Q: Is there a problem with proselytism overseas by U.S. religious groups? Isn't sharing one's faith part of religious freedom? When does it cross the line into manipulation and coercion?
I call proselytizing evil because it is responsible, in a tangible way, for all the violence that we experience today. The two religions that began proselytizing are Christianity and Islam. It introduced competition in religion and got other religions like Hinduism and Buddhism, etc, also interested in proselytizing. In the old days in India — prior to independence — Christian and Islamic preachers stood on street corners to denounce Hinduism and promote their own religion. Today they do it in a more sophisticated way. Various forms of aid are offered to the poor if they would consider changing their religion. One way or the other one cannot promote one's own without denouncing the other.
In the 1930's when Christian priests as well as Muslim imams saw the possibilities of converting some 150 million people who were relegated to low caste status by the Hindus, they tried their best to induce the oppressed to come into their fold. The response was not good. Rev. E. Stanley Jones, a United Methodist Minister in India, a close friend of Mahatma Gandhi, asked him what the reason was. Gandhi said: "The day you stop talking about how good your religion is and start living it then everyone will come willingly to join you." I think this is the crux of the problem here.
By Arun Gandhi | March 4