ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The Catholic Faith Met its Waterloo in the Indian Sub-Continent

Updated on December 16, 2019
emge profile image

MG is a senior officer from Indian Air Force who has first-hand knowledge of intricacies of war, history and the present political scenario

Background

Christian faith

In a discussion in a seminar on Christianity, many speakers brought out the fact that Christianity could not make a dent in people's belief in Hinduism. In other words, Christianity could not spread in the sub-continent. It's worth considering that despite Saint Thomas one of the apostles of Jesus Christ coming to India in 52 AD, that is almost 2000 years back the population of Catholics is not beyond 1.5% of the population of the subcontinent. This fact has to be examined in the light of almost 200 years of English rule as well. The English rule was partial to missionaries and they were allowed to visit places where other Indians were not allowed. As an example, there was the "Inner Line Permit" in the Tribal areas where Christian missionaries were given a free run. What was the "inner line permit?" It was a permit introduced by English rulers. The permit was required from the Deputy Commissioner to enter these areas.

One of the cardinal principles of Christianity is to spread the gospel. The Christian missionaries were eminently successful in spreading the gospel in the tribal regions of Africa and South America. In the subcontinent despite a Christian ruler in power ( The English)the missionaries failed in their attempt to spread the gospel. They could not convince the masses that Christianity is the path to god.


The missionaries had a free run in their attempt to convert the Hindu masses and tribals with the British in power till 1947. Despite all the facilities the missionaries ended up converting only a few lower caste Hindus and the bulk of Hindus did not accept the gospel. 1947 was a watershed in the history of India and the British government lost India. This was the year when the sunset on the British Empire and I'm afraid it's never going to rise again.

The retreat from the subcontinent was brought about by Adolf Hitler who severely weakened England that it just could not hold on to its colonies. Another reason was the Indian army could no longer be relied upon to uphold the English flag. In short, the victory in the Second World War was a Pyrrhic victory.


British rule and missionaries


The missionaries first came to India during the reign of Emperor Jahangir and Akbar. There is mention of Jesuit priests at the court of the Moghul rulers in chronicles of that period including the Akbar Nama. Earlier to that Saint Thomas visited India and died in Madras where a church in his memory is now a world heritage site. In the 16th century, St Francis came to Goa and died there. His body is embalmed and kept in the church there. Thus there was an interaction between the Christian missionaries and India but they could not sway the iconoclast belief of the Hindus.

During the almost 200 years of British rule, a lot of good took place as the British laid the framework of a modern nation. This also fuelled a nationalism that went beyond caste and religious lines. Indian leaders led by Gandhi channelized Hinduism as a form of nationalism. They and other notable Hindu leaders like Swami Vivekananda instituted a sense of pride in the culture of the sub-continent which was dominated by a vast Hindu population and minority Muslim believers.


The British were the paramount power and they allowed Christian missionaries to come to India. Their purpose was to spread the gospel and wean the Hindus and minority Muslims away from so-called Pagan beliefs. They came with the mistaken belief that they will "civilize" the people of the sub-continent and convert them to Christianity. The Pope allocated unlimited funds for the activities of missionaries to facilitate the conversion of the Hindus and Muslims to Christianity.
The Role of the Missionaries
To the credit of the missionaries, they spread out to the country and started many good things like schools and medical centers as they were flush with funds from the Vatican. They also began to give ample gifts of powdered milk and other trinkets and the people were told these were sent by Jesus Christ. This was a form of inducement but even the very poor did not convert.

This inducement by the church was the hallmark of conversion. It succeeded in Africa and America but the Missionaries failed to realize that India had a very ancient civilization and Hinduism had deep mystical and philosophical overtones. This failure to appreciate the inherent philosophy of Hindusim led them to flounder and their attempts to spread the gospel was an abject failure.


Failure of missionaries


Unlimited funds and food aid are not the recipes for conversion-not in India which had a rich Hindu philosophy. The missionaries made little headway in the subcontinent. But despite a vigorous thrust for three centuries, the missionaries could barely convert 2% of the population to the Christian faith.

The reason for this failure is simple. The local people were not impressed by the Christian concept of resurrection and Jesus as the son of God. They could see no reason to convert from a faith that was older by hundreds of years even from the birth of Jesus.


