Trinidad: Global menace of conversion! Stop the ugly crime!

By: (Name withheld to protect his/her privacy)
I don’t know the Indian conversion situation, but I have some info on conversion stats of Hindus in another country which may be of some use as a comparison.

I lived in Trinidad in the Caribbean, for 42 years before moving to Canada, and while there my group was a member of the National Council of Hindu Organizations. Around 1987 I did a paper for the group on conversion of Hindus by Christian missionaries which was alarming in my opinion, as it said 10 per cent of the Hindu population of 200,000 plus was being converted each year! Trinidad then had a population of  just about a million, of which over 400,000 were Indian, The Christians were about 60% of the population. .

I can’t find the paper now, but I remember the details clearly.  It speculated that at least 1,000 Christian missionaries were at work daily trying to convert Hindus. They were members of the Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, Presbyterian, Pentecostal and some smaller faiths, and I felt that 1,000 active missionaries from a huge Christian pool like 600,000 was a very conservatine number.

So if those 1,000 were converting just 2 Hindus each per month, that would give 2,000 Hindu converts per month and 24,000 Hindu converts per year, which would be well over 10 percent of the total Hindu population PER YEAR.  That was a staggering figure, meaning that the bell curve for Hindus in Trinidad was heading down at a sharp slide. My prediction was that in forty years the Hindu population in Trinidad would go below the level of viability.

To my amazement the National Council of Hindu Organizations did absolutely nothing about tackling the conversion issue, which my paper had identified as the major challenge Hindus faced. Now after 28 years of inaction by the Hindu groups, I see numerous signs that the missionaries have succeeded as I predicted.  The Pentecostals in particular have made massive inroads into the Hindu heartlands, and in almost every formerly Hindu village or district there are thriving Christian churches. Hindus were once around 87% of the Indian population in the 19th century have been falling continuously as a percent of the Indian population and today are barely above 50%.  Their future is bleak.

The tragedy is that the Hindus appear unable to use their proven problem solving skills and acumen to find solutions to a survival issue like conversions. In Trinidad the Hindus (and Indians generally) are highly successful in business, law, engineering, accounting, computing, and all other areas of enterprise and employment, easily out competing the large African group, and giving a good run to the smaller European, Chinese, Syrian-Lebanese communities.  But when it comes to self defence of their dharma the Hindus have been helpless punching bags for over 160 years.

Is there a similar syndrome in India? My India Indian friends will have to answer.

There are a couple of additional points from the Trinidad conversion paper.
I didn’t just give speculative conversion stats and projections for Hindus. I asked the basic questions about what were the reasons for the success of the missionaries, and what methods Hindus should use to counter the missionaries and keep our “customers” from straying.

This is it in summary. The Christian missionaries were having it easy identifying the Hindus by the jhanda that most Hindus had in front their houses, so they could zero in on optimal targets.  The Hindus would welcome anybody coming to talk about God and religion, unlike the Muslims and even Christians from other faiths than the missionary at their door.  Missionaries would come to the home repeatedly for Bible study and discussion on spiritual matters AT NO COST, unlike Hindu pundits who would come to the home only to do pujas for which they were paid. (I can’t think of a single pundit from Trinidad at the time who had ever gone to a Hindu home to do “Hindu study” with the family for free.) Missionaries would offer Sunday school for the Hindu children and send vehicles to pick up the kids on Sundays. They would invite Hindus to their church services where the Hindus would be lovingly welcomed and treasured. They would go to the prisons and hospitals and pray with the Hindus there. They would send people punctually to religious education classes in schools, and welcome Hindus to those classes when the Hindu kids found no Hindu teacher had come to the Hindu religious education classes. The missionaries would help with employment, counselling when the Hindu families had problems, would have youth groups, women’s groups, men’s groups, enjoyable excursions that enveloped the Hindus in a warm family environment.

To be quite blunt, the missionaries offered a complete package to the Hindus that was way, way better than anything the Hindu temples, groups or pundits could put up.  The Hindu convert usually came out invigorated, confident, glowing, better dressed, morally and behaviourally a much better person than he was before.  It was no surprise that whole families pulled up their ghanda, tossed the murtis in the garbage, refused to go to any Hindu functions or to eat “devil food” (prasad!). They could boast  of very real benefits from conversion.

Now what could the Hindus do to stop this hemorraging and keep their followers?  My paper said plainly that the only way was to do the good things  that the missionaries were doing, but better.  Hindu leaders would have to develop and implement Hindu education programs in the homes, schools and mandirs to make sure Hindus knew and were proud of their heritage.  They had to implement Hindu Sunday schools or an equivalent, proper religious education classes in schools, visits to prisons, hospitals and the like, counselling, employment assistance, group activities, revitalizing campaigns sweeping the country to bring about and sustain a Hindu revival.  They would have to outperform the missionary package if they had any hope of retaining the Hindu population to their dharma.  They would even have to do some proactive work in alerting Hindus about the dangers of talking with missionaries, sending Hindu children to Christian Sunday schools,   AS THE MUSLIM INDIANS HAD BEEN DOING FOR YEARS.  Muslims in Trinidad would generally NOT have Bible study in their homes, would not send their kids to Sunday school, or Christian religion education class in school, would not attend crusades, or accept counselling from Christians. Here was an example of success in front the eyes of the Hindus, as the Muslims had a package that was comparable to the christian missionaries.  And the Muslim population in Trinidad was not on the decline but gradually increasing- they had beaten off the missionary attack.

You can guess by now how many Hindu groups or individuals responded to this and other similar challenges to circle the wagons and fight off the attackers. Even today when I bring up the issue with Trinidad Hindus their eyes glaze over in boredom boredom really quick, they sigh and say boy that is a big job there, and agree that somebody should really do something…. before they get away from me to some other more comfortable topic.  I have zero hope that anything serious and wide scale will be done anytime soon in Trinidad.  I am doubly thankful that now I live in Canada- where we still have many of the problems of Hindus in Trinidad except the big one. Christian missionaries are no threat to Trinidad Hindus here in Toronto Their churches are shrinking and dying in Canada (except the Pentecostals and Mormons!) and the missionaries themselves seem so wimpy in comparison to the ones in the Caribbean.  When I see them coming to my house, I don’t even open the door to tell them go away.
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