at Prajna Bharati
Delivered at a public discussion
organised by Prajna Bharati A.P., on "The Ethics of Religious
Conversions" on February 9, 1999 at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan,
I was raised as a Catholic and
went to Catholic school. My uncle was, and still is, a missionary.
We were told that he was going to South America to save the souls of
the Native Americans, people we were told were non-Christian and
without conversion would suffer eternal damnation. This is the
background that I came from.
Today, throughout the world,
and in the United States, with very little exception, there is no
"Sarvadharma Samabhava" taught in religion. It is
something I never encountered in my Christian education in the West.
We were taught that Hinduism
was a religion of idolatry; it was a religion of polytheism and
superstition and that there was no place for Hindus in heaven. Even
a great Hindu like Mahatma Gandhi might be revered on a certain
level, but he was not given the type of religious credit that he
would have been given had he been a Christian.
These attitudes still exist
throughout the world and India does not exist in isolation. And
Hindus in India are, and India as a whole is, still being targeted
for conversion. Why is this so? If all the religions teach the same
thing, why is it that certain religions are seeking to convert the
members of other religions to their beliefs?