“So far as one can understand the present Christian effort, it is to uproot Hinduism from its very foundation and replace it with another faith.” – M.K. Gandhi
Mahatma Gandhi was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1937, 1938, 1939, 1947, and a few days before he was assassinated in January 1948. He did not receive the prize because he refused to be converted to Christianity and severely criticized missionary work in India. His firm stance is an example for us to follow today. India is being subjected to an accelerated pace of evangelization by foreign missionaries through their NGOs – World Vision being the leader – and paid Indian Christian surrogates, with the connivance of corrupt, minority-appeasing State and Central government administrators.
Government officials pay lip-service to Mahatma Gandhi as the Father of the Nation on national holidays, but they have otherwise forgotten him and his teaching. Their selfish acts deny him in spirit. His message of patriotism, discipline, cultural self-respect, and faith in Ishwara is viewed with contempt in modern India. All that matters today is to be in first place in the race for wealth and global recognition.
Mahatma Gandhi if he were alive, would be the first to point out that the right to make religious converts does not exist either in the Indian Constitution or in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The freedom to proselytize as it exists in the Indian Constitution, or the freedom to change one’s religion as it exists in the UDHR, is not the same as a right to make religious converts, though this important point is glossed over by Christian apologists.
Some years ago when the Vatican attempted to get a right to make religious converts declared as a basic human right, it was strongly resisted by Hindu representatives and rejected by the United Nations. As Mahatma Gandhi points out below, the act of making religious converts is inherently violent. It destroys the religious faith, culture and family relationships of the targeted persons. It is a form of psychological warfare. It may be legal in some countries but it is not accepted by Hindus as an ethical or moral activity.
What follows is a selection of observations Mahatma Gandhi made in the 1920s and 30s on Christian missionaries, religious conversion, and modern Western civilization. These observations were compiled by Swami Aksharananda and produced by Vidya Bharati, New York City, in 2001 – SDS
I call myself a Sanatani Hindu
I call myself a Sanatani Hindu because I believe in the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Puranas, and all that goes by the name of Hindu scripture, and therefore in avatars and rebirth; I believe in the varnashrama dharma in a sense, in my opinion strictly Vedic but not in its presently popular and distorted crude sense; I believe in the protection of cow. I do not disbelieve in murti puja. (Young India: June 10, 1921)
Why I am not a convert
Hinduism as I know it entirely satisfies my soul, fills my whole being. When doubts haunt me, when disappointments stare me in the face, and when I see not one ray of light on the horizon, I turn to the Bhagavad Gita, and find a verse to comfort me; and I immediately begin to smile in the midst of overwhelming sorrow. My life has been full of tragedies and if they have not left any visible and indelible effect on me, I owe it to the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita. (Young India: June 8, 1925)
I disbelieve in the conversion of one person by another. My effort should never be to undermine another’s faith. This implies belief in the truth of all religions and, therefore, respect for them. It implies true humility. (Young India: April 23, 1931)
Conversion is an impediment to peace
It is impossible for me to reconcile myself to the idea of conversion after the style that goes on in India and elsewhere today. It is an error which is perhaps the greatest impediment to the world’s progress toward peace. Why should a Christian want to convert a Hindu to Christianity? Why should he not be satisfied if the Hindu is a good or godly man? (Harijan: January 30, 1937)
No such thing as conversion
I believe that there is no such thing as conversion from one faith to another in the accepted sense of the word. It is a highly personal matter for the individual and his God. I may not have any design upon my neighbour as to his faith which I must honour even as I honour my own. Having reverently studied the scriptures of the world I could no more think of asking a Christian or a Musalman, or a Parsi or a Jew to change his faith than I would think of changing my own. (Harijan: September 9, 1935)
Only true religion?
