If you could sum up the history of Christianity in India in one word, that word would be ingratitude. Among the earliest refugees to arrive in India were the Syrian Christians, who were facing persecution in their native lands in the Persian Empire in the fourth century CE.
Persecution would be the wrong word to use here because the Syrian Christians of the Persian Empire were found to be collaborating with Christianised Rome. Aghast at the betrayal by his Christian subjects – in the midst of Persia’s war with the Romans – the Zoroastrian king Shapur II lamented: “We are in a state of war; they are in a state of joy and pleasure. They live in our land but are of like mind with the emperor, our enemy.”
Shahpur II deported some Christians from his Eastern Syrian province and imposed a double tax on those that remained. The Christian subjects were then ordered to revert to their native Zoroastrian religion.
Down on their luck, the Syrian Christians sought refuge in India. Kerala’s Malabar coast attracted them because they had heard of an ancient community of Jews who had been living there since the first century CE, having also fled the turmoil of the Middle East.
How were these Syrian Christians – or Nasaranis as they are still called by the locals – treated? “The Indian king received them with great kindness,” George David Malech writes in History of the Syrian Nation and the Old Evangelical-Apostolic Church of the East.
“At the Kotem school in Malabar there are still some copper tablets in existence on which there are written messages from the king to the Christian leader, permitting him and his followers to settle in some places and recommending them to neighbouring chiefs.”
In fact, around the time (1498 CE) when the Portuguese marauders led by Vasco Da Gama arrived in Malabar, the Syrian Christian community was thriving, with at least 30,000 members. Now, here’s how they repaid India’s generosity. When Da Gama returned for the second time in 1502, he was met by a delegation of Syrian Christians: “They identified themselves, surrendered their ancient honours and documents, and invited him to make war on their Hindu kings,” writes Ishwar Sharan in The Myth of Saint Thomas and the Mylapore Shiva Temple.
According to George Menachery, a Catholic apologist and former adviser to the Kerala State Department of Archaeology, the Syrian Christians presented Da Gama a ‘Rod of Justice and “swore allegiance to the Portuguese kings and implored Portuguese protection”.
K.M. Panikkar elaborates in Malabar and the Portuguese: “More than this they suggested (to Da Gama) that with their help he should conquer the Hindu kingdoms and invited him to build a fortress for this purpose in Cranganore (Kodungallur). This was the recompense which the Hindu rajas received for treating with liberality and kindness the Christians in their midst.”
Author and researcher Sanjay Subrahmanyam, no friend of Hindus, writes in the extensively annotated The Career and Legend of Vasco Da Gama:
“The perspective of the Syrian Christians on early Portuguese activities in Kerala is an interesting one; they clearly support their co-religionists, rather than the local rulers…”
In a letter of late 1524, the Syrian Christian bishop Mar Jacob writes after recounting all his actions in favour of the Portuguese Crown: “This, Sire, is the service that I have done in these parts, with the intention of moving you to the help me in the expansion of these people (Syrian Christians) through this India in the faith of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer.”
Subrahmanyam continues: “In the same context, he hence offered the aid of the Syrian Christians as an auxiliary military force, to aid the Portuguese, claiming that they represent ‘over 25,0000 warriors’.” The bishop requests Vasco Da Gama to intercede – that is use military force – on behalf of the Syrian Christian community. Mar Jacob also proposed the construction of a Portuguese fortress at Cranganore, a proposal that was put into effect a decade later, in 1536, paving the way for the Portuguese colonisation.
However, once they had cynically used the help of the traitorous community, the fanatic Portuguese persecuted the Syrian Christians with a vengeance, and forced them – on pain of death – to abandon their ancient Orthodox church and swear allegiance to Roman Catholicism.
Flash forward to the 20th century
The history of Kerala Christians – who today comprise around 20 per cent of the State’s population – hasn’t exactly been exemplary in modern times. In the early 1970s when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was publicly denouncing the threat of CIA subversion of India, the US ambassador in New Delhi, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, ordered an investigation into the matter.
The US embassy uncovered two occasions during Indira’s father Jawaharlal Nehru’s premiership when the CIA had secretly provided funds to help the communists’ opponents in state elections. The first occasion was in the 1950s, in Kerala, where cash was supplied to the Syrian Christian church to destabilise the democratically elected Communist Party of India. According to Moynihan, “Both times the money was given to the Congress Party which had asked for it. Once it was given to Mrs Gandhi herself, who was then a party official.”
