague and friend at work who is a devout Hindu-- one of many varieties. Unlike the stereotype of Hinduism's polytheism (and unlike the man's testimony this morning), my friend is monotheistic. So it was valuable for me to understand (and see an example) that Hinduism can result in faith in a monotheistic God-- and a God on whom we must rely on His grace (rather than trying to earn His love and so on). Given my friend's tolerance for other religions (his children attend Catholic schools) and his belief in monotheism, I suspect he's happy that a former Hindu/Jainist polytheist has found a monotheistic home within Christianity.
My friend and I have also talked at some length about the persecution of Christians by Hindus in India. Of course, this is the height of irony-- since Hindus are supposed to be so tolerant! My friend's answer is that this is an unfortunate by-product of their (reasonable) response to Moslem extremism. That's not a fully legitimate answer, but it may explain cause-and-effect, especially when people are likely to be culturally Hindu (as people are culturally Christians here).
I usually read about such discrimination and persecution in news and opinion sources with a religious flavor, but Wednesday's WSJ had a front-page article on this phenemenon by Yaroslav Trofimov:
Almost all the Christians here -- and the overwhelming majority across India -- hail from the so-called Dalit community, the former "untouchables" relegated to the bottom of the Hindu caste hierarchy. Under India's constitution, Dalits are entitled to affirmative-action benefits, including 15% of all federal government jobs and admissions in government-funded universities. That provides the country's most downtrodden with a way to escape their traditional occupations such as emptying village latrines, burying cow carcasses, and tanning animal hides. But there is a catch: Any Dalit caught abandoning Hinduism for Christianity or Islam loses these privileges, and can be fired from jobs gained under the quota. The rules are enforced by vigilant local officials who keep a close eye on villagers' comings and goings.
The plight of India's secret converts, ignored for decades, is now at the forefront of national politics. Partly driving the change is Indian Christians' new partnership with Islam, a religion frequently at odds with Christianity elsewhere in the world. Representatives of the two religions have turned to the courts to restore benefits to converted Dalits. India's Supreme Court is currently reviewing several challenges filed by Christian and Muslim Dalits that could result in an overturning of the affirmative-action exclusion. A separate bill to remove the restriction is pending in Parliament. Government members, influenced by India's 150-million-strong Muslim community, have indicated their cautious support.
For decades, backers of the existing legislation have argued that since Christianity and Islam have no caste, Dalits who abandon Hinduism find equality amid their new co-religionists and therefore no longer need special protection. But the movement to end official discrimination against these converts is gaining momentum in the world's largest democracy. This year, a special government-appointed commission, headed by former Supreme Court Chief Justice Ranganath Mishra, concluded that Dalits retain their stigma in India's society even after converting and recommended scrapping the ban. The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination earlier this year also formally rebuked India for denying affirmative-action benefits to Dalit converts to Christianity and Islam, and recommended that the prohibition be removed...
India's Dalits have tried over the centuries to escape their low status, which Hindu scriptures teach is a punishment for sins in a previous life. by embracing caste-less religions. In centuries past, most converts turned to Islam...But with India's expanding economy offering unprecedented opportunities for social and economic advancement, a great many Dalits are now turning to Christianity, attracted by benefits like education and health care that are sometimes offered by Western-funded congregations. This allows them to seek opportunities beyond the government sector, in the booming information-technology and services industries that put a premium on the Westernized outlook and English-language skills. Much to the dismay of Hindu nationalist groups, the number of India's secret Christians has climbed in recent years to an estimated 25 million people, about the size of the officially registered Christian population.