Date: Tuesday 11 November 2003
Subj: India: Togadi says Christianity is a virus.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal
Australia's SBS channel recently ran a 'Dateline' program on the issues of conversions and anti-conversion laws in India. Dr. Previn Togadi, the head of the VHP and author of the new anti-conversion laws, was interviewed, and his comments reveal the true intention of the VHP. He describes Christian witness as "religious terrorism", Christianity as "a virus" and conversion as "cultural AIDS".
Here are a few excerpts. The reporter is Edwina Throsby reporting from Gujarat.
Throsby reports: "Gomet (a new Christian) is one of a growing number of Dalits who are choosing to abandon Hinduism, the religion of their ancestors, in favour of something new. By escaping Hinduism, converts hope to escape oppression. So many thousands of Dalits are changing their religion that it's being described as a 'conversion movement'.
"But in a country - and a global climate - where religion and politics are increasingly hard to separate, the act of conversion has become politically charged. The state of Gujarat is ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, a fundamentalist Hindu party that is violently opposed to missionary activity. Dr Previn Togadia is the international general secretary of the BJP's culture arm, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, or VHP."
DR. PREVIN TOGADIA, HEAD OF VHP: "We are dead against conversion of any type. If I change my religion, that is a different thing. But if you target me, they (Christians) are targeting! They are harassing! They are planning and preparing! It is nothing but religious terrorism.
"They enhance monoculture by destroying our belief system. They did it in Europe, in the first millennium, second millennium they destroyed the belief system of Africa. Third millennium, the Pope himself came and declared that I will convert Asia and India. It means they want to destroy pluralistic belief system of India."
Throsby continues, "The VHP has devised the boldest strike so far in the battle for the souls of the Dalits. It's behind a bill that attempts to stamp out religious conversion. Passed in March this year, the paradoxically named Religious Freedom Act restricts the activities of missionaries and requires would-be converts to obtain permission from a magistrate.
"A challenge from a Christian group has delayed the bill's enactment, but it's expected to become law within months. Similar bills are in various stages of passage in four other states. The VHP claims the Act will protect the free will of the under-classes, arguing that their ignorance and poverty are exploited by missionaries. Dr Togadia is the principal author of the controversial act."
REPORTER: "Isn't the act of conversion an exercise of free will?"
DR. PREVIN TOGADI: "No, if you are targeting me, where is there free will? Why aren't they converting Dr Togadia, medical surgeon? Why are they converting poor, downtrodden, illiterate? The bill is targeted against individual organisations who want to convert by force, fraud, or allurement, who don't believe in the validity of all religion, who want to destroy pluralistic tradition, and want to impose monoculture with force, fraud and allurement."
When it is pointed out to Dr. Togadi that only 0.5% the population of Gujarat is Christians, hardly a political or social threat, Togadi responds:
DR. PREVIN TOGADI: "It's not a question of the number of Christians. It's the concept. It is not a number it is a virus. A single AIDS virus is sufficient to kill a human being. So conversion is cultural AIDS, which will destroy pluralism."
This language is the same as that of Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who recently said, "Ideology for a state is what the immune system is for a living organism. If the immune system grows weaker, any infection, even the slightest one, turns deadly."
Once again, Christianity is being described with toxic and paranoid language as a deadly disease that must not be allowed to spread and sicken or destroy the nation. This interview reveals that the goal of the VHP is indeed to prevent every single conversion. This is a serious assault upon religious freedom. (Full transcript - Link 1)
- Elizabeth Kendal
1) Gujarat - A Question of Faith
DATELINE SBS, 5 November 2003