India — Christian leaders in India have responded with one voice to allegations made by the weekly newspaper Tehelka that Christians are carrying out “the conversion agenda of U.S. President George Bush,” and using the HIV/AIDS problem as “an opportunity for evangelism.”
Tehelka, a weekly newspaper launched on January 30, accused the U.S. government of having a “conversion agenda” for India. The 11-page cover story in the inaugural issue portrayed Christian missionary work as a “sinister and disturbing phenomenon” that should “ring alarm bells within the intelligence agencies in India.” A second report on February 7 claimed mission organizations were using the HIV/AIDS crisis as an opportunity for evangelism.
After the Tehelka articles appeared, the Union Home and Law Ministries of India began pushing for Parliament to grant state administrators greater power to restrict foreign aid coming into the country for Christian ministries.
The Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) joined the National Council of Churches in India and the Catholic Bishops Conference to issue a joint statement urging citizens to vote for candidates who support communal harmony and religious freedom.
“The representatives we elect must be able to redirect the path of our nation to strengthen democracy,” the document states. “The [newspaper] report seeks to divide the unity of the church in India,” said Rev. Richard Howell, general secretary of the EFI. “But they cannot divide the church, as all major Christian denominations in India stand united against the Tehelka reports.”