4

This says:

2) The Money Minded Evangelists - This is where 99.9% of today's Indian Christian Evangelists fall into. There are pastors who live in mansions and luxury, pay people to convert to Christianity so that they can make up the numbers and ask for money from abroad.

They abuse their power for their own financial gains

Then it shows pictures of newspapers in the Tamil language, implying that they support the claim.

This says:

I don't know much about the same.

But I remember when I was in class 5th, one of my friend Arnold, converted from Hinduism to Christianity. On asking him about the experience, he explained me that they paid him after conversion.

I was a bit dumb at that age and thought this is a very good way of making money.

Do Christian pastors in India pay people to convert to Christianity?

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    A relevant source: m.huffpost.com/us/entry/4470448 – A E Dec 27 '16 at 11:02
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    This is one of those cases where proving a negative could be well nigh impossible. – TRiG Dec 27 '16 at 12:08
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    Seems like it's a question of defining just what's meant by "conversion". If someone offered to pay me sufficiently well (let alone threaten to put me to the sword/burn me at the stake if I didn't), I'd go sit in a church, temple, or mosque, maybe even sing in the choir, and otherwise pay lip service to the religion. But could any amount of money or threats cause me to actually believe? I don't think so. – jamesqf Dec 27 '16 at 19:40
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    @jamesqf, I think that for this question it would be enough to show that pastors/priests pay people in order to be "counted" as part of their community, whether it's go to church, register as a christian or any other form, no need to show that true believe is achieved. – SIMEL Dec 28 '16 at 7:14
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    @jamesqf If someone says he is a Christian, he will be regarded a Christian. His actual beliefs are irrelevant. For example, the secularist pro-democratic and nationalist young turks are regarded "Muslim" because they claimed to be Muslim. No one cares if they upheld the five principles of Islam or not (as far as I know, they didn't). Similarly, if someone after taking money from pastors claimed to be Christian then he would be regarded a Christian. – Mohammad Sakib Arifin Dec 28 '16 at 10:04
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TL;DR: There is no confirmed data through conviction by law that any religious worker had coerced or cheated someone by offering money or other benefits to convert to another religion in India.

“Also, there is no data to establish that cases of conversion derived through coercion or cheating were sufficient to deserve special laws. It is sheer absurdity.” Source: India’s Defiance of Religious Freedom: A Briefing on ‘AntiConversion’ Laws

Up to the present day, there has never been a charge brought as a fraudulent conversion case where the anti-conversion law has held up in court. Therefore, there must be other reasons than true danger of fraudulent conversions as a result of bribery or violence. Source: When Indian Dalits Convert to Christianity or Islam, they lose Social Welfare Benefits and Rights they are Guaranteed under the Constitution

Evidence:

  1. Laws against conversion by Christian missionaries existed before the nation of India became independent in 1947.

A number of princely states such as Raigarh, Patna, Sarguja, Udaipur, Bikaner, Jodhpur, etc., had enacted such laws that specifically prohibited conversion to Christianity. This was an attempt that sought to counter the missionary activities of the Christian Evangelists patronized by the British which saw many thousands of the low caste people embracing the new faith. Instead of seeking to improve the lowly conditions of these people that had prevailed for centuries, they sought to prevent them for joining a religion that at least granted them equality and acceptance. Source: Anti‐Conversion Laws: A Fraud on the Constitution and Democracy of India

  1. Six states of India have “Freedom of Religion” Acts to regulate religious conversions.

These laws enacted in the states of Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh Chhattisgarh, Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, give the district administration wide and sweeping powers to inquire into religious conversions but carry no provisions for protection against discriminatory action on the part of the authorities. They also require a person converting to another religion to give details of the conversion to the local district magistrate, either prior to the conversion ceremony or subsequent to it. Source: India’s Defiance of Religious Freedom: A Briefing on ‘AntiConversion’ Laws

However, these anti-conversion laws have led to few arrests and surprisingly no convictions.

“These laws have led to few arrests and reportedly no convictions. According to the U.S. State Department, between June 2009 and December 2010 approximately 27 arrests were made in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, but resulted in no convictions. Compass Direct reported that in March 2011, police arrested 12 tribals in Orissa’s Mayurbhanj district for violating the Orissa ‘Freedom of Religion Act’ by converting to Christianity without a permit issued by the authorities.”