Just like the Syrian Christians backed their western co-religionists over the local Hindu and Muslim communities, with whom they had co-existed – and from whose help they had thrived, prospered, and gentrified – modern Indian Christians look up to the West, especially the United States. In their view, America, being the most Christian nation, should help them in keeping India – and thereby Hindus – in line.
Role of Christians in India’s Partition
In a paper titled The Role of Christians in the Freedom Movement of Pakistan published in the Pakistan Journal of Social Sciences, Munir-ul-Anjum and Shahnaz Tariq write:
“The support of Christians for the cause of Pakistan was based on their belief that the Muslim society in its nature was more secular than the caste ridden Hindu society hence more permissive for the rights and safe guards of the religious minorities.”
“Christians strongly supported Quaid-e-Azam and Muslim League at that critical time when there was lot of opposition to the formation a new Muslim state. The All India Christian Association assured unconditional full cooperation to the founder of Pakistan. This crucial role of Christian population of the region was recognised by the founder of Pakistan and the All India Muslim League at all levels. These Christians played a very strong role in the creation of Pakistan….The Christian vote before the Boundary Commission was the only decisive vote for the true foundation of Pakistan. Christian leaders voted for Pakistan because they believed that Quaid-e-Azam would be the real protector of their rights and interests.”
“When the proceedings of the Boundary Commission took place, Christian leaders Dewan Bahadur S.P. Singha, C.E. Gibbon and Fazal Elahi, in their recorded statement, demanded that for the demarcation of the boundaries, the Christian population be included and termed as Muslim population.”
“In the last days of united India Jinnah visited Lahore as a part of his campaign to fetch the support of the minority community for Pakistan. He met the Christian leader Chandu Lal and Sikh leader Giani Kartar Singh. The Sikh leader turned down his offer while Chandu Lal declared unconditional support of the Christians for Pakistan. When the resolution to join Pakistan or India was moved and voted upon in the Punjab Legislative Assembly, the three Christian members voted in favour of Pakistan and saved the situation. Eighty-eight and 91 votes were cast in favour of India and Pakistan respectively. In this way the three Christian votes decided the fate of the province.” [Emphasis added]
However, not content with the creation of Pakistan, the Christians “denounced and condemned the unfair distribution of Punjab province more forcefully even than the Muslims and tried their best to get the districts of Pathankot and Gurdaspur included in western Punjab”.
Are Christians a fifth column?
Christian fundamentalists thrive on suffering and disaster. In February 2001, T. John, the Karnataka civil aviation minister and a member of the Orthodox church, described the Gujarat earthquake, which resulted in death of over 20,000 people, as “the punishment of God to the people for ill-treating Christians and minorities in the state.”
John also saw a divine connection between attacks on Christians in Orissa and the cyclone that hit the region in December 1999, killing 10,000 people. This is nothing but vicarious pleasure at the expense of non-Christian Indians.
Evangelist K.P. Yohannan, founder and president of the Evangelist outfit, Gospel for Asia (investigated by IndiaFacts several times earlier), welcomed the tsunami of 2004 as “one of the greatest opportunities God has given us to share his love with people”.
He wasn’t the only one expressing such sentiments. The tsunami in India – in which 10,136 people were killed and hundreds of thousands made homeless – was indeed a windfall for many American churches which poured in billions of dollars to convert large numbers of poor fisher folk in the Kudankulam area.
Ten years later, these converts were unleashed against the crucial Kudankulam atomic power plant. In 2014, the Intelligence Bureau (IB) — India’s premier internal security agency — submitted a report to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, identifying several foreign-funded NGOs that are “negatively impacting economic development”.
The IB report neatly ties in with former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s claims that NGOs funded by the Americans were leading the protests against the Russian-built nuclear reactors in Kudankulam. That the maddeningly taciturn Singh would speak out – despite owing his Prime Ministership to his party boss, the pro-Christian and Catholic Sonia Gandhi – is an indication of the danger posed to India’s national security by forces being remote controlled by the West.
The NGOs that were at the centre of the mass protests were associated with Bishop Yvon Ambroise, the Tuticorin church leader, who had been active in the vicious campaign against the power plant.
In fact, there is evidence that the earliest Christian converts from Hinduism betrayed Indian interests. It also illustrates how Christians are easily coerced by their western masters.
