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FYI this is a slight tweaking of a note I had posted recently on Facebook.
There are not many times where I’m ashamed to be Hindu. As a college student, I was involved with the Hindu Students Council and I’ve always found pride in Hinduism as a faith of peace and acceptance. Yet I’ve been following the conflict in Orissa and other parts of India and it’s appalling to realize the degree of violence occurring in the area. It has made me geniunely ashamed to be Hindu, to be associated with the “Hindus” violently attacking Christians, forcing them to convert back to Hinduism, or face death. These are not the followers of Hinduism I know.
In the article entitled “Hindu Threat to Christians: Convert or Flee.” there is one thing that is fundamentally wrong with this statement: since when does anyone convert to Hinduism? There are no set conversion rituals in Hinduism, there’s nothing anyone has to do. If you want to be a Hindu, fine, if not, that’s fine too. The ritual alluded to in the article, involving drinking diluted cow dung is not something I have ever encountered as a Hindu, it strikes me more as a tool of humiliation than a legitimate conversion ritual. Hinduism, as it is, is still relatively misunderstood outside of India. Those who deem such horrific acts as ritual would be detrimental to Hinduism’s already shaky image in the rest of the world.
Hinduism is not a religion of proselytizing, those who became Hindu did passively, without any force driving them against their will. The Hindus in Orissa who are forcing conversions are blinded by their own misguided rage. They see the Christian missionaries as a threat to their existence, a threat to their own faith. The degree to which they have been proselytizing and gaining followers in the region makes Christianity an influence to be reckoned with. They deal with the very real possibility of Christianity supplanting Hinduism in the area. Yet is this the appropriate response? To humiliate and kill the clergy and the faithful alike? The ones committing these acts, they aren’t real Hindus. Those who parade around as Hindus and persecute their neighbors because they happen to worship a seemingly different deity, they aren’t real Hindus. Hindus above all, realize that God is the same regardless of the name that is given. Hindus strive for ahimsa or nonviolence, it is central to almost every one of the sacred texts. The ones exacting their revenge in such a violent manner, they are not Hindus. Leave people to their faith, faith is after all, a personal choice.
There is a set of verses from the Atharva Veda that appropriately sum up not only how Hindus and Christians should approach this issue of difference, but how the whole world needs to see the differences in humanity and embrace them, rather than try to make things right in their own image:
We are the birds of the same nest,
We may wear different skins,
We may speak different languages,
We may believe in different religions,
We may belong to different cultures,
Yet we share the same home, our earth.
Born on the same planet
Covered by the same skies
Gazing at the same stars
Breathing the same air
We must learn to happily progress together
Or miserably perish together,
For man can live individually,
But can survive only collectively.