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“Peaceful” Eastern Religion

From the daily news, one might gain the impression that terrorism and tyranny are the exclusive provinces of Islam. Similarly, one might be led to think that Eastern religions are peculiarly amiable and tolerant, personified by the beloved, ubiquitous Dalai Lama. But a closer look at Asia reveals a different story. Yes, Christians in Delhi and Bangkok are safer than those in Mecca and Mogadishu, but there is religious violence aplenty in the shadow of Buddhas and along the Ganges.

The Hindus of India are particularly prickly today. On January 28, 2007, about forty masked men attacked a Christian prayer meeting in the state of Bihar, beating the attendees with sticks and iron pipes, and warning them to stop gathering.1 Lone pastors have been the victims of similar beatings on the streets of Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka states,2 as have laymen distributing tracts in Maharashtra and school staff and students in Orissa. Often, the perpetrators are members of Bajrang Dal, the youth wing of the World Hindu Council, and in many cases, the pretense is retaliation for “forced conversions” to Christianity.”3 Of course, Christians are not the only targets of Hindu extremists, who are suspected in the February 19, 2007, deadly bombing of a train to Pakistan, on which over 70% of the passengers were Muslim Pakistanis and the motive was more likely political than religious.4

Hindu violence often extends to family members, namely their unborn daughters. They see them, with their dowries, as a liability. As a favorite Hindi saying goes, “Having a girl is to plant a seed in someone else’s garden.”5 And though “gender-based abortion is illegal . . . experts estimate India has lost 10 million girls in the past two decades. In the 12 years since selective abortion was outlawed, only one doctor has been convicted of carrying out the crime.”6 The result is a disastrous gender ratio, with, for example, according to the 2001 census, only 820 girls for every 1,000 boys in the state of Haryana, where, in one district, forty percent of the men between fifteen and forty-five are unmarried. Such is the result of the nation’s $100 million sex-selection industry.7

Oppression can take many forms. For instance, the state of Himachal Pradesh has instituted an anti-conversion law,8 and in Madhya Pradesh, militant Hindus stormed a government marriage registrar’s office, mistakenly thinking that a Hindu woman was about to marry a Christian man.9 But Hindus are not alone in their rough treatment of Christians; Buddhists are also getting into the act. In Myanmar, “Persecution against Christians [has]come in the form of church burnings, forced conversion to the state religion of Buddhism, and banning of Christians from school.”10 Furthermore, “children from Christian families are taken from their parents and placed into Buddhist monasteries to become novice monks under the false pretense of sending the children to receive a good education . . . Christians are also forced to contribute financially to Buddhist projects.”11

Still, in the midst of oppression, there are bright spots for Christians in South Asia. One notable example is the conversion of many Dalit (formerly called “untouchables”) in India. Though discrimination against the Dalit was outlawed in 1947, those of “higher castes” still refuse to drink from the same wells and continue to assign them “the most menial jobs, particularly handling cadavers and human and animal waste.”12 These 167 million people (16.2 % of India’s population) have been told by their Hindu “brothers” that their low estate is properly a matter of their birth, the working out of karma in their oft-reincarnated existence.13 Not surprisingly, these “untouchables” are eager to hear the gospel of a Lord who counts equal “Jews and Greeks” of every economic and social station. And though Hindus are violently upset by these conversions, perhaps they will begin to notice that these new children of The Prince of Peace are admirable, helpful neighbors—and give them living room, if not a respectful hearing.


Aloys Evina, “India: Masked Mob Attacked Christian Prayer Meet in Bihar,” Journal Chretien, January 29, 2007, (accessed March 27, 2007).


“India: News Briefs: Recent Incidents of Persecution,” Compass Direct News, March 21, 2007, (accessed March 25, 2007).


“India: Hindu Extremists Continue Violent Attacks on Christians,” Compass Direct News, (accessed March 27, 2007).


Y. P. Rajesh, “Train Bombing Threat to Peace Process,” Sydney Morning Herald, February 20, 2007, (accessed March 27, 2007). Also Jeremy Page and Devika Bhat, “India and Pakistan United to Condemn Train Bombing,” Times Online, February 19, 2007, (accessed March 27, 2007).


Raekha Prasad and Randeep Ramesh, “India’s Missing Girls,” The Guardian, February 28, 2007,,,329729500-111087,00.html (accessed March 27, 2007).




Julia Duin, “India’s Imbalance of Sexes,” The Washington Times, February 27, 2007, (accessed March 27, 2007).


Daniel Blake, “Christians Harassed in India Under New Anti-Conversion Law,” Christian Today, January 26, 2007, (accessed March 27, 2007).


Shaikh Azizur Rahman, “Hindus Fail to Prevent Marriage to Christian,” The Washington Times, January 27, 2007, (accessed March 27, 2007).


Ethan Cole, “Report: Burma Plans to Wipe Out Christianity,” The Christian Post, January 23, 2007, (accessed March 27, 2007).


Michelle Vu, “Burma’s Persecuted Christians Plea Case in Highest U.S. Hearings,” The Christian Post, February 12, 2007, (accessed March 27, 2007).


“Dalits in Conversion Ceremony,” BBC News, October 14, 2006, (accessed March 27, 2007).