I would like to congratulate the young man who traveled to India on a mission to evangelize and on his passion for his faith. I wish him all the best wherever his faith takes him.
After reading the article in the Daily American on Aug. 14, I realized how misguided some people in America are on the topic of Christianity in India. Many of the items that ran in the article remain blatantly wrong and prove offensive to the entire Indian community that resides in Somerset.
Secondly, India is not a police state. Christians have lived in India for thousands of years in harmony with other religions. Bibles are written in a variety of languages including English. Police are only doing their job by watching out for suspicious activities. Security remains tightened after the last attack in Mumbai three years ago. This need for increased scrutiny of foreign travelers mirrors that of the United States in a post-Sept. 11 world. I have never experienced harassment, nor, to my knowledge, have any members of my family because of our Christian beliefs... as a matter of fact, my children who are American citizens have been doing volunteer work with handicapped children in South India alongside “white” British and European volunteers over their summer vacations and they have never had a negative experience. The locals who work in these places are mostly Hindus. The only time Christians have trouble with Hindu extremists is when missionaries from the United States go there to convert without properly respecting the beauty in diversity. People in India are really peace loving.
Thirdly, as far as speaking the “native” tongue - India has 14 official languages and more than 1600 dialects. Although English is the medium of communication, you cannot expect villagers to speak it perfectly. Most of them are too shy to speak to strangers so they prefer to converse in their own language.
Furthermore, because of the overcrowding in major cities, some slums arise, but the villages in India are always very clean. The villagers, however poor, take pride in keeping their homes neat and decorated with art. So to say that the villages were strewn with garbage - is not a true statement.
As a proud South Indian Syrian Christian I can tell you that growing up in Madras in Tamil Nadu we lived peacefully among Hindus and Muslims. More than 90 percent of the students in my Catholic School were people from other faiths. The Mother Superior (who was Irish) always told us that there was only one God and people worshiped him in many ways, therefore we needed to learn to respect all religions. We sang together in the choir, worshipped together in the chapel, and caroled together during Christmas. The Christians in turn went to Hindu temples and mosques with friends. Everyone celebrated the major Hindu festival of Lights known as Diwali, the Muslim holidays of Ramadan and Bakr Id, and Christmas and Easter. I remember my grandmother telling me about God’s Orchestra. In the orchestra, God is the conductor and each of us is a different, yet beautiful, instrument. If we do not follow the conductor the result would be noise and not harmony. It is our duty to listen to God and allow him to lead.
If people want to go to India, please do so but please follow the example of Mother Teresa. She took care of the sick, the destitute, and the abandoned. It is through her love and compassion that she changed people’s hearts. She saw Christ in every one of the people she cared for because that is what Christ did. People from all faiths loved and respected Mother Teresa because of her selfless charity. Many starving and destitute individuals look to any foreigner for necessities to get them through another day of life. They are willing to listen to anything in hopes of a brighter future. But when the time spent with one who is suffering is limited to only a few brief exchanges about faith, the impact is diminished. It is through one’s consistent actions more than preaching that one has the power to change people.
In conclusion, India with its diverse and colorful culture may at times seem chaotic to foreigners. However, once one immerses oneself in its totality, he/she will uncover a hospitable people and a harmonious culture. As my dear friend Cyndi would have said “May the God in me salute the God in you, Namaste.” Peace be with you!