I am not interested in weaning you from Christianity and making you Hindu, and I do not relish your designs upon me, if you had any, to convert me to Christianity. I would also dispute your claim that Christianity is the only true religion. (Harijan: June 3, 1937)
Conversion must not mean denationalization. Conversion should mean a definite giving up of the evil of the old, adoption of all the good of the new, and a scrupulous avoidance of everything evil in the new. Conversion, therefore, should mean a life of greater dedication to one’s country, greater surrender to God, greater self-purification. (Young India: August 20, 1925)
Aping of foreigners
As I wander about through the length and breath of India I see many Christian Indians almost ashamed of their birth, certainly of their ancestral religion, and of their ancestral dress. The aping of Europeans by Anglo-Indians is bad enough, but the aping of them by Indian converts is a violence done to their country and, shall I say, even to their new religion. (Young India: August 8, 1925)
PROSELYTIZATION is resented
I hold that proselytisation under the cloak of humanitarian work is unhealthy to say the least. It is most resented by people here. Religion after all is a deeply personal thing. It touches the heart.
Why should I change my religion because the doctor who professes Christianity as his religion has cured me of some disease, or why should the doctor expect me to change whilst I am under his influence? (Young India: April 23, 1931)
Missionary aim is to uproot Hinduism
My fear is that though Christian friends nowadays do not say or admit it that Hindu religion is untrue, they must harbour in their breast that Hinduism is an error and that Christianity, as they believe it, is the only true religion. So far as one can understand the present [Christian] effort, it is to uproot Hinduism from her very foundation and replace it by another faith. (Harijan: March 13,1937)
Undermining people’s faith
The first distinction I would like to make between your missionary work and mine is that while I am strengthening the faith of people, you [missionaries] are undermining it. (Young India: November 8, 1927)
Physician heal yourself
Conversion nowadays has become a matter of business, like any other. India is in no need of conversion of this kind. Conversion in the sense of self-purification, self-realization is the crying need of the times. That however is never what is meant by proselytization. To those who would convert India [to Christianity], might it not be said, “Physician, heal yourself.” (Young India: April 23, 1931)
Missionaries are vendors of goods
When the missionary of another religion goes to them, he goes like a vendor of goods. He has no special spiritual merit that will distinguish him from those to whom he goes. He does however possess material goods which he promises to those who will come to his fold. (Harijan: April 3, 1937)
Stop all proselytizing
If I had the power and could legislate, I should stop all proselytizing. In Hindu households the advent of a missionary has meant the disruption of the family coming in the wake of change of dress, manners, language, food and drink. (November 5, 1935)
The only begotten son of God?
I regard Jesus as a great teacher of humanity, but I do not regard him as the only begotten son of God. That epithet in its material interpretation is quite unacceptable. Metaphorically we are all sons of God, but for each of us there may be different sons of God in a special sense. Thus for me Chaitanya may be the only begotten son of God. God cannot be the exclusive Father and I cannot ascribe exclusive divinity to Jesus. (Harijan: June 3, 1937)
The spirit of Satan
It is my firm opinion that Europe does not represent the spirit of God … but the spirit of Satan. And Satan’s successes are the greatest when he appears with the name of God on his lips. (Young India: September 8, 1920)
Christianity and exploitation
Christianity in India has been inextricably mixed up for the last one hundred and fifty years with British rule. It appears to us as synonymous with materialistic civilization and imperialistic exploitation by the stronger white races of the weaker races of the world. Its contribution to India has been, therefore, largely negative. (Young India: March 21, 1929)
No room for missionaries
In the manner in which [missionaries] are working there would seem to be no room for them. Quite unconsciously they do harm to themselves and also to us. It is perhaps impertinent to say that they do harm to themselves, but quite pertinent to say that they do harm to us. They do harm to those amongst whom they work and those amongst whom they do not work, i.e., the harm is done to the whole of India. The more I study their activities the more sorry I become. It is a tragedy that such a thing should happen to the human family. (Harijan: December 12, 1936)
Only the other day a missionary descended on a famine area with money in his pocket, distributed it among the famine stricken, converted them to his fold, took charge of their temple, and demolished it. This is outrageous. (Harijan: November 5, 1937)
Welcome back converts
If a person through fear, compulsion, starvation, or for material gain or consideration goes over to another faith, it is a misnomer to call it conversion. Most cases of conversion have been to my mind false coin. I would therefore unhesitatingly re-admit to the Hindu fold all such repentants without much ado. If a man comes back to the original branch he deserves to be welcomed in so far as he may deem to have erred, he has sufficiently purged himself of it when he repents his error and retraces his steps. (Collected Works: Vol. 66, pp.163-164)