With due respect to all the stake holders, I am writing this piece. Let?s face it!! The next five years or more (if re-elected) of the BJP rule in the state will be a night mare for the communities who believe in Christ in general and the members of the Roman Catholic Church in particular. The events that unfolded over the last four days in a few districts of Karnataka have troubled me. Agitated, I am, but without any particular reason. It is only human nature to react. Just like we reacted to the attacks on our religious institutions- those Hindu Fundamental miscreants reacted to what they think as an act of forced conversion. What is conversion? Do we know the answer? The police brutality was bound to happen given the rigidity of our minds and souls. We have always been ambiguous in our approach to the nitty gritty of things. Clear neither at the macro level nor the micro level. I will give you one example (See the news on the attack on the Poor Clare Adoration Chapel- A couple of our great News portals have stated that these convents belong to the Carmelites- we go, we pray and we come but we Catholics have never tried to know which order those nuns praying there belong to ?Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration? ) What pains me immensely is the fact that there was none in the community to stand up and say to those fundamentalists ?Sirs, Kindly come and attend all of our 158 Churches on a couple of Sundays or every possible Sunday and feast days and see if you can find atleast one convert, whether forced or voluntary. ? An open invitation for them to prove what they have always wanted to. As a true Catholic, I sympathise with each of the Hindu Fundamentalist brothers who attacked all of our Churches, particularly those Catholic institutions.
How many of us who claim to be Roman Catholics know the history and spirituality of the Church inspite of the 10+ years of the Sunday Catechism classes and all those catechism classes during our school days? How many of us tolerate our catholic boys and girls falling in love with individuals from other religions? How many of us readily accept into our families individuals from other religions, who willingly believe in the teachings of the Catholic Church and are taken in? One last question, how many of us really know the meaning of the word CHURCH? None of these questions need to be answered. Question yourselves. If we who are Roman Catholics for so many years and still don?t understand what the Catholic Church is? How can we accept the Hindu Fundamentalists act of aggression- who know nothing but the fact that their GODS are the greatest- neither by training through catechism like classes nor by conviction.
What was our reaction to the attack on our institutions? A protest that looked defensive in nature from the beginning. What are we defending? Conversions? Why didn?t any of our religious leaders ask the people in government to provide statistics on the number of students who have studied in our religious institutions from the beginning of the establishment of the first catholic institution in the state of Karnataka? If the Roman Catholic Church was ever involved in forceful conversion- The so called Hindu Fundamentalists (Saviours of the Sanathana Dharma) would have been a minority group. Ask those perpetrators of crime against the Church, even if one non catholic was converted forcefully by each of our educational and service institutions in India our population would go up by around thirty thousand every year!!! Given that we have 25000+ educational institutions alone, apart from medical and social service organizations. Ask them to prove!! They are the ones who need to defend their act and not we. How many non catholic employees work with us? Ask each of them if we ever asked them to even look at the merits of the Roman Catholic Church.
I want to keep this piece short and carry on only after I get comments on the article from the readers. Statistically, the Roman Catholic Church has lost as many as its members as any other religion to the conversion activities of the mushrooming new-life type of churches. Church is just a body of believers. It is not a building made of bricks or mortars. For a Hindu- A Catholic Church, or a Mission (Basil or CSI) Church or a Neo-pentecostal Church doesn?t make any difference. He/she thinks that they are all under the patronage of the Roman Pontiff who is our Pope. For them Catholic Church or not doesn?t make a difference? How otherwise would you explain that they not knowing the difference between the building of a Catholic Church, which are full of statues and photos of saints and the Crucifix and the Neo-Pentecostal Churches where there are non of these symbols of faith. What I request our Catholic brethren, is to start an awareness campaign in the media both electronic and print and tell our Hindu brethren how difficult it is to be a catholic. The Roman Catholic Church all through its history has never believed in the Conversion of a person physically- it has in the past, it is in the present and it will in the future continue to focus on the conversion of spirit. In secular terms- The Catholic Church doesn?t believe in enhancing its quantity, before it has enhanced the quality of its existing members.
These fundamentalist, I guess don?t even discuss with each other after attack. Atleast for curiosity sake, will they have not discussed the facts like ?I broke a cross, desecrated a statue, what did you?? and the other fellow who will have been a member of the attack party to some other neo-Pentecostal exclaiming ?arre!!! There was no cross, no statue, was it actually a church at all??
Our awareness campaign has to showcase
1. How different we are from these Pentecostal churches?
2. How we have been victimized first by these Pentecostal Churches by waning away many of our members through false promises and then by the Hindu Fundamentalists who think we convert and so attack our churches.
3. That the Catholic Church historically and statistically has never forced upon any individual the idea of conversion.
I am proud to be a Roman Catholic!!!!!!! We are as much against forced conversion as any other group in India and we will never resort to violence, but, but, we will also not turn the other cheek- for others to slap.
Author: Ozmond Roshan DSouza- India