The main argument against apologizing is that we have nothing to do with the Swami's murder. Even if it is true that no Christian asked them to kill, nevertheless, the Maoists killed the Swami and his associates in defense of Christians. So we do have a moral connection to the murder. Someone murdered him on behalf of the Church. Therefore, the world has a right to wonder if the Church asked the Maoists to do it or paid for it by Dr. Vishal Mangalwadi.
An Appeal To,
India’s Christian Leaders & Spokespersons
For very understandable reasons, many Christian leaders, including the Pope, have condemned the recent murders of the Hindu leaders by the Maoists in Orissa. And as you can sense many Hindus have dismissed these condemnations as a hypocritical game that politicians play. For good reasons, the condemnation only undermines the moral authority of the Church. What the Indian Christian leadership needs to do is to apologize for the murders.
Why should the Church apologize for murders it did not commit or ask for?
Why did Jesus go to the cross for sins that he did not commit?
If Jesus could take our sin upon him, surely the Church can consider taking the sins of the Maoists upon it to bring forgiveness, healing, reconciliation and peace.
The next round of conflict in Orissa is likely to be bloodier than the previous two, because even if only 100 Christian youth are learning from the Maoists, they will be a dreadful force. The next time around it may be the Hindus who are driven into the forests. That will bring out the army, which is already stationed in those sensitive areas. (So far the army was prevented from engaging the Maoists because the Communists were a part of the UPA Government. Now the Congress would have to use the army partly to win Hindu votes.) If the Hindus in Orissa cannot stand up to "Christians" and Maoists, the militant Hindu groups would take revenge against Christians all over the country.
A fresh round of communal violence will not be good for anyone and it will hurt our national image at a time when India needs to attract foreign investment, especially in poor states such as Orissa, Bihar, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh.
The Church is doing all it can to bring relief to the victims of the last two rounds of violence. But it also needs to focus on the important mission of just peace and reconciliation. Therefore, may I submit the following proposal for your consideration and explain the theological and practical rationale behind it?
1. The Church in India should offer an unconditional apology to the Hindus for the murder of Swami Laxmananda Saraswati and other Hindu leaders. This implies that the Church should own the moral responsibility for the murders and, more importantly, should own the pro-Christian Maoists as our children who have been misled by a mistaken ideology. A sincere apology will shock the nation and give the Church the right to:2. Ask national leaders such as Atal Bihari Vajpayee, V. P. Singh, Sonia Gandhi, some Hindu leaders and celebrities (such as Amitabh Bachhan) – to go to Orissa to meet with the representatives of the Government, Oriya Christians, Hindus, Tribals and the Maoists to initiate a process of reconciliation. A Hindu leader may choose to apologies for the violence committed by the Hindus and offer compensation to Christian families who lost loved ones.
3. The Church leaders should obtain from the government an assurance of safe passage for the Maoists to be able to meet with them first privately and then to organize meetings between the Government, national leaders and the Maoists to initiate a healing process and addressing the issues of poverty, corruption and inequality.4. Christian leaders should also meet with the leaders of Dalit Christians, Tribals and the Government, to find either a resolution to the demand of Reservations for poor Christians or find credible alternatives to help them out of their poverty (e.g. establishment of good schools, colleges, technical education, universities and industries).
(1) "Why should the Church apologize for a murder it did not commit or ask for?"
Someone has to love the Maoists enough to embrace them and reform them. They are rejecting Hinduism for Marxist-Ambedkarite reasons explained in the accompanying article. They have been helping some frontline evangelists preach the Gospel in remote villages. As the attached article shows, by killing a few more Hindu leaders they will thrust the church and the nation into a far bigger mess. The Indian Church will go out again asking for more money for relief. Theologically and practically, it is more important that the Church should become a proactive peace-maker.
(2) Even thought the Church condemned the murder of the Swami, the Hindus dismissed it as hypocrisy. It was seen to be a game, because some Roman Catholic spokespeople had warned the Bishops of the growing nexus between Christian youth and the Maoists. Condemning the murder implies condemning those who risked the gallows in order to defend Christians whom neither the Government nor the Church was able to protect. It appears hypocritical to the Hindus and alienates the Maoists who have rejected Hinduism and are in search of a new home.
(3) An apology would imply owning the murderers, while disowning the murder.(4) For a century, Marxists have opposed or killed Christians. Now they are opposing and killing Hindus and many of them from China to India are opening their minds to Christ. This gives the Church a unique opportunity to embrace Marxists of various kinds and reform or educate them. The Church cannot approve of the violence, but it cannot establish peace unless it embraces Maoists.
(5) In embracing and owning the Maoists the Church would not do anything different than what the Hindus and the Congress did in embracing say Subhash Chandra Bose or Shaheed Bhagat Singh. Both the Congress and Bose were opposed to the British Raj and wanted freedom. The Congress was opposed to killing the British, Bose attempted to kill them. In spite of its commitment to non-violence, the Congress chose to honor him and helped rehabilitate his army. India Inc has driven the Maoists into the jungles. The Church can serve the nation by bringing them back into the mainstream by embracing them and talking to them and championing their just grievances.
