The Chinese communist take over and ethnic cleansing of 2 million Tibetans who were replaced by Chinese settlers, has caused many Tibetans to flee for neighbouring India and Nepal where they were given refuge. The Dalai Lama, their spiritual head, as well as many Tibetan monks, are now living in exile in India.
However, it is not only communism that is working to end Tibetan Buddhism in their native homeland, as Christian missionaries are also active amongst the Tibetans who stayed behind. Both anti-Buddhist groups make use of each other. Christians repeat the communist propaganda of how "the monks oppressed and exploited the Tibetan populace", "the Tibetans have been liberated by China (communism)" and "Tibetan Buddhism is ruthless". On the other hand, the communists welcome Christian missionaries as they know that prolonged missionary activity would weaken Tibetan Buddhism in the land and the people's allegiance to their spiritual head.
Of course Christians do not condone communism and China's takeover (officially), though they are ever so grateful for the God-provided opportunity to proselytise that it has given them. With the Dalai Lama's influence restricted to another country, and Chinese infiltrators pretending to be monks and behaving disreputably, it makes their job of convincing vulnerable Tibetans of the evils of Buddhism that much easier.
Together, communism and Christianity in Tibet have managed to achieve more religious and cultural destruction than anyone could have ever thought possible a century ago. The following article summarises the situation there.
Evangelist missionaries target poor rural youth - World Tibet Network News, 27 August 2003:
Reports from Tibet suggest that Evangelist missionaries have increased and diversified their long-term activities in Lhasa and other parts of Tibet because of the closer interaction between Tibetans and foreigners operating in Tibet. Seemingly undeterred by the authorities, European, US and increasingly Asian missionary organisations are involved in official and semi-official educational institutes, in business activities and increasingly in the recruitment of young, bright people for training and employment purposes. The two main centres of missionary activities appear to be Lhasa and Xining, the capital of Qinghai province at the outer north-east fringe of Tibet. Young people arriving from poor rural backgrounds seem to be specifically targeted by missionary activities. In the absence of secular youth schemes, they receive much sought after assistance in their schooling from the missionary agencies. Typically, recruitment happens first as a personal connection, growing into a proposal to become a Tibetan teacher or a translator, sometimes with the prospect of studies abroad. As they start to work closer with missionary agencies and their staff, however, the recruits are gradually encouraged to embrace Christianity and abandon their Buddhist beliefs. Although many Tibetans acknowledge the positive impact of foreign charitable projects, the current situation has raised suspicions of such projects in general, regardless of whether they intend to evangelise or not. It has also raised concern among Westerners operating in Tibet who find their work itself disturbed by Evangelist activities and themselves falling under suspicion.As is apparent from this article, it is not only Chinese officials who have been "meddling in Tibetan Buddhist religious affairs."
A young orphan from Lhasa told TIN how he was identified by Korean missionaries who made visits to his school and developed a personal relationship with him. They supported his attendance at IT courses, but what first seemed to be selfless generosity soon turned out to be a plan to employ him as a translator and editor of Christian texts into the Tibetan language. They soon took him to villages around Lhasa as a translator and encouraged him to explain to the villagers about the word of Christ. The boy describes how he gradually realised that their aim was to convert young Tibetans like him to Christianity and employ them in their missionary work."It was extremely embarrassing particularly to be put in the position where I was supposed to explain about this foreign belief to elderly Tibetan villagers who have much faith in Buddhism and who derive much strength out of their devotion. As it became clear to me that they wanted to convert me, I became really sad and angry. I was particularly worried to see how many young Tibetans start going to their Sunday services and picnics."The young man was also encouraged to help distribute books with parts of the Bible translated into Tibetan."Monks would tear up such books, and our teacher had earlier warned me against the missionaries who had been visiting our school."Personally, the boy never felt that his own religious convictions would be weakened by the influences of missionary activities, but he expressed the fear that many young, poorly educated people from rural areas are vulnerable in the light of activities that first indicate practical help but that are eventually aimed at conversion.
