The conversion issue

N. Ganesan naga_ganesan at HOTMAIL.COM
Wed Jan 20 09:30:08 EST 1999

Indeed. E.g., the Roman Catholic view is that conversion is
"man's free turning to God" and "has always to be seen as a
response, made possible by God's grace, to a call from God."
(K. Rahner, "Conversion", in _Sacramentum mundi_ vol. 2).

I have to disagree with this definition. This is a
Christian elitist/clergy definition. Rahner must be
well aware that on the ground level, any conversion
is "made possible by" money and (caste) politics.

In the Northeast India, conversion of the so-called
tribals, closer ethnically to Burmese, is done
on the ground from Kerala missionaries. Talking to
many Keralites, this is just a job for which they
are paid. That's all.

Sorry, some may not be happy: I mention Tamil Nadu here
because that is where European missionaries started
their conversion efforts from 16th century.

Robert De Nobili started mimicking Hindu priests and
Adheenakartars. G. U. Pope was called Pope Ayyar.

De Nobili had a puuNuul/yajnopavIta made of gold.
He wore it above his upper garment. The upper garment
was made of saffron silk. He wore candana tilak
and expensive makarakuNDalams in his ears. He travelled
around the Madurai country in palanquin much like
Saiva mutt heads of the day. (All this from a Tamil
book. Is this correct?)

The conversion among Tamil Hindus were viewed as a
means to raise their social and economic status.
Even now, Hindu Nadars and Christian Nadars marry
among each other. European missionaries in Southern
districts converted fisherfolk, untouchable castes
like PaLLar and PaRaiyar, Nadars, Saiva Pillais
and had tough time when they demanded separate graveyards
for every caste mirroring their corresponding position
in Hindu hierarchy.

In Trivandram and Kanyakumari district, castes converted
to Christianity when their women were denied the right
by upper castes to cover their breasts. There are books in
Malayalam, Tamil and English on "breast-cloth controversy".

In Tamil Nadu and Jaffna, read the 'Saivism champion,
Arumuka Navalar's opposition to the conversion:

Richard F. Young, Es. Jepanecan
The Bible trembled: the Hindu-Christian controversies
of nineteenth-century Ceylon,
Vienna: Sammlung De Nobili, 1995

Works of Dennis Hudson and others are relevant also.

N. Ganesan

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