I think it is shortsighted to condemn the Maoists for killing Swami Laxamananda Saraswati. By apologizing for that murder the Church would condemn the murder but own the murders. If peace is our national interest, then bringing Maoists to the Prince of Peace would best serve our national interest, by Dr. Vishal Mangalwadi.
There are remote villages in Orissa where police officers are terrified to go.
A few months ago, Maoists kidnapped a man they suspected to be police informer. To teach others a lesson, they brought him back to his village, hacked him in front of his horrified family, and ate him up as villagers watched.
Yet, evangelists do go into some of these villages and preach the Gospel. This is how it works: Maoists escort the evangelists into the village and summon everyone to hear the Gospel. The evangelists may show a film such as “Jesus”. Half-way through the film the Maoists would stop the film and give a lecture on Maoism. Then they would resume the film and ask the evangelists to give an Alter Call. Following a fellowship meal the evangelists will be escorted back to their base!
Frontline evangelists have reported such incidents to their mission leaders. Christian leaders have not reported them to their supporters because (a) many of them can’t make sense of what they are hearing and (b) they are also embarrassed by the fact that their mission is supported by “terrorists.” What are they to do?
Well, what exactly is happening here?
1. At the simplest level, Maoists and the evangelists may come from the same ethnic group (caste or tribe) or may even be related. It is not unusual for one brother to follow Mao while the other chooses to follow Christ.
2. The Maoist understands Marxism to mean that Hinduism is the opiate of the masses.
3. Maoist accepts the Ambedkarite belief that Hinduism is the root of India’s backwardness. Since everyone cannot follow him into the jungles, the least he wants them to do is to get out of a socio-religious system that has enslaved them.
4. The Maoist also knows that Marxist economic system has failed. Like the Communists in China and Nepal, he suspects that Christianity has something to do with the relative success of the West, even if neither the evangelist nor the film can explain to him what Christ has to do with the West’s incredible progress.
So, how should the Church respond?
(i) It serves no purpose to suppress this reality. Surely our intelligence agencies know why evangelists are able to go into villages where their brave officers cannot go. In any case, the whole world knows that the Maoists killed a Hindu leader to defend Christians. The Church needs to understand the relationship, define it, and educate frontline workers to use their relationships redemptively.
(ii) The evangelists need literature that communicates the “good news to the (highly indoctrinated and motivated) poor.”
(iii) Educated, urban Christians need to reach out to build positive relationships with senior leaders of various Communist parties in India. The Church has not done that because for most of the last century, Communists persecuted Christians wherever they could. Most Christians, therefore, consider Communism to be an enemy. But that is living in the past.
The following anecdotes illustrate our changing reality:
China: Recently, I participated in a secular conference in a Western nation along with several Chinese scholars. The oldest Chinese professor was also a senior leader in the ruling Communist Party in China. On the last full day of this secular conference he asked for and was baptized by his friends. Later he told us that a few months before coming for this conference he had started formal discussions within his party to open up to religion.
India: For decades the Communist parties in India have identified the Congress Party as their Enemy # 1 and the West as their Enemy #2. Four years ago, they voted in favor of making Mrs. Sonia Gandhi – an Italian born, Roman Catholic woman – the Prime Minister of India. Why did they do so?
Obviously, many factors favored that decision, but I heard the most amazing explanation over a phone. Almost a year ago, an Indian software expert called me from Chicago. “You do not know me, Dr. Mangalwadi,” he said, “but I have tracked you down because I have interesting news for you. Several years ago I was working for a software company in Hyderabad and I used to be in and out of the Parliament House in Delhi for work. I bought 70 copies of your book Missionary Conspiracy: Letters to a Postmodern Hindu” and gave them to the Members of Parliament that I met.
“Now I work for a US Company and I was back in the Parliament House on behalf of this Company. I ran into [Mr. xyz] a General Secretary of a Communist Party. He asked me, ‘Are you the gentleman who gave me a copy of the letters to Arun Shourie?’
“When I told him, I was, he said, ‘You know it was because of that book that we decided to support Sonia Gandhi. That booked told us what good Christianity has done for India and we thought may be, she too will be good for our country.’”
Orissa: All careful observers are aware that various Communist parties and forums are visiting Orissa and issuing statements in favor of persecuted Christians. Is it just because the elections are around and they are fishing in troubled waters? Some of them may be doing nothing more than that. But it is also possible that like their counterparts in China, Indian Communists are also looking for their soul – a religious worldview that will save their souls and emancipate India from her shackles.
This is one reason why I think it is shortsighted to condemn the Maoists for killing Swami Laxamananda Saraswati. By apologizing for that murder the Church would condemn the murder but own the murders. If peace is our national interest, then bringing Maoists to the Prince of Peace would best serve our national interest.
Copyright 2008 Dr. Vishal Mangalwadi (www.vishalmangalwadi.com). All Rights Reserved.