Missionary activities in Tibet seem to remain at a relatively rudimentary stage, and organisations active in evangelical missions themselves admit that they have to tread 'carefully', though the future aims are often clear. In a report dated 20 July 2001, the US based 'Mission Network News' quotes Dave Bast from 'Words of Hope' (WOH):"Bast says they have big plans for these new believers (...) The goal is to raise up a future generation of leaders for the churches that we hope will be planted among the Tibetan people."WOH, a member of the 'Gospel Communications Network', in partnership with 'Far East Broadcasting Asia' produces the daily Tibetan radio programs called Gaweylon and which are broadcast in Tibetan areas in China as well as areas with concentrations of Tibetan refugees in India. WOH reports in May 2003 that their radio broadcasts are "particularly welcomed in the remote, un-reached areas of this region" and that "listener response has been unusually strong with over 22,000 responding last year". [hopefully the usual Christian over-estimation]
Traditionally, missionaries have been distributing written and recorded materials, particularly in important centres such as Lhasa, including the large monasteries. Recently though, involvement in the establishment and funding of schools is reported both from the TAR as well as from Amdo (Qinghai and northern Tibetan areas of Sichuan). While many Tibetans perceive foreign Christian missionaries and the Chinese Authorities as having the common aim of reducing the influence of Buddhism on local people and society, and tacitly supporting each other in this endeavour, the missionary organisations themselves show a degree of uneasiness in their relationship with the government. However, they do openly mention that the influence of the Chinese Communist State over the years has in fact opened the way for future conversions. The website of 'Mission Network' carries a quote by Lee DeYoung from WOH saying that "We do see that the traditions of Tibetan Buddhism show signs of serious erosion. Ethnic Chinese, for example, now outnumber Tibetans four to one. Tibetans encounter increasing difficulty finding jobs. Chinese officials have been meddling in Tibetan Buddhist religious affairs".
The Churches are naturally uneasy about their relationship with a non-Christian, communist government. But, they're nevertheless thankful for the opening that communism has created, and for the communist "meddling in Tibetan Buddhist affairs" and the "signs of Tibetan Buddhism's serious erosion". A weakened Buddhism makes it possible for Christianity to take over. Otherwise, Christians would have had to resort to the usual genocide, temple destruction and monk-defamation. Now that communism has already taken care of all these things, the Christians merely need to concentrate on trying to brainwash the Tibetan youth.
The following is taken from
New Evangelical Movements and Conflicts in South Asia - Sri Lanka and Nepal in Perspective, by Sasanka Perera. There is some instructive information in this article, some of it between the lines. Although the article shows that evangelisation in Nepal has had detrimental effects and has the potential to cause strife in the region, it criticizes the country's constitutional safeguard of only Hinduism. In doing so, it is unaware that although the same is the case in Buddhist countries whose constitutions promise safeguard only to Buddhism, both Buddhist and Hindu countries tend to ensure the protection and rights of their respective indigenous minority Buddhist or Hindu populations. The problems all these countries have in common are the intrusive behaviours of Christian missionaries and the fanatical converts they make.
The article's author appears unaware that it is not merely South Asia that is being treated thus (all indigenous pre-Christian people the world over are subjected to the same, as they have in the past), and therefore does not analyse Christianity itself.
Large numbers of missionary organisations operating in tiny Nepal
An incomplete list of these church and para-church groups would include the following, some of which are organized under umbrella organizations such the United Mission to Nepal and the Nepal Christian Fellowship:Link
1.United Mission to Nepal [UMN]
2.Nepal Christian Fellowship.
3.International Nepal Fellowship
4.Nava Jeevan Church
5.The Children of God
6.The Four Square Church
7.Assemblies of God
8.Baptist Missionary Society, UK
9.Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
10.Church Missionary Society
11.Church of North India
12.Church of Scotland
13.Church of South India
14.Lutheran World Service.
16.Committee for Service Overseas
17.Danish Santal Mission
18.Evangelical Free Church of Finland
19.Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
20.Finish Evangelical Luthran Mission
23.Japan Antioch Mission
24.Japan Overseas Christian Medical Cooperative Service
25.Korea Christian Medico-Evangelical Association
26.Campus Crusade for Christ
27.Mennonite Board of Missions
28.Mennonite Central Committee
29.Norwegian Himal-Asia Mission
31.Presbyterian Church in Canada
32.Presbyterian Church in Ireland
33.Presbyterian Church in Korea
34.Presbyterian Church Synod of Mizoram, India.