“Even in the Indian states which have adopted laws on religious conversion there seem to be only few - if any - convictions for conversion by the use of force, inducement or fraudulent means. In Orissa, for example, not a single infringement over the past ten years of the Orissa Freedom of Religion Act 1967 could be cited or adduced by district officials and senior officials in the State Secretariat. Source: India’s Defiance of Religious Freedom: A Briefing on ‘AntiConversion’ Laws

  1. Christian missionaries have been accused by others for coercing to convert to their religion by either education, medicine or employment.

In his writings, Arun Shourie talks of how Christian missionaries are converting innocent and ignorant people to Christianity by offering various inducements such as free education, free medical facilities and employment opportunities. Source: Anti‐Conversion Laws: A Fraud on the Constitution and Democracy of India

Pastor M. S. Valsalan of the Bethesda Assembly of God Church was taken into police custody near the port city of Mangalore, under pressure of dozens of Hindu militants and the hard-line Bharatiya Janata Party, said the influential Christian umbrella group Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI). Some thirty Hindu militants accusing Valsalan of "forceful conversions" had stormed a church member's house visited by the pastor and his family, before turning him over to police, according to local Christians. "Police arrived on the spot and took the pastor to the station for questioning and later arrested him under Sections 295 (A) and 34 of the Indian Penal Code", EFI General Secretary Richard Howell told BosNewsLife."The pastor was sent to the central jail in Mangalore." Source: India Pastor Jailed For Converting Hindus

Western Christian countries have also been accused as backing up these conversion activities through their financial might and US $145 billion is claimed to be spent annually for missionary activities.

The recent self-defined exposé by a weekly on George W. Bush's conversion agenda in India, is a typical example of this kind of thinking. The research simply showed that conversions to Christianity are indeed taking place, that people who have converted claim they no longer have troubles - a claim triumphantly disproved by the reporter with the fact that one of the interviewees lost a family member in an accident recently. A film on Christ has been successfully used to draw villagers to Christianity - this is written about in a way as if the very showing of such films is a breach of trust or legality, or both. There is also evidence of a lot of funding from the United States of America for conversion activities, but then foreign funding comes in for a range of other activities, from business investments to development work, to political agendas, especially those of the Hindu right. Source: The Right To Conversion

  1. India's temple trust has a revenue which is twice than that of foreign donations received by Christian organizations.

The country’s largest single temple trust had a revenue of Rs 2,262 crore last year, which is nearly twice the foreign donations received by the 10 biggest Christian and Christian-affiliated organisations in 2011-12. Source: Why Christianity Failed In India

RSS a right wing Hindu organization has claimed to reconvert 200 Muslims to Hinduism in Uttar Pradesh under a ceremony called Ghar Vapasi ("homecoming”) in 2014 by offering to get benefits such as ration cards for the converted people.

Compared to the resources and sophistication of Christian donors who come to India with the aim at least in part of harvesting souls of unfortunate Hindu pagans, the competition from the RSS and other Sangh organisations to reconvert seems amateurish. If reports are to be believed in the UP case, they were offering to help the reconverts get BPL ration cards to which they were presumably already entitled! This seems like small potatoes compared to schools, clinics, and other social services provided by Christian missionaries with deep pockets. Source: Ghar vapasi in Agra: The unlevel field in Muslim, Christian and Hindu conversion.

Televangelist Islamic preacher Dr. Zakir Naik has also been accused of orchestrating instant conversions to Islam by offering benefits.

During their conversation with the SIT, Mufti made startling claims that Dr Naik extended benefits to converts. "They were formally paid and got converted," the cleric alleged when a reporter asked whether a number of Hindus had indeed changed their belief after listening to Dr Naik's speeches. "He (the televangelist) gives benefits. He gives a lot of benefits. Not just like that," Khan added. "If one converts, he gives a lot of support. He helps them stand in the community," the businessman continued. In his claims, Mufti also alleged Saudi funding behind Dr Naik's proselytising programs. "Especially if Saudi Arabia is funding, they (the Saudis) would get to know he's doing that work for them, making non-Muslims accept Islam. If he doesn't do that, his funding from there will stop," the religious leader said. Source: India Today Investigation: Zakir Naik's converts were paid to change beliefs, say aides

  • -1 for adding Hindu nationalist propaganda. – Mohammad Sakib Arifin Dec 28 '16 at 22:13
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    @MohammadSakibArifin-Do you really consider sources such as International Institute for Religious Freedom, Journal of Dharma: Dharmaram Journal of Religions and Philosophies, Countercurrents.org, and online news magazines such as First Post currently owned by Reliance, Outlook and India Today "Hindu nationalist propaganda"? – pericles316 Dec 29 '16 at 8:21
  • Thanks. You gave me the idea to ask this: skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/36453/… :D – Mohammad Sakib Arifin Dec 29 '16 at 12:14
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A quick survey of possible sources suggests that cash handouts are rare but that it is very common for "benefits in kind" (such as free food, education, healthcare or travel), to be distributed only to those recipients who are prepared to convert (or to say that they have converted) to the donor organisation's preferred religion.

