Raj Kumar, 24, a Protestant Christian from Bihar pursuing post-graduation in Delhi, says recent attacks on Christmas celebrations in several states is a growing and worrying trend
I’m a Dalit Christian (Protestant) belonging to Siwan in Bihar. Ever since I came to New Delhi for my studies, I have become an even more active member of the Church. Faith is important to me, which is why it pains me to see when one group of people attacks another group of people, just because they are practising their faith.
The recent attacks on Christians during Christmas in several states and the regular attacks on missionary schools is a worrying trend. I believe the very ethos of India, that is pluralism is under attack. As ‘We the people of India’, weren’t we all supposed to be one nation, one people? And I don’t understand the bogeyman of ‘conversion’ that people take recourse to when they attack people of a minority faith. Let me narrate how our family converted to Christianity.
While many people convert willingly because they feel discriminated against, it wasn’t the case with our family. My grandmother is the one who decided to embrace Christianity. My parents had been married for five years but had been unable to conceive. My grandmother went to different places to pray and in that similar vein she visited the church as well.
I was born soon after and she believed it was a miracle, which is why she took up the Christian faith. That was the turning point of her life. Faith is a very private and personal thing and people have different trigger points for different decisions. For me, the church is a like a psychologist, to guide me, motivate me, support me and help me become one with the community as well.
As a child we did feel ‘othered’ as Dalit Christians but not to the extent as it is today. It was subtle, but since the last few years it has become an in-your-face kind of thing. The very people who talk about missionary schools being run by videshi dharm have their own kids getting the best of education in them.
It is the local level leaders and the aam janta that gets brainwashed at the idea of there being an enemy out there. The landlord of our church is a practising, socially active Hindu and says the only thing he wants is the rent on time and nothing more. I wish more people were like him. I worry if individual freedoms will take a complete beating in the coming days.
Reports of lynching have become relatively commonplace and now alongwith Muslims, Christians are being targeted too. Personally I don’t feel scared because I have faith in God. But that doesn’t mean I don’t worry about the impact it is having on society at large.
As per a recent report, a whopping 80% of the food distribution to poor people was disrupted because it was coming from Christian organisations or countries. Shouldn’t we be caring about the poor? The pandemic finally made people feel how those practising a minority faith feel: socially distanced and isolated.
Back home in Bihar there have been news of pastors etc. being attacked. We need to bring back the idea of India and understand that hate constantly wants new targets and when there’s no one left, it turns inwards. I would like to remind everyone the poetic lines by the German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller who said:
First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.