Monday, November 9, 2015

A Christian’s Response To Religious Intolerance In India

            “Intolerance” has raised its ugly hood again in India.

            In the recent past, M.M Kalburgi, former Karnatak University Vice Chancellor, was gunned down for apparently criticizing the Hindu practice of idol worship [1]. A Muslim man was mobbed to death by his Hindu neighbors over rumors of cow carcass sighting in the vicinity. A few days later, two Muslim men were attacked over matters relating to beef transportation in separate incidents.

            Intolerance is being condemned by the opposition parties and quite a few celebrities. A few award winning writers have returned their awards as a mark of protest against intolerance.

            This recent intolerance seems to be a new low for Indian democracy, for, as always, it violates religious freedom and freedom of speech and expression. Reasons for intolerance are being analyzed in the public domain, so that’s not the intent of this article. We will instead focus on Christians’ response towards intolerance.

            Persecution is not solely innate to Christians. Baha’is are persecuted in Iran. Hindus are persecuted in Bangladesh. Muslim minority is persecuted in Myanmar. The list is rather endless; every religious group faces persecution when they are a minority.  

            Intolerance is a subtle term for persecution. How then should Christian minority respond to intolerance?

Pray? Pray for What?

            Praying for intolerance to cease is one option, but is that our only or our primary option? When Bible emphasizes that persecution is certain in Christian life (2 Timothy 3:12), and when religious persecution is increasing, should we really think our prayers would impede or preclude persecution?

            If our prayers are in accordance with God’s will, and if God’s will is for persecution to stop, then persecution will cease. But what if God’s will is for persecution to continue? What then happens to our prayers, if we merely focus on praying for persecution to stop?

            While we pray for persecution to stop, we should primarily pray for strength to endure persecution and a godly response to persecution while and if we are being persecuted.  

            Significantly, we ought to pray for the persecuted; that they would receive God’s comfort, strength and encouragement in abundance.

To Strengthen Faith?

            A frail response to persecution is to renounce one’s religious worldview e.g. to renounce Christ. An equally important response to persecution is to strengthen the faith of Christians. The local church ought to assume this responsibility.

            A majority of Christians are superficially strong in their faith. This superficial strength cannot retain a Christian in Christ during persecution. Hence, the local church ought to disciple their flock to remain and grow strong in Christ (cf. Hebrews 6:1-3).  

Christians Stand United?

            They say that persecution unites Christians. History suggests that the otherwise detached denominations tend to unite during persecution.

            Although this instance of intolerance is not against Christians per se, it could very well turn out so in the future. But do we need persecution for unity? Shouldn’t Christian denominations constantly strive towards unity?  

Help The Persecuted?

            To help the persecuted is a no-brainer. Religion cannot prevent us from helping each other.

            During persecution, we need to transcend religious barriers to help those in need. Some may need kind words of encouragement and support. Others may need material or spiritual support.

            Whatever the case maybe, we exist to love and serve each other.   

Give Up Beef?

            We should consider this option without discrediting it. Isn’t giving up eating beef another valid response?

            Let’s say we love to eat pork.

            Sale of pork is banned in certain Islamic countries because Islam forbids Muslims to eat pork. So we cannot eat pork if we live in those Islamic countries.

            Having lived in such a country for a few years, I know it’s perfectly possible to give up a certain choice of food – in this case, eating pork. So it’s all in the mind. If we do want to give up eating beef, then it is possible indeed.  

            If what we eat, especially in the context of Hindus’ reverence for cows, would offend their sensitivities, then aren’t we perfectly legitimate to give up eating beef? Should we continue eating beef or create communal harmony?

            But in this context, is it necessary to give up eating beef in India?

            Hindus in the Indian State of Kerala eat beef [2]. There seems to be no religious nuance to beef consumption by Hindus in Kerala. Hence, the Hindu protest over beef consumption certainly is inconsistent.

            Within the perspective of legislation, India is a democratic country unlike an Islamic State. In an Islamic State the law of land could prohibit consumption of pork. In India there is no such legislation banning beef consumption. So why give up eating beef?

To Expect Unbiased Governance?

            Good governance is to manage every situation impartially. Impartiality and tolerance is of paramount value, for governance includes administration of multicultural and multi-faith population.

            I lived in the Kingdom of Bahrain for a few years. Many years ago, there was a ban on pork consumption in Bahrain. The Quran forbids eating of pork (Sura 2:173, 5:3, 6:145 &16:115) [3]. Ban on pork consumption in Bahrain was highly valid since Bahrain is an Islamic State; hence those who live there ought to abide by the law of the land.

            However, the rulers of Bahrain relaxed this ban on pork and allowed the sale of pork in the island Kingdom. This remarkable instance of tolerance ought to be hailed.

            But that’s not it! The second most astounding instance was that of the Arabs living in Bahrain. Although they detest the sight and odor of pork, the Arabs behind the billing counters would tolerantly bill the purchased pork to the satisfaction of the customers.

            This instance of tolerance in Bahrain clearly contrasts the intolerant situation in India. The Bahraini tolerance teaches a valuable lesson to the Indian governance. 

            Need we say more? Tolerance could prevail if the rulers desire unbiased governance.

            Every one is intolerant of various aspects that occur within our domain. Absolute tolerance is not the need of the hour.

            However, entailment of intolerance should not viciously injure human life. Extreme intolerance should be condemned. Killing and maiming of human life, created in the image of God, should never be an entailment of intolerance.





No comments: