Allurements and Inducements
The practice of allurement, or providing “inducements” to the poor in return for their conversion to Christianity, is quite common, and one that many missionaries readily admit using. It is also nothing new, the Portuguese and Dutch used this technique extensively in the 16th to 18th century period in Sri Lanka . Today’s methods are subtle and more concealed. Converts are now being “bought” with food, medicine, promises, micro-loans and many other means. Micro-lending programs are increasingly popular, providing a revenue stream for cash-strapped missions as it adds financial credit to the other blandishments missionaries can offer in exchange for conversion.
Conversion is the Price of Charity
The practice of enticing the hungry and sick to Christianity with offers of food and medicine may not be illegal, but is hardly ethical–especially given that so many of the poor people have little or no understanding of the concept of religious “conversion.” Mahatma Gandhi, that icon of compassion and self-sacrifice, detested proselytizing, and criticizing this practice said “I strongly resent these overtures to utterly ignorant men,” he once protested, criticizing missionaries who, in order to gain converts, “dangle earthly paradises in front of them and make promises to them which they can never keep.” In his Collected Works, Mahatma Gandhi states categorically that “the idea of conversion … is the deadliest poison which ever sapped the fountain of truth.” If missionaries could not conduct service for its own sake, he said, if the price of their charity was conversion, he preferred that they would quit India altogether. This practice of bribing, rewarding and buying people over to Christianity, is not a recent phenomenon, it has been the common characteristic of all Christian and western humanitarian and charity missions and their NGO affiliates operating in poor countries.
Intimidation and Fraud
When these baits and allurements fail, the missionaries resort to more-aggressive means which border on intimidation and fraud. In Sri Lanka they resorted to making of the Buddha- shaped cookies to be eaten by children and smashing and destroying statues of the Buddha in their presence in order to kill children’s spirit of veneration to the Buddha. For these peculiar Christians the “harvesting” of souls has become an end that justifies almost any means. “It’s not how we convert that matters,” Paul insists. “Conversion is what counts.”
The innocent Buddhists are the most prone to this conversion menace because they form over 70% of the islands population and form the overwhelming majority among people seriously affected by the tsunami disaster. In many places it has been reported that the rural poor have refused to be bought over by these undesirable elements. The more educated ones are bitter and have developed much resentment towards those resorting to these unethical means.
It is most unfortunate that the English media of Sri Lanka which is controlled by Christians, rarely give publicity to the deceitful activities of Christian missions operating in Sri Lanka . On the contrary they highlight often fabricated stories of churches being destroyed by Buddhists. Christians in Sri Lanka account for a mere 5% of the population. Owing to the special opportunities and privileges accorded to them by Christian colonial powers for some five centuries in the past, they still continue to wield much power in the political, business, media and educational fields.
Incompatibility with Culture and Way of life
What these missions are attempting to introduce to the predominantly Buddhist country, is incompatible with the way of life and the social value system of the country. Sri Lanka ’s well-established Buddhist culture extends to a period that exceeds 2200 years and is marked by ingenious creativity and accomplishments. The UNESCO designated several historic Buddhist sites in Sri Lanka as World Heritage Sites owing to the masterpieces of culture evident in them.
Sri Lanka’s Buddhist culture is characterized by cohesive families, respect for parents, elders, the educated, strong and lasting family bonds, children being great sources of inner satisfaction and pride for parents, taking personal care of parents and elders during their sunset years, maintaining close ties with ones relatives, taking pride in their accomplishments, and helping those in need, being charitable and compassionate towards others, generation of satisfying community feelings through numerous religious, cultural and recreational activities where Buddhist principles form the basis, and people’s active participation in these festivals, ceremonies, rituals and celebrations.
Peoples community attachment and feelings of togetherness are best expressed at weddings and funerals, which are attended by many. Annual Vesak festival, Sinhela Hindu New Year celebrations, Dalada Perahera festival, Sri Paada season, are among the many historic events which generate a good amount of community feelings. Towns and villages have their own individual festivals and celebrations that attract many people.
Community Feeling and Individualism
Community feeling pervades the Sri Lankan society, especially among the rural masses. This was well expressed during the time of the tsunami disaster when as a community the people voluntarily came together as one, to help those affected. Those Sri Lankans who have been well exposed to the western world, are aware of the largely individualistic tendencies that the western corporate culture promotes where aggressiveness, craving and sensuality reign supreme.