Reasons for failure


One of the reasons is that all the missionaries were whites. In Africa, the black man was overawed by the white man but in India, they appeared to the people as alien. The Christian god Jesus was thus associated with the white race and this by itself did not cut much ice with the most people in the sub-continent. Another reason was despite a concerted attack on Hindu ideals and philosophy the people felt that Christianity as a religion lacked the deep spiritualism of the Hindu faith.

This was a major reason and matters were not helped by some missionaries denigrating the Hindu gods without giving any reasons. Many people also felt the missionaries and the `Church never advocated the independence of India. They felt they were insincere.
One will recollect in America also the Church condoned slavery for over 150 years but not much is spoken about it now.

Last word

Another reason for the failure of Christianity is that the rulers were Protestants. There is a major difference in the outlook of the Protestant and Catholics.

The failure of the Church and Catholic faith to convert Hindus and Muslims to Christianity is a point for discussion. The history of India shows a reverse drain. Many Christians converted to Hinduism, but that is cause for another article. The Catholic faith met its Waterloo in India.

References

When one makes such an important statement that Christianity failed in India, it is but natural that people will ask what are the references for this. There are many articles discourses and essays on the subject. One of the excellent articles is available at https://www.outlookindia.com/magazine/story/why-christianity-failed-in-india/293895.

This research states that the first Hindu came to England just about 200 years back and now they form almost 2% of the population while the first Christian missionary came to India 2000 years back and yet the Christian population is not beyond 2%. One can draw his own conclusion from this statistic.

There is also an excellent book "Christianity's scramble for India and the failure of the secularist" by Navaratna Srinivasa Rajaram. This is available on Amazon and gives an insight into why the Christian faith failed in its conversion bid in the land of the Hindus.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • emge profile imageAUTHOR

      MG Singh 

      5 weeks ago from Singapore

      Thank you Manatita for your valuable comment

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 

      5 weeks ago from london

      An interesting look of this conversion approach of Christianity and its failure to work in India. Thank you.

    • emge profile imageAUTHOR

      MG Singh 

      5 weeks ago from Singapore

      Sally, well written and perhaps closest to why the missionaries failed in India.

    • profile image

      Sally Field 

      5 weeks ago

      The article was interesting but the subject is vast. Somewhere down the line the missionaries failed to gauge the spiritualism of India and Hindus. They were not like African tribes and needed a different approach. I have been to India so many times and am convinced the missionaries could not understand what Hinduism is. It's philosophy is much richer.

    • emge profile imageAUTHOR

      MG Singh 

      5 weeks ago from Singapore

      Thank you Clive for commenting

    • emge profile imageAUTHOR

      MG Singh 

      5 weeks ago from Singapore

      Thank you Nell for sparing time and commenting

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      5 weeks ago from England

      Interesting article. And something I had no idea of. I believe that most countries still stick to their original religion, but who knows what the future brings out there.

    • clivewilliams profile image

      Clive Williams 

      5 weeks ago from Jamaica

      mmm....Interesting article

    • emge profile imageAUTHOR

      MG Singh 

      5 weeks ago from Singapore

      Thank you RoadMonkey for sparing time and commenting

    • RoadMonkey profile image

      RoadMonkey 

      5 weeks ago

      Very interesting. I had not realised that missionaries were given privileged access to various areas.

    • emge profile imageAUTHOR

      MG Singh 

      5 weeks ago from Singapore

      Dear Mehra, Christianity is based on spreading the gospel. It can be by missionaries or by the sword like in the Baltic states. It's part of history. ,

    • emge profile imageAUTHOR

      MG Singh 

      5 weeks ago from Singapore

      Dear Pamela, thank you for commenting. Your observation is bang on.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      5 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

      Ths is a very good and interesting article about religious history of India. Slavery is wrong and it does not have anything to do with the Christian. The Bible does not condone slavery. Hinduism has been the choice for the Indian population for centuries and I do not see that changing.

    • profile image

      R Mehra 

      5 weeks ago

      Very interesting article. The missionaries tried hard to spread the gospel but I suspect they failed to gauge the spiritual power of Hinduism and its magnetic hold over the masses. In my area, I hardly see any Christian. India will rank as the big failure of the church as far as conversion is concerned. Come to think of it why do the missionaries want to convert? In any case at many places, Christianity spread by the sword.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)