Animalising – the process by which cotton is dyed – was a secret that remained a mystery to Europeans. Stephen Yafa explains in his book Cotton: The Biography of a Revolutionary Fiber how this trade secret was stolen: “Ironically it was a man of the cloth, Jesuit Father Coeur-doux, who betrayed these fiercely guarded secrets. In 1742 the French cleric took advantage of his missionary posting on the Coromandel coast to gain the trust of Indian master dyers who he had converted to Catholicism.”
These Indian Christians confided their secret process to him with an understanding that he would never reveal it. And what the father do? “Coerdoux immediately gave a detailed description in a step-by-step letter published in France. In a blink, 3000 years of clandestine artisan practice became public knowledge.”
The point is not the betrayal by newly converted Indian Christians. To be sure, they had – albeit naively – asked the European priest to keep the secret to himself. The point is that this is exactly how Indian Christians can be used by their western masters. For instance, pressure can be applied on the family of a seemingly loyal Indian Christian who is, say, a rocket scientist at the Indian Space Research Organisation.
Pressure can come in a variety of ways but the most likely approach a western intelligence agency would take is to first approach the Christian scientist’s parish priest via the local bishop, who may be approached through someone in the Vatican.
Parish pressure is no joke. Hindus, who do not formally congregate under a priest, cannot understand how closely integrated the church is with the families of local Christians in a particular area or parish. When this writer was studying in St Thomas College, Thrissur, Kerala, he was witness to priests, some of who were lecturers, demanding to know why a particular student had skipped Sunday mass.
The family can be threatened with pariah status. For instance, many Kerala Christians who joined the Communist Party of India were denied burial services by the church upon their deaths. This can be traumatic for the surviving members because the rest of the community members tend to treat them as outcastes. (Imagine the state of children who are not able to bury their dead father.)
Under such circumstances, transferring national secrets into a pen drive and handing them to an agent of a western intelligence agency might seem like a small inconvenience. To be sure, individual Christians in high-level positions may not be predisposed to betrayal. But because the entire Christian ecosystem is geared towards complete control of its flock, it’s unlikely many of them can stand the immense pressure brought to bear on them and their families. As Subrahmanyam writes, the Portuguese looked at Syrian Christians as a means to get “political and economic mileage”. Similarly, today’s Indian Christians are a means for the West to penetrate the higher echelons of power in New Delhi.
Why Christianity has no place in India
Some argue the caste system in Hinduism is unfair to the lower castes and hence Christianity can lift them by treating them as equals. That’s probably the lamest argument in favour of the Abrahamic faith. For, if Christianity has not made, say, Europeans or Americans, better human beings, what makes them think it will make Indians any better?
First up, racism is at all-time high levels in the West. American Christian churches quoted the Bible to give approval to the slave trade. Today, black Christians are again being lynched by white Christians in America. What can they teach India about equality?
Also, despite the horrendous bloodshed of two World Wars, these Christian nations are still at each other’s throats and still bombing innocent civilians around the world. And if events in Ukraine are any indication, European Christians haven’t learnt anything at all and are creating a situation that could lead to World War III.
At any rate, caste schisms among Indian Christians mirror the caste divisions in Hinduism. “Conversion to Christianity does not seem to eradicate caste prejudice in India any more than it eliminates racial discrimination in the US. Despite Jesus’ call for brotherly love, isn’t Sunday the most segregated day in America?” writes C. Alex Alexander, a naturalised US citizen and former Chief of Staff, US Department of Veterans Affairs in a detailed expose of the Christian threat to India.
There are others some who argue that converted Hindus will remain Indians, and therefore where’s the problem with conversion? Well, there is a major problem and Swami Vivekananda set it in the founding document of the Ramakrishna Mission in 1897. If India embraces a foreign religion, he wrote, “Indian civilisation will be destroyed. For whomever goes out of the Hindu religion is not only lost to us but also we have in him one more enemy.”
Because the West has usurped the soul of Christianity, Christianisation – like Islamisation – equals denationalisation. Western missionaries who were rampaging through China in the 1940s were fond of the line, “One more Christian, one less Chinese.”
Religious conversion is therefore a flick of a switch that transforms an Indian – or for that matter any follower of a native religion – into an extension of western culture and influence.