In some cases (food, healthcare) the recipients are in a position where their lives, or those of their families, may be in jeopardy if they choose to maintain their existing religion and are thus denied access to the resources they need to live.

Here are some of the sources I looked at:

Imagine you’re poor and living in a rural area. Your child gets sick. You manage to transport her to a hospital or clinic. To your relief, the condition is treatable. But the cost of treatment is not just beyond your means, it’s beyond your imagining. However, says the kindly health care worker, you can get the treatment free of charge. All you have to do is renounce the centuries-old traditions of your people and convert to a foreign religion.

Such offers are being made to desperate people in the villages and tribal areas of India.

Missionaries in India: Conversion or Coercion?, Philip Goldberg, Huffington Post 19 Feb 2014

I have a personal experience of evangelical groups trying to convert members of my family. Two house maids who converted said that the school where their children went raised fees and due to their inability to pay, they were told they would waive it if they converted (which they were forced to do). Of course, the school was rabid in their evangelism with these children. I use a taxi company for travel over the last ten years. I have noticed over 30% of drivers have converted over the last 5 years.

When asked, inevitably they spoke about evangelicals groups that gave them free education for children and paid their medical bills, provided they converted.

Conversion: With targets & incentives, new breed of evangelical groups are like start-ups, TV Mohandas Pai, Economic Times (Times of India), 27 December 2014

To put this in a broader context, the World Council of Churches (WCC) working with the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (PCID) and the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) has 'Recommendations for Conduct' which condemn this kind of coercion:

A basis for Christian witness: 6. If Christians engage in inappropriate methods of exercising mission by resorting to deception and coercive means, they betray the gospel and may cause suffering to others. Such departures call for repentance ...

Principles ...

  1. Acts of service and justice. ... Acts of service, such as providing education, health care, relief services and acts of justice and advocacy are an integral part of witnessing to the gospel. The exploitation of situations of poverty and need has no place in Christian outreach. Christians should denounce and refrain from offering all forms of allurements, including financial incentives and rewards, in their acts of service.

  2. Discernment in ministries of healing. As an integral part of their witness to the gospel, Christians exercise ministries of healing. They are called to exercise discernment as they carry out these ministries, fully respecting human dignity and ensuring that the vulnerability of people and their need for healing are not exploited.

Christian Witness in a Multi-Religious World: Recommendations for Conduct, World Council of Churches / Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue / World Evangelical Alliance, January 2011 (emphasis mine)

There is a tension between humanitarian aid and proselytisation which the Red Cross has tried to address:

The 1995 Red Cross Code of Conduct ... governs the activities of non-governmental humanitarian agencies responding to both natural and man-made humanitarian crises. Significantly, four of the eight sponsors of the Code are faith-based agencies while four are secular, symbolising the concrete nexus between faith-based and secular discourse in the context of humanitarian intervention. The Code places obligations on faith-based humanitarian agencies and on the secular-minded donors that provide much of their funding. Faith groups are enjoined to provide humanitarian aid in an impartial or non-discriminatory manner, ie on the basis of need and not creed. Parties commit that “We will not tie the promise, delivery or distribution of assistance to the embracing or acceptance of a particular political or religious creed.” Significantly, however, the Code does not prohibit the use of aid in furthering the proselytising objectives of organisations that combine evangelism, ie spreading the word of God and seeking converts to the faith, with humanitarian service.

Religion and development: Challenges for donors and for faith groups, Gerard Clarke, Department of Political and Cultural Studies, Swansea University, UK (emphasis mine)

  • -1 your last two sources are largely irrelevant and the first two aren't confirming anything. – Mohammad Sakib Arifin Dec 28 '16 at 16:55
  • @MohammadSakibArifin The first two confirm that medicine and education are offered as enducements. They aren't cash money but they have value. The second two are intended to put it in context as to what extent this is an institutionally-approved practice. Anyway, those are the sources I found - the answer isn't as complete as I'd like but I thought I might as well share them, I found them interesting. – A E Dec 28 '16 at 17:43

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