A matter of faith, not greed
All those whom Hindustan Times met insisted they had been Christians from birth – it was their fathers or grandfathers who had converted.india Updated: Oct 10, 2008 23:31 IST
Are Christian missionaries in Kandhamal district aggressively proselytizing the local tribal population? Are they promising all kinds of inducements and allurements to wean them away from their earlier religious beliefs and worship Jesus Christ instead? Hindu apologists have maintained that the current turmoil in the district is a release of pent up Hindu fury at the large scale conversions taking place.
But terrified Christians who have fled their villages to escape the wrath of Hindu mobs, and are presently cowering in relief camps tell a very different story. All those whom Hindustan Times met insisted they had been Christians from birth – it was their fathers or grandfathers who had converted.
“My father converted to Christianity before Independence,” said 57-year-old Daniel Pradhan, a teacher at a school in Khariapada, 68-kms from Phulbani, headquarters of Kandhamal district. “My family embraced Christianity voluntarily and I’m proud to be a Christian in India”. Pradhan, who escaped just before a mob attacked his house, has been staying at one of the two relief camps in Bhubaneshwar, 200 kms east of Kandhamal, since September 1.
Devastation hit 42-year-old Sudhanshu Naik, when his old mother, living in Bakingia village of Kandhamal district was murdered by rampaging mobs on August 24. Over 150 Christian houses in the village were burnt down. “My family became Christian out of conviction,” said Naik, who works as a secretary at the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) in Bhubaneshwar. “We respect the Hindu faith. But Hindus should also let us live the way we want to.”
“My family became Christian in 1935,” said 47-year-old Motilal Pradhan, a jawan in the Indian army, hailing from Gadragaon village in Kandhamal district, who too is in a relief camp with his family. “The charge that anyone was given allurements to convert is completely false.”
58-year-old Esso Nayak from Bakingia village has just ‘reconverted’ to Hinduism. Or at least he has signed a document saying he is now a Hindu, though he has not gone through any religious rituals. “I had no choice,” he said. “I was told I would not be allowed to return to my village unless I did so.”
When did he become a Christian? “I was born one, “ he said. “I have no idea when my family converted. I gave hardly any thought to religion all these years. But now I am forced to.”