In his book The Armies Of God: A Study In Militant Christianity, Iain Buchanan, a British-born, Malaysia-based academic, has explained how Christianity imported from the West can cause havoc in developing countries. In an interview with DNA newspaper, he says,
“There is no doubt at all that US strategy makes deliberate (and somewhat cynical) use of Christian agencies in pursuit of foreign policy – and that the distinction between the religious and the secular is deliberately blurred in the process….Most of the major evangelical corporations (like World Vision, Campus Crusade, Youth with a Mission, and Samaritan’s Purse) operate in partnership with the US government in its pursuit of foreign policy – World Vision, which is effectively an arm of the State Department, is perhaps the most notable example of this.”
What does this mean, in practice, for a targeted country?
“Above all, it means that it is often very difficult to distinguish the agencies of evangelization. Active Christian proselytization is often just a small part of the process; in addition, there must be infiltration of every sector of influence in a society, from religious groups to government departments to local charities to private business, in ways which blur the line between Christian indoctrination and secular change.”
- Alex Alexander agrees:
“Self-professedly Christian pressure groups have both a highly influential membership and a powerful grip on policy. The network of evangelical influence goes far beyond this: there are scores of such groups at work in Congress, the military, and departments of state. All act to connect politics, business, the media, and the military with one another in pursuit of a common vision of a Christian American dominion over the world.”
It is well known that Indian Christians in cahoots with fundamentalist American politicians, church groups and Indian Marxists played a leading role in getting Prime Minister Narendra Modi banned from entering the US for his alleged role in the 2002 Gujarat religious riots.
However, Christians have been working against Indian interests even prior to that. In September 2000 when Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was in the US on an official visit, Christian fundamentalist John Dayal appeared before the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) in Washington DC.
According to Alexander, the virulently anti-Hindu “Dayal should have thought of the possibility that the timing of that invitation extended to him by USCIRF was not an accident. It is quite likely it was part of the US State Department’s plan to place the visiting Prime Minister on his defensive and thereby weaken India’s efforts to convey to the American public the destructive consequences of cross-border terrorism aided and abetted by Pakistan”.
Alexander offers an example of the West-Christianity nexus:
“A page from the recent history of East Timor may be appropriate for Indians to review in order to understand the negative potential of offshore proselytisation. The indigenous tribes in that island were first converted to Christianity by Dutch and Portuguese missionaries. Then they were helped by the western nations to secede from Indonesia. India may run similar risks if it continues to allow foreign missionaries to have unfettered access to its tribal populations.”
Indeed, the activities of Christian missionaries can cause turmoil as it did on a massive scale in 1857. Historian R.C. Majumdar wrote:
“The sensitiveness of the sepoys to their religious beliefs and practices and the dread of conversion to Christianity worked as a nightmare upon their minds…. A vague dread that the government was determined, by hook or by crook, to convert the Indians to Christianity pervaded all ranks of society, and the sepoys, fully shared these apprehensions with the rest…. The aggressive attitude of the Chrisitian missionaries…in matters of proselytisation had been frequent subjects of complaint.”
Among such aggressive activities, Majumdar noted the practice of missionaries of “open unchecked denunciation of their cherished social usages and customs in most violent language, and filthy abuses of their gods and goddesses by bands of Christian missionaries”.
Myth of passive Christians
Outwardly, Christianity might appear to be a benign religion. Indeed, when compared with the aggressive face of Islam, it definitely appears to the tamer Abrahamic sister. In Why Christianity Failed in India, Tony Joseph writes in Outlook magazine that after 2000 years of trying to convert India, Christians form just around 2 per cent of the population. However, he misses the point entirely.
Christianity did not grow much during the centuries preceding the period of European colonialism because the early Christians were refugees and not keen on converting native Indians. Again, during the colonial period, when hordes of missionaries Europeans waded into India, the pace of conversion failed to pick up because Indians knew who the enemy was – Christian Europeans, who came to destroy Indian civilisation just as they destroyed Native American and Australian Aboriginal cultures.
Today, the Europeans are gone but their agenda remains. Where earlier you could spot a Christian or evangelist by the colour of their skin, now they are in our midst. They have names like Mahesh Bhupathi, whose mother once said, “My burden is for India, since in this country we fight with about 33 million other gods.” Had she not uttered those tasteless remarks, nobody would have been the wiser to her and her son’s proselytization activities.
Under the cloak of democracy, Christian missionaries can sneak in and conduct their unholy work among the poor and helpless. Christian churches have cropped up like a rash across the east coast after the tsunami hit southern India. Nagaland, which was entirely animist, despite two centuries of British rule, became 100 per cent Christian under 50 years of democratic – or rather Nehru-Gandhi dynasty – rule.
Christianity has not – yet – failed in India. With powerful backers in the West, it is preparing for another big harvest. While visiting India in 1999, the Pope openly proclaimed his wish to “witness a great harvest of faith” there through the Christianisation of the entire country. Predictably, it led to a backlash from Hindus who felt threatened – and betrayed – by the huge crowds of Indian Christians who turned out to greet the Pope.
Christian leaders and organisations in sync with western NGOs and church backed bodies are playing a divisive game aimed at breaking India. Author Rajiv Malhotra has exposed this with abundant evidence in the book Breaking India, which he co-authored with Aravindan Neelakandan.
According to Malhotra, US and European churches, academics, think-tanks, foundations, government and human rights groups play an aggressive role in fostering separation of the identities of Dravidian and Dalit communities from the rest of India.
Koenraad Elst says, “There is a vicious attempt to delegitimise Hinduism as India’s native religion, and to mobilise the weaker sections of Hindu society against it with “blood and soil” slogans.
Seeing how the nativist movement in the Americas is partly directed against Christianity because of its historical aggression against native society (in spite of Liberation Theology’s attempts to recuperate the movement), the Indian Church tries to take over this nativist tendency and forge it into a weapon against Hinduism.
Christian involvement in the so-called Dalit (“oppressed”) and Adivasi (“aboriginal”) movements is an attempt to channel the nativist revival and perversely direct it against native society itself. It advertises its services as the guardian of the interests of the “true natives” (meaning the Scheduled Castes and Tribes) against native society, while labelling the upper castes as “Aryan invaders”, on the basis of an outdated theory postulating an immigration in 1500 BC.
“To declare people “invaders” because of a supposed immigration of some of their ancestors 3500 years ago is an unusual feat of political hate rhetoric in itself, but the point is that it follows a pattern of earlier rounds of Christian aggression. It is Cortes all over again: Cortes, the conqueror of Mexico, could defeat the Aztecs, the ruling nation which had immigrated from Utah three centuries earlier, by enlisting the support of nations subdued by the Aztecs, with himself posing as their liberator (of course, they were to regret their “liberation”). The attempt to divide the people of a country on an ethnic basis — whether it is a real ethnic distinction as in the case of Cortes’ Mexico, or a wilfully invented one as in the case of India — is an obvious act of hostility, unmistakably an element of warfare.
“Therefore, ‘without any restriction’, Christians are teaching some sections of Hindu society hatred against other sections. You don’t normally try to create hostility between your friends, so the Church’s policy to pit sections of Hindu society against one another should be seen for what it is: an act of aggression, which warrants an active policy of self-defence and counter-attack. This counter-attack should take a proper form, adapted to the genius of Hinduism.”
From allying with the fanatic Portuguese to siding with the murderous Muslim League mobs of the 1940s, Indian Christians have shown an unbelievably stupid and opportunistic streak. Their Abrahamic compass is fixed due west and there’s little hope Christians will suddenly become nationalist. For, identifying with the Indian nation state would also imply acceptance of Hinduism. That, more than anything, is incompatible with the Christian worldview. Former top cop Julio Ribeiro and Supreme Court judge Kurian Joseph – who both railed against the Indian nation state – are living symbols of this incompatibility. In this backdrop, Ghar Wapsi – or reverting of Christians to Hinduism – is not such a bad idea after all.
Rakesh is primarily a defence analyst. His articles have been quoted extensively by universities and in books on diplomacy, counter terrorism, warfare, and development of the global south; and by international defence journals.
Rakesh’s work has been cited by leading think tanks and organisations that include the Naval Postgraduate School, California; US Army War College, Pennsylvania; Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington DC; State University of New Jersey; Institute of International and Strategic Relations, Paris; BBC Vietnam; Siberian Federal University, Krasnoyarsk; Centre for Air Power Studies, New Delhi; Institute for Defense Analyses, Virginia; International Center for Not-for-Profit Law, Washington DC; Stimson Centre, Washington DC; Foreign Policy Research Institute, Philadelphia; and Institute for Strategic, Political, Security and Economic Consultancy, Berlin.
His articles have been published by the Centre for Land Warfare Studies, New Delhi; Foundation Institute for Eastern Studies, Warsaw; and the Research Institute for European and American Studies, Greece, among others.