Christians may have second thoughts on the relative peace of the Shabari Kumbh Hindu Festival after new reports uncovered anti-Christian conversion activities directed at tribal believers in India.
According to International Christian Concern (ICC), the festival held earlier this month in the Dangs District, Gujarat contained an anti-conversion poster campaign. The campaign was reportedly hosted by a Hindu extremist group the National Volunteer Corps (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh), holding an exhibition called "The New Vision for India."
Posters featured at the exhibition included excerpts of missionary groups in India and overseas with accusations likening Christianity to separatist and terrorist movements in Northeast India.
One poster quoted Mahatma Gandhi, the so-called Father of modern India, stating, "If I had the right to legislate, I would abolish conversions. I would welcome only those foreigners who come for social service. It is true that because of missionaries, the culture and lifestyle of Hindu families change." "Conversion is the second name of violence," the statement continued.
Other posters read "Terrorism is the true face of Christianity," "Christian conversion is a hidden war against Hinduism," "Church-sponsored terrorist groups in Northeast India," and "Education in a missionary school is dangerous."
Christians worldwide initially feared a repeat of the December 1998 attack, when thousands of Hindu militants attacked buildings and places of worship owned by or affiliated with Christians and Muslims.
Though the event ended with little disturbances, Christian groups remain wary of the potential repercussions of the anti-Christian messages spoken at the festival. According to ICC, "The festival, organized in the remote, tribal-dominant district, was an attempt to 'reconvert' tribal Christians to Hinduism by making them aware of the 'Christian conspiracy of conversions.’"
"Although no direct attempt of re-conversion was reported during the festival," the Washington, D.C.-based human rights group added, "the RSS left no stone unturned in preparing the ground for re-conversions in the future.
Mission organizations working in the country have asked for additional prayers from believers worldwide. This Friday, Hopegiver’s International will host a 10-day prayer campaign that will urge believers to pray for peace and religious freedom in India.