35.Presbyterian Church USA
36.Regions Beyond Missionary Union
37.Swedish Free Mission
38.Swiss Friends for Missions in India and Nepal
40.United Church of Canada
41.United Church of Christ in Japan
42.United Methodist Church (USA)
44.World Concern, USA
45.World Mission Prayer League
46.Nepal Every Home Concern
47.Adventist Development and Relief Agency
49.The Evangelical Alliance Mission
50.The Mormon Church
51.Nepal Bible Society
52.Good News of Nepal
53.Bible Training Centre for Pastors
54.Morning Pastors Fellowship
As can be seen, most are American Churches or international Christian organisations throughout the world. Nevertheless, Church organisations from non-Christian countries like Japan, India and Korea are sending their unwanted missionaries over to wreck Nepal as well.
"Joshua Project 2000," a website in the Internet featuring what its creators have called "Unreached People Profiles." It attempts to profile peoples on the basis of ethnic, tribal and religious groups identities in countries such as India, Nepal and Sri Lanka, who are in need of being converted to some version of evangelical Christianity. This particular website is an information source for those interested in identifying target groups for evangelical activity. It offers information such a population figures, availability of Bibles and films of Jesus in the area, rates of success in church planting etc. "Joshua Project 2000" is represented both in Sri Lanka and Nepal.Link
Although the page suggests that such visibility in these operations of Evangelical organisations might lead to conflict, the alternative (increased invisibility) would still be accompanied by destruction of indigenous cultures.
Looking for conflict: missionaries and converts organise crashing non-Christian religious festivals
The following illustrates how similar methods are used in both Nepal and Sri Lanka:
...a couple of years ago during a well-attended festival in the Pasupathinath Temple in Kathmandu when a group of rather zealous evangelists, including foreigners, wearing crosses descended upon the crowds armed with the word of God and began to distribute Bible tracts and other literature. The temple of course is a much revered religious site of the city's Hindus. While the incident involved a clear case of violating sacred space in a rather aggressive manner, no immediate violent incidents took place, even though it touched a raw nerve in many individuals. Thus the incident remains part of the memory of many individuals I talked to irrespective of their religious background. Thus it was related to me by Hindus as well as Catholics and Buddhists.Link
...Structurally, the incident which nearly took place in Mihintale in Sri Lanka is similar to what is described above. The difference is that what was planned, did not eventually take place due to reasons beyond the control of the group which planned it. Mihintale is a town which is sacred to the country's Buddhists who believe that the first Buddhist missionaries preached the message of the Buddha to the local king in the vicinity of the town in ca. 250 BC. Due to the religious and historical significance of this site, it occupies an important place in the mytho-historical memory and consciousness of Buddhists. Annual celebrations are organized in grand scale to mark the event in the town.At a government sponsored exhibition in Mihintale to mark the introduction of Buddhism to Sri Lanka, a group calling itself the Evangelical Library had planned to distribute Bibles and Bible tracts to those who came to the exhibition (Perera 1995: 21-22). Earlier, in 1993, the Evangelical Library had written to Christian leaders in the country, including those in the main-stream churches complaining that they were not adequately helping them to "reach the 4000 Buddhist monks in the vicinity" who were seen as ripe for conversion. The Evangelical Library was not merely interested in converting Buddhists, but in converting Buddhist monks, which is a much more sensitive issue, where potential for conflict and violence would be enormous. The appeals by the established church leaders to abandon the project were not heeded, and the planned activity ultimately did not materialize only because the exhibition was cancelled by the government (Perera 1995: 21-22).
If any conflict had taken place in either of these countries, one can be sure that the international media would focus on presenting it from the Christian angle: "the poor Christians denied their human right in trying to spread the word of God among the people, when the intolerant Hindus/Buddhists in Nepal/Sri Lanka struck back".
The attempt to convert Buddhist monks is an aspect of the top-down, least-effort approach that Christian missionaries also favoured in Asia's history.