(6) The main argument against apologizing is that we have nothing to do with the Swami's murder. Even if it is true that no Christian asked them to kill, nevertheless, the Maoists killed the Swami and his associates in defense of Christians. So we do have a moral connection to the murder. Someone murdered him on behalf of the Church. Therefore, the world has a right to wonder if the Church asked the Maoists to do it or paid for it.
The practical issue is: what if the Maoists now kill a dozen Hindu leaders they hold responsible for the ant
i-Christian violence of the last two months? They have already issued the warning and named the targets. Since these murders will be committed on behalf of the Church, the Christian-Marxist nexus will be evident to the whole world. Many will ask: Why would anyone love you enough to kill for you?
If the Church does not define the nature of the Maoist-Christian relationship in Orissa then the Hindus will define it for us. They will suspect that the Church is paying the Maoists to kill Hindu leaders.
From their own point of view, why are the Maoists doing this "great" favor to the Church – murdering Hindu leaders on behalf of Christians? My assumption is that they are working on the Marxist assumption that Hinduism is the opiate of Indian masses, as well as Amedkarite belief that Hinduism is the cause of their oppression and poverty. Could it be that having rejected Hinduism for their own reasons, they are looking for a new faith?
I have several reasons to think that all the way from China and Nepal to the southern tip of India Marxists of many shades are interested in exploring if Christianity has anything to do with the relative political-economic success of the West. Given a growing Marxist openness to Christian worldview and spirituality, should the Church reject them as outcasts? If the Church does not embrace them and reform them, the army will crush them – that is, it will crush God’s precious children who are victims of Hindu socio-economic-political system.
(7) Christian leaders have issued simplistic political statements about Reservations for Dalit Christians, but now that the conflict over Reservations has become bloody, they need to engage with the issue and mediate the conflict between Dalit Christians and Tribals. Obviously, reclassifying the Dalits as Scheduled Tribes is only one way to solve the problem. Even if this solution was to be accepted, the nation will need to find answers to the legitimate fears that the Tribals have – the fears that the murdered Swami exploited.
The Church should not start out blaming the Government for denying Scheduled Caste Christians the benefit of Reservations. In my assessment, historically, 50% of the blame for the present poverty of the Dalits lies with Hindus, 40% with the Church (including the British Raj) and only 10% with the Government of India. If the Church had not kept the Dalits out of its educational institutions they would have been governing free India.
Just 10 years ago I asked the Indian Principal of an English Medium Christian High School, "How many dalit children do you have in your school?"
He replied, "One – the son of our gardener."
"Why?" I asked him, "Surely there are at least 50 Dalit families in the city who can pay the tuition? Besides, American sponsors are giving you fees for at least 75 students."
"My predecessor," the Principal explained, "(an evangelical, American missionary) started the tradition of interviewing the parents in order to admit the children. Children's IQ or parents' ability to pay the fee are not sufficient for admissions. Parents have to display a certain, minimum standard of culture" . . . (i.e. the kind of Sari's and jewellery the mother wears or if their child is sent to school on a scooter or a bicycle) Happily this is changing and the new Principal of St. Stephen's College (Delhi) has to be commended for his courage in Reserving a percentage of seats for the lower castes – a step of great symbolic value.
The pioneer of Protestant missions in India, William Carey, began by making children of all castes sit together. Later, the upper caste parents told the missionaries that their children would not sit with the lower caste kids. The Church and the British East India Company stopped admitting lower caste kids. The Church could have said that our educational institutions will practice human equality, if the Brahmins do not want their children to learn this truth, then their children don't need to attend Christian schools.
This is no place to look at the problem in depth, the point here is that the Church has played a major role in creating the present bloody problem and, therefore, the Church needs to engage with the issues seriously – not with cheap political statements demanding reservations or condemning violence.
(8) Dalits want both conversions and Reservations. The Hindus want to concede neither. The Church has to engage the nation with both the issues but keep them separate since the right to conversion is non-negotiable while Reservation is negotiable.
It is not enough that the constitution permits conversions. The Right to choose one's beliefs needs to be enshrined in the court of public opinion; therefore it needs to be debated. Christian leaders should prepare for debates and stop saying "No debate on conversion."
Obviously, many liberal Christians do not like conversions any more than Hindus do. But the Ambedkarites (Dalits, Tribals and a growing number of OBCs) see conversion as the only way to demolish a Brahminical social-system that accounts for India's backwardness. Since, fifty thousand Dalit converts are staying in jungles and refugee camps for their right to choose their beliefs, even the liberals may respect the strong feelings of these poor people, oppressed by the Hindu social system for thousands of years. Why should they be forced to accept a religion that makes some people lower than others?
Many "Liberal" and fearful Christians that denounce conversions are not peace-makers. They are peace-lovers. They want peace for themselves and their institutions. They do not care for peace and justice for the oppressed. A Church controlled by such "Liberals" cannot possibly attract Maoists who are desperate for change. The caring Church must identify with them, not with the insensitive "anti-conversion" sentiment of the secular elite and the Sangh Parivar.
Copyright 2008 Vishal Mangalwadi (www.VishalMangalwadi.com). Reprinted with permission.
P. S. For a fearless assessment of the Hindu-Christian-Maoist conflict in Orissa please see the next article “Hinduism in Double Trouble: Mao & Christ Come Together in Orissa.”