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Regarding Olaf Carthaus’ June 14 letter, “Desire to help not a delusion“: If Christians go to other countries in Asia to help the poor without any ulterior motive, there cannot be any objection. But as the Tokugawa shoguns experienced from the beginning of the 17th century and as India experienced after the British occupation in the mid-18th century, that was not the case.

In Japan, Spanish and Portuguese missionaries wanted to set up a base for their respective countries’ imperial power. Ultimately the shoguns had to use rival Christians, the mercantile Dutch — who were only interested in trade — to subdue them.

India was not so lucky. Baron MacAuley was appointed by the British government to change India’s education system, in his words, for the purpose of creating an intermediate caste “who would be Indian in blood but English in moral and intellect.” He dismissed the entire literary and religious heritage of India as worthy of just one shelf in a European library. The idea was to demoralize the people and then conquer.

When the drive to convert upper-class Indians failed, the British went to remote tribal peoples and converted them en masse by establishing schools, hospitals, etc. to influence them. Then came weapons and political propaganda aimed at convincing them that since they were different from Hindu-Buddhists, they should have political independence. The results were wars between violent tribal Christians and government forces — from which both India and Burma have suffered for decades.

Religious conversions, whether by Muslims’ violent means or by Christians’ “invasion of love,” have had the same results.

As Mahatma Gandhi wrote: “It pains me to have to say that the Christian missionaries as a body, with honorable exceptions, have actively supported a system that has impoverished, enervated and demoralized a people considered to be among the gentlest and the most civilized on Earth.” (Young India journal, Feb. 8, 1923).

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

dipak basu

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