Cursing a tree sacred to the Nepalese, in imitation of Jesus
A Nepali pastor identifying himself as Bharat Bhattrai, writing to the Nepali evangelical newsletter The Good News of Nepal made the following observations:Buddhists obviously haven't read the Bible - Jesus had already set a precedent by having cursed a fig tree and made it wither (Matthew 21:18-19). Why did Jesus want to destroy that tree? For the same reason as that which inspired his devout followers in this case."Three years ago when I came to pioneer a church in Banasthali, which is an area of Kathmandu, I came across a tree which was being worshipped by the local people. This challenged me to proclaim that Jesus is lord of all the earth. Every time I walked by that tree, I would say, "Jesus is Lord" and I would then pray in tongues. In four months time about 15 people were converted to Christ. Together, we began cursing the tree in Jesus’ name. Gradually, we noticed that the tree was beginning to die and the people stopped worshipping it. Now that the tree is completely withered, people are saying that the Christians did it. No; Christians did not do it but Jesus did it in response to our prayers" (Good News of Nepal, ND: 7). When this particular story was shown to a Nepali Buddhist, his response was "why would Jesus want to destroy a tree?"
the fact that it was reported in an evangelical newsletter under the name of a pastor with a photograph of a withered tree clearly suggest that it is considered an important item to be talked about.Link
... the fact that there seems to be a tacit approval of such actions as 'heroic' (as indicative of the language used in the Nepali example above, and the very fact that it was written about in the first place) also encourage individuals and organizations to engage in such activity. These activities become a measurement of faith and commitment to the evangelical cause. Thus for example, when an American evangelical worker active in Nepal was asked about the incident involving the tree reported above, he observed:"It was a situation of a man leading by example. Particularly because he is Nepali, he can do it with authority."For him and many others like him, there were no problems related to this incident. It was merely a proclamation of faith.
Large-scale operations to convert the Nepalese
Medical Services and Health Care as Strategies of Evangelical Activity in NepalLink
...the provision of health care and medical services is not merely a lofty ideal of social service. As I have stressed earlier, it is an avenue of evangelical activity as well. Let me make this point by referring to a conversation I had with a European development worker with extensive field experience in Nepal:"In Dadeldhura in the far west of Nepal there is a hospital run by the TEAM (The Evangelical Alliance Mission). It is an area where people in some villages have to walk for a couple of days to reach any kind of health services. The guys at the TEAM hospital I think are very strong on evangelical activity. It is the primary reason why they are there. They not only treat people in the hospital but venture into the remote areas with medicines regularly. That helps a lot of people. You pop some antibiotics in the mouth of a villager and he gets well. And they would say that it was God who did the healing --- Just imagine, what that kind of gesture does to people who have for all practical purposes seem to have been forgotten by everyone else, including their own government? They continue to get some access to health and medical services, and the process of conversion goes a long way in establishing this link of help."
Distribution of Literature and the Provision of Education as Strategies of Evangelical Activity in NepalLink
The power and potential of literature or the written language have not been overlooked by evangelists despite the fact that Nepal’s adult literacy rate is as low as 27.0% (RCSS 1998: 8). I would suggest that this emphasis is more a long term strategy looking into the future, rather than a short term strategy geared for present needs.
One foreign evangelist involved in the production and distribution of such literature in Nepal observed:"Much of these are currently meant for people in the cities and others who can read. But to own a Bible or religious literature one does not have to read. For many of them, having these in itself is a source of strength. When their children grow up, they will be familiar with this material. And that generation probably will be able to read them too. It is that generation that we hope would become Christians."Education is yet another important arena of evangelical activity. As a matter of fact, elite education in the modern sense in Nepal began with the opening of St. Xavier’s School for boys in Kathmandu in the early 1950s by Jesuits. Today, they have such schools in Pokhara, Gorkha and Damak. While the Catholics still have an edge over elite education in Nepal, evangelical groups have also entered the realm of education.
The first Christian school in Nepal after it opened up to Christianity in the 20th century is named St. Xavier's: after the infamous missionary to Asia, St Francis Xavier, which is as appropriate as naming missionary schools for Native Americans after Columbus.
