The impact of Joshua Project on India
On 23 March 1995, televangelist Pat Robertson in his television program The 700 Club said this about Indians:
“I feel that these beautiful people, they are so hungry for God. You know this is the largest democracy in the world, over a billion people, and perhaps this would be considered the most religious country on earth. But they are looking for the wrong God. I believe they are open to Jesus, and my hope is to see 100 million Indians come to the Lord Jesus Christ in the next few years.”
This is the main inspiration behind the creation of the meticulous information warehouse called the Joshua Project.
In the case of India, the Joshua Project created a list which stated the percentage of non-Christians in India as 93.3%. Quite diligently, the non-Christian communities are catalogued according to their location, religious affiliation, language, and population.This was accomplished by painstaking data collection using the pincode system devised by the Indian postal department.
Technical acronyms such as CPI, or Church Planting Indicator, with a ranking system of 0 to 5, are used to measure the progress of church growth based on churches established and number of ‘reached people’—that is, converts attending them. Not shy of sharing their success, the Joshua Project includes a scale which allows the missionaries to track the progress of conversion:
- Red indicates less than two per cent Evangelical and less than five per cent Christian.
- Yellow indicates less than two per cent Evangelical but greater than five per cent Christian.
- Green indicates from two per cent to greater than five per cent Evangelical.
Progress of Conversion
This detailed report of TII from 2006 highlights the achievements of those associated with the Joshua Project in 75,000 Pin Codes: Action Plan, which targeted North India in particular. Notable among them is the Gospel of Asia which targeted 100 unreached people groups out of 200 groups defined by “Joshua Project”.
The same report mentioned that all these organizations have come together under a loosely-organised umbrella, “North India Harvest Network (NIHN)“. The stated mission of this network is “Plug, Prem and be Nice” where:
Plug= People in everyLanguage in every Urban centre in every Geographic division.
Prem= Prayer,Research, Equipping & training and Mobilisation
Nice=Networking, Initiative, Catalyst and Encouraging the missionaries.
These tactics have been put into proper use by other groups like the Seventh Day Adventists. Their activities in India started with the Canadian national, D.R. Watts, President for the South Asian Division of Seventh Day Adventists, who had been residing in India on a ‘Business Visa.’
When Watts arrived in India in 1997, the Seventh Day Adventist Church had a membership of 2.25 lakhs. Within five years of his arrival, membership shot up to seven lakhs. Helping the Adventists in their activities is the Maranatha Volunteers International, a non-profit organization, based in Sacramento, California which has two main goals—the first is to provide buildings needed for the Seventh-day Adventist Church around the world and, at the same time, provide opportunities for volunteers.
These groups achieved their greatest success in the Ongole municipality in Prakasam district of Andhra Pradesh. Here, according to Pastor Michael Ryan, director of Global Mission (the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s international outreach department), some 100 Global Mission pioneers completed training and baptized 50 villages surrounding Ongole beginning in September 2000.
Another beneficiary of the methods of Joshua Project’s information would be the Houston-based Central India Christian Mission. According to their website, they have proselytized over 320,000 people mostly from Central India, and wish to increase the number with financial backing from Texan evangelicals.
All these evangelical associations(mentioned in the previous part of this series) mostly target the socio-economically needy groups and blame their ancestral religion,Hinduism for their woes, and simultaneously telling them that accepting Christ as their savior will bring prosperity. Upon conversion they are taught to despise Hinduism which the missionaries describe as an unusual cult. But as this piece from BBC states, these unfortunate people are unable to prosper even with Christ as their savior since the problem is socio-economic, not religious.
In recent years, many Indian states with rising inter-religious tension, are states that show increasing green and yellow in the Joshua Project website. One may ignore this ‘progress’ stating the 2001 Indian census which indicated that only 2.3% of the population as Christian, but these percentages have come under question given the fact that a large number of converts retain their Hindu names and claim Hindu status for a variety of economic reasons.
It is for these reasons that many of the concerned states are seen to be enacting anti-conversion laws. However notwithstanding the term, these anti-conversion laws do not prohibit the right of any individual to convert based on genuine belief, or religious experience. They also don’t restrict Christian groups who provide social services in various parts of India but have no concealedpurpose of converting the residents. Mostly theseanti-conversion lawsonly address conversions ‘by force, allurement, or fraudulent means.’
So if a Christian group truly wants to help the poor and the hungry they are more than welcome. But often the opposite happens as this report following the 2004 Asian Tsunami revealed incidents where the missionaries actually stopped relief work when the residents of some tsunami-shattered villