image caption: Gurmukh Singh OBE

Christian Conversions in Panjab: Causes of Inter-religion Violence and Law and Order Situations

Aggressive evangelism attempts to spread the gospel, by whatever means that, Jesus sacrificed Himself so that eternal salvation is possible for those souls who believe []]only] in Him. Such Christian activism goes on despite responsible opposition due to the threat to local community cohesion. Such zealotry, which seeks converts through all sorts of false promises is sometimes called sheep-stealing from the flock (followers) of another religion.

Many Christian preachers in India and, more recently, in Panjab, have gone beyond spreading the gospel, meaning the good news.

Christians who use aggressive evangelism believe that it is necessary to be bold in order to reach those who are far from God. They cite Christian Scripture to go and make disciples of all nations, to justify their methods.

To quote a source: Christian themselves admit that aggressive evangelism is used in the Church. It is a fact that many Christians feel called to share their faith with as many people as possible, and some use whatever means necessary to get the job done.

Such well-funded and well organised activity of converting people to Christianity in Panjab, by whatever means to get the job done, in recent times is no longer limited to spreading the gospel peacefully through church congregations.

Christian preachers are hyperactive in India and now in in Panjab, attracting the disadvantaged through the falsehood of miracles, money and even Christianizing and re-presenting Sikh and Dharmic faiths ideologies as their own! Many Christian preachers are encouraged to keep their original Sikh names and Sikh identity to hoodwink the ordinary simple people, especially from the disadvantaged groups.

From the Sikhi perspective, it is clear that all orthodox religions, otherwise stuck in their straight-jackets of dogma, face an almost impossible task of re-interpreting their ideologies in terms of modern human values and sarbat da bhalaa, the basics of Sikhi. Many Christian preachers in Panjab are openly borrowing from egalitarian Sikhi of Guru Nanak Sahib and re-presenting those values as Christian without any acknowledgement.

For example, Christian preachers even steal Sikh identity and Gurbani idiom. They do not preach dogma-based Christianity but spread falsehoods by distorting Gurbani. From the videos circulating, it seems they go around in groups to villages, preaching from door to door and handing out false propaganda literature in Gurmukhi, in the name of Christianity. There is general concern that such aggressive evangelism should not be allowed to go unchallenged. Confrontation situations threaten law and order breakdown.

Such activity can cause friction and conflict between religious communities. In that case the question arises, why is such activity in the name of religion not made unlawful under certain defined conditions? Surely, freedom of religion has its limits in secular democracies in the same way as there are limits on state interference in religious matters.

Admittedly, Sikhi has suffered from such state interference in India and abroad. However. Sikhs have won their religious rights through the law courts. So, the need is for a balance between religious freedom and state legislation which foresees and prevents provocation and violence in the name of religion by tackling the root causes, some of which have been mentioned above.

In case of Christianity and some other orthodox religions, fixation with conversions or sheep stealing from other religious pastures by whatever means, can become a law and order issue. That becomes state responsibility.

Gurmukh Singh OBE

Principal Civil Servant retd (UK)