Hate speech against indigenous religions in missionary schools:
Christian missionaries are insensitive to the hurt caused by their ‘hate’ speech and to the misgivings caused by their close links with foreign missionary bodies. In Nepal, where it is a crime to convert minors, a Christian couple was arrested on April 27, 2005 for precisely this offence. Babu and Sabitri Varghese were running a school and orphanage in Birganj city with support from an American missionary charity, Equip Nepal.Link
Rural and Industrial Development as Strategies of Evangelical Activity in NepalLink
As one Hindu based in Kathmandu observed:"Lets face it. Rural development is no different from offering medical services or education. They are all devices for the Christians to propagate their faith. If they cannot do that, there will be no rural development projects, or schools or anything else."One of the better documented cases of failure is UMN’s community development program in the village of Toplang in Dhading, which was launched in 1990 through its affiliated organization, the Natural Resources Management Project (NRMP). The project’s aims were to inculcate a sense of general awareness about community development in the first year, and to initiate community forest management programs in the next two years. To implement the program the NRMP selected a villager who was a community leader who was to work as a development worker (Mainali 1997: 33).
...A more important reason [for the project's failure] which is directly relevant to this analysis has been offered by the man who directed NRMP initiatives in Toplang. According to him, the villagers lost confidence in the community leader selected by the NRMP when he decided to become a Christian (Mainali 1997: 34). According to some reports, local villagers who were mostly Buddhists and Hindus had also complained to local authorities regarding the conversion of this key individual (Mainali 1997: 34).
Social Services as Social Services or Part of Evangelical Agenda?Link"While some missionary agencies may be ambivalent about whether they want to ‘do development’ or use it merely as a means to proselytize, most are committed to the latter ---the proselytizing compulsion seems to take the higher priority for almost every organization" (Shah 1993: 39)Commenting further on the correlation between the social service and development agenda of evangelical groups on one hand, and their religious or proselytizing agenda on the other, Shah further argues that:"With emphasis on saving the soul rather than the body, development work and social service are only the means to an end, a means to win heathen souls for Christ now, or if that is not feasible immediately, to prepare the ground for future conversions" (Shah 1993: 40).On the other hand, this correlation is something that a number of evangelical workers did acknowledge in private, even though almost never in any public forums. Nevertheless, certain actions and expressed opinions on the part of some of these organizations also make it clear that the materialist and religious agendas are closely linked. For instance, take the Friends of Tansen, the newsletter published by the UMN hospital in Tansen. While giving news about staff training, available facilities and other medical and hospital news, the newsletter also presents some ideas which have a clear religious bias or agenda. For one thing, the motto on the title page of the newsletter reads: "We Serve; Jesus Heals" (Friends of Tansen, # 4, 1997). Similarly, the news of the death of a UMN worker and a brief sketch on another female UMN worker at Tansen are clearly presented within a Christian religious idiom. Thus the dead man is remembered as a person who was willing to work for people, "a willingness that sprang from his compassion for others and love for Jesus Christ" (Friends of Tansen, # 4, 1997: 6). In the same vein, the woman identified as Sister Manumit is quoted as saying that her ability to work with patients was a gift, and a "special blessing from God" (Friends of Tansen, # 4, 1997: 6). Such insertions of course go a long way in establishing the religious emphasis of the organization, particularly in a context where the views of other religionists who also work for the organization or benefit from its work are absent in these texts.
On the other hand, since the initial days of missionary intrusion into Nepal, the nature and goals of social service have pre-occupied many evangelists who have come to the country since the 1950s. This has particularly been the case due to the fact that when the Nepali governments since the 1950s allowed various missions to operate in the country, it was primarily to gain their money and expertise in 'developing' the country. In that context, the General Agreements signed between the post 1950s governments and the missions, expressly prohibited proselytizing, and made it clear that missions should only work towards achieving the goals of various development projects for which they had been granted permission. It is in this context of contradictory expectations of the missions/churches and the Nepali state that Lindell makes the following observations in his book Nepal and the Gospel of God:"The term in the Agreement which restricts converting and the term allowing many forms of service both have sent the Mission into deep study of the New Testament to understand better just what the Lord assigns it to do in the place where it is" (Lindell 1997: 255).
In other words, a deep reflection on how to circumvent the host country's constitution and laws, and spread the Gospel anyway.
Acculturation and inculturation: suppressing or stealing ways of life
The indigenous Nepalese ways of life and their cultures are deeply tied into their Buddhist and Hindu religions. Although inculturation as fervently practised today by the Catholic Church, which perverts the actual culture of a people, is distasteful, it is equally distasteful to see the native religious culture of people destroyed through acculturation:
Kali Bahadur Rokaya, a Nepali Christian leader offers the following thoughts:Link"And I have listened to the outside critiques of the church. Mainly they have said: 1. Christians are bought with money, 2. It is a western culture and religion, 3. The church has no concern for our society or our country, and 4. Christians are foreigners in our own country. Now, I find myself siding with the critics" (Stanley 1994: 16)."At the same time I became conscious of the fact that I actually was given very little freedom. The church provides the guidelines in almost every field of life. At the same time I wouldn’t even think of buying a newspaper or to watch TV. Everything had to be Christian, from the pictures on the wall to the books on the shelves. I realized I was sitting in a prison, ---" (Rokaya 1996: 30)....
Thus, worshiping parents during Sinhala New Year or taking part in local festivals in Nepal by converts may be seen by evangelists as diluting the true tradition. ...In the Christian tradition, particularly as interpreted by evangelists, only God can be worshiped. Any other kind of worship can easily be seen as heresy or a return to heathen ways of life.
...in Sri Lanka, particularly in the 1960s and 1970s, the Catholic Church consciously embarked upon a process of indeginization after Vatican II, which in the long run played an important role in establishing the church as traditional Sri Lankan religion. This was particularly so in areas with predominantly Sinhala or Tamil speaking congregations. But it would appear now, that even with regard to the Catholic Church, the long term influence of Vatican II as once perceived, no longer seem applicable as reflected in the conservative attitudes of sections of its hierarchy and influential sections of the laity with regards to issues such as indeginization. For them, indeginization is akin to a process of undermining the ‘true’ tradition.
There is no such thing as "indigenisation" of any form of Christianity, Catholic or otherwise. Whether it be attempted in Asia, Africa, among the indigenous peoples of the Americas or in the Pacific region. Either a religion (and the culture and traditions it birthed) are indigenous, or they are not. Stealing indigenous culture in order to give a local flavour to Christianity is merely that: stealing. There is no point for Churches to pretend that the religion they want to enforce is not alien to the people they want to impose it on. It is merely on account of indigenous people revolting against the wholly alien nature of Christianity, that has made the Catholic Church of today attempt to cloak local practises in what it imagines as "culture extricated from the pre-Christian religions". There is no such thing, as indigenous cultures have evolved from local religious traditions and cannot be appropriated. The rich heritages of various pre-Christian peoples the world over are not for sale nor for stealing.
Conclusion: The Activities of Christian Evangelical Groups, and the Possibility of Conflict and Violence in South Asia?Link
Comparing Islamic radicalism and global Christian fundamentalism (or evangelism), Brouwer et. al observe that"the new Christian fundamentalism, a form that rivals Islamic radicalism in its global scope and is very likely more potent in its cultural influence" (Brouwer et. al 1996: 2).For them, the reason for that overarching cultural influence is due to the fact that "Christianity is a core element of 'Western civilization'" (Brouwer et. al 1996: 2). In general, what is meant by 'western civilization' here is the socio-political and economic clout of North America and Western Europe. Further explaining their position, Brouwer et. al note that"Christianity has been, historically, the modernizing and Westernizing religion that has spread over the globe in concert with the mercantile and industrial expansion of capitalism and the establishment of colonial empires" (Brouwer et. al 1996: 2).They further note that:"Today Christian countries (with Japan being the single exception) overwhelmingly control the world's productive resources, and manufacturing, banking, and commercial institutions, as well as the dissemination of culture generated by scientific, academic, and commercial sources" (Bouwer et. al 1996: 2).It seems to me that this socio-economic hegemony of the countries or regions from where many evangelical groups originate, play a significant role in the organization and expansion of such groups in the countries of the Third World (eg., Nepal and Sri Lanka) where they choose to operate.
(The original European, Western civilisations of Greece and Rome were specifically not Christian. And neither was the science education they gave birth to.)
...the following ideas of Samuel presented in a paper at a recently held conference in Bangalore would help us formulate what may be some of the parameters of conflict formation. He identified the need to engage in evangelism as one of five key challenges what he calls the Asian Church must meet in the 21st century:Link"There are many people who have not had the opportunity to hear and understand the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This must continue to be a significant activity of the church in mission. It is the church’s great resource and must be shared in Asia with sensitivity but unapologetically" (Samuel 1998: 8).As these ideas clearly articulate, evangelical activities -- including conversions and church planting -- would be a significant preoccupation of evangelical groups active in the region. As a Sri Lankan pastor observed in an interview in February 1998:"We hope to significantly increase the Christian population in this country by the middle of the 21st century. As men of God and as members of mission, that is our duty. We cannot allow people to live as sinners, when they can be saved by the word of God"...
Talking about religious cooperation as a challenge to Asian Christianity in the 21st century, Samuel has suggested that:"The Church must continue to develop a practical approach for religious cooperation while enabling each religion to retain its integrity regarding its own sense of uniqueness and commitment to its mission. Any religious pluralist ideology will be seen as shallow and unworkable in practice ---" (Samuel 1998: 8)While talking about the need for religious cooperation, Samuel also suggests that any religious pluralist ideology would be seen as shallow. The problem here is that the idea of pluralism is being used with different meanings, and with different degrees of emotional attachment by evangelical writers and social scientists. It seems to me that what is being questioned above, is the entertainment of religious pluralism within a single tradition, such as Christianity. In other words, these writers are challenging the possibility of having more than one truth claim within a single tradition, which could pose serious challenges to the integrity, and thus the continuity of that tradition. It is also in this same spirit that Weng has argued that "pluralism offers a religious faith that is too dilute to meet religious needs" (Weng 1998: 1). He further argues that pluralism defined in this manner also leads to the possible abandonment of "central beliefs that historically define Christian identity" (Weng 1998: 1).
...It would seem reasonable to argue that divergence from the truth claims which make Christianity what it is, would lead to a situation in which Christianity would no longer seem to be Christianity.
World Council of Churches against converting Christians to other Christian denominations
The WCC opposes a certain form of proselytising: that of Christians converting other Christians to their denominations, which cause strife within Christianity.
It is noteworthy that this objection only holds in non-Christian countries, because it is otherwise quite a common spectacle in the US, where Baptists target Catholics and Mormons, who in turn target everyone. Likewise, the Pope has expressed consternation over Catholics in South America being converted by fundies from the US. On the other hand, members of the Eastern Orthodox Churches are hounded by the Catholics, and now by the Mormons too. And all traditional Christian forms in Europe (Anglican, Lutheran, Catholic, Orthodox, Presbyterian, etc) are seen as a grazing ground by America's born-again fundies. There's little to be wondered at that it's open season on non-Christians.
the World Council of Churches made the following observation in 1997:Link"We decry the practices of those who carry out their endeavours in mission and evangelism in ways which destroy the unity of the body of Christ, human dignity and the very lives and cultures of those being ‘evangelized’; we call on them to confess their participation in and to renounce proselytism" (WCC 1997: 11).But closer examination of the document Towards Common Witness (1997) brings out something different. The concern of the WCC has to do with the competitiveness among various Christian denominations such as what is going on today between evangelical groups and more established Christian denominations in Sri Lanka, or competitiveness among evangelical groups themselves. The WCC defines proselytizing in the following words:"--- the encouragement of Christians who belong to a church to change their denominational allegiance , through ways and means that ‘contradict the spirit of love, violate the freedom of the human person and diminish trust in the Christian witness of the church" (WCC 1997: 7).Thus, even the WCC is concerned with the appearance of inter-denominational rivalries and conflicts that may emerge from that, rather than from situations of proselytizing among non-Christian groups as is the case in Sri Lanka and Nepal.
...In the context of the preceding discussion, one would have to conclude that given the premises and general principles upon which contemporary evangelism in South Asia is based, the possibility of conflict is quite real. In fact we have already seen the emergence of such conflict in specific local contexts. For such conflicts to evolve into violence it may take more time. But then, such processes are never predictable unilineal processes. They often happen as a result of a single incident. What is dangerous is that the hierarchical organization of evangelical groups, the power emanating from their resources and networks, their interest in church expansion and proselytizing, and the close correlation between service and religion has assured that evangelism has now become a contentious political issue in both Nepal and Sri Lanka. If this scenario is typical of South Asia in general, and if avenues are not explored to difuse the tensions and find alternate means of experiencing religious freedom, then the alternatives would be the addition of yet another conflict dynamic into the realm of inter-religious and inter-group dynamics in the region.
Nepal's current political climate
Nepal, a kingdom, is today being threatened by Maoists and other communist groups. The Maoists favour Chairman Mao's methods - violent revolution - to take over Nepal. Since all the country's communist groups are anti-Hindu and anti-Buddhist, they see it as most expedient to allow large-scale missionary entry and activity into this nation was which formerly closed off to missions. There are a few thousands of Maoists active in Nepal, supported by the Maoist terrorists from the neighbouring country of India as well as by India's current communist-backed government which is headed by a Catholic. China's communists, as well as communist groups in Burma are also providing support.
The recent media reports showing Nepal's army trying to diffuse the demonstrations of Maoists protesting for "democracy" (the communist kind) are often one-sided and don't generally show the complete situation. Most neglect to focus on the atrocities of the Maoist rebels, who have been murdering large numbers of Nepalese people. Their militant actitivities had been taking place for several years prior to the present clashes with the Nepal army, although the Maoist attacks were largely ignored in the main news.
For what awaits Nepal if the Maoists and other communists finally get into power, see
Nepal stares into the abyss - Sydney Morning Herald, August 31, 2004
A Maoist victory could result in genocide, writes Gwynne DyerThe current monarch of Nepal is not as popular as the previous one.
...the Maoist rebels in Nepal may be only a year or two away from victory.
"Comrade Prachandra", the 42-year-old former horticulture teacher who is the Nepali Maoists' leader, never gives interviews, but the deputy leader, Baburam Bhattarai - whose PhD thesis was a Marxist analysis of Nepal's problems - was chilling when asked whether his movement's policies would be similar to those of the Khmer Rouge:"There is no independent and authentic account of events in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge available so far. Whatever is emanating from the Western media appears to be highly exaggerated."In other words, they are the same. If the Maoists win, an early Indian intervention might spare the Nepalese population the worst horrors of a Khmer Rouge-style genocide, but only at the cost to India of a long and thankless guerilla war in Nepal. Nepal is heading straight for hell, and nobody in the country seems remotely capable of stopping it.
And it appears that A Jehovah's Witness is a key advisor to the King of Nepal.
Christian groups have a great interest in the the current crises faced by Nepal. The well-funded missionary NGOs from the US and elsewhere are supportive of the only organised opposition to Nepal's anti-missionary government. The communists have already shown that they are willing to let missionaries carry out their activities in Nepal, as these are bound to dilute the Hindu and Buddhist support to the monarchy and constitution. Many NGOs have great pull in the media and within "human" rights organisations - which generally turn a blind eye to human rights violations against non-Christian indigenous religions. The selective reporting on Nepal's current situation by most major international media outlets focus solely on Maoist protests for "democracy" (whilst not stating that the Maoists in the country number only a few thousands and are not representative). That, combined with Nepalese Christian papers which show an anti-monarchy, pro-Maoist bias, indicate clearly where international and local Christian support lies.
Most recently (mid 2006), this country which had been the only nation constitutionally Hindu, was taken over by the Maoist communists and declared to be a "secular democracy". Yet, it is seems the leader of the Maoist terrorists, Prachanda, is possibly a Christian himself.
See Ascent of the anti Hindus - People's Review (Nepalese paper), July 26, 2006
It also states:
Nepal's new constitution will offer freedom of religion (sic), a euphemism for the freedom to convert Nepalis to Christianity.This will then inevitably destroy the indigenous religious, cultural fabric of this mountain nation.