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Mother Teresa and Conversion

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Ahmedabad: An unnecessary controversy is raging in the country today created by Mohan Bhagwat, the RSS Chief who a few days ago went on record to say that the sole aim of Mother Teresa was to convert others to Christianity.

There is of course nothing new about Bhagwat’s utterances. It is in keeping with the ideology of the Sangh Parivar in which the denigration of minorities of the country is paramount. Meenakshi Lekhi, the spokeswoman of the BJP added her two-bit opinion saying that Mother Teresa was baptising even from her death bed. Both of them could obviously have not been making such statements if they did not have the approval of the country’s supremo, Narendra Modi.


Very naturally thousands from all over have taken a stand in defense of Mother Teresa praising her good works and the profound impact she had on millions the world over. The social media has gone viral with people from every walk of life joining in the chorus. Pictures of Mohan Bhagwat with his feet being washed by a woman are placed alongside those of Mother Teresa who is seen caressing a leprosy patient.

Navin Chawla, the former Chief Election Commissioner and Mother Teresa’s biographer in an interview to the Times of India (February 26th, 2015) states that he had even asked Mother Teresa directly if she converted people. “You know what she said, “I do convert but convert you to be a better Hindu, better Muslim, better Catholic and better Sikh. Once you have found Him, it is up to you to do what you want. Conversion is not my work.’”

In March 1996, Mother Teresa was in Ahmedabad. At a reception hosted for her by the Municipal Commissioner, a man belonging to the RSS asked her “why do you convert people to Christianity?” Very humbly and gently, Mother replied, “I have no power to convert anybody; but if you wish to be converted, I will certainly pray to Jesus and he will touch your life.” Of course, the man was just dumb-founded!

So raking up this controversy on Mother is indeed a very cunning strategy to defocus from some of the major problems which grip the country today; these include the massive protest by farmers all over against the land acquisition ordinance and which seems to be conveniently ignored by the media.

It is an appropriate moment however for the common person to reflect on Mother Teresa’s legacy to us which includes:

– Compassion

Mother Teresa was compassion personified. She had the extraordinary gift of touching almost anyone with her heart; from the dying man on the street to the President of a powerful country.  Her love was contagious and over the years, she succeeded in opening many doors with this one key.

– Candour

Mother was honest to the core, to the discomfort of many!  She had no hesitation in calling ‘a spade, a spade’.  She was transparent and did not hide the fact that she was able to serve the poorest of the poor only because she loved Jesus and saw him in them.

– Courage

Mother Teresa demonstrated a tremendous courage in whatever she did. She feared only God and not any human.  She was convinced that what she and her Sisters were doing was needed. She was ready to face any amount of obstacles to ensure that the dying, the orphan, the unloved and the rejected had a home to go to.

– Commitment

What Mother has surely shown each one of us is the importance for commitment in order to make our world a better place!  Her unflagging commitment to the poorest of the poor has been her hallmark all along.  Her Missionaries of Charity continue this legacy today.

If Bhagwat, Lekhi and their ilk make an attempt to imbibe some of these qualities, India will surely be CONVERTED!

About author: Fr Cedric Prakash SJ is the Director of PRASHANT, the Ahmedabad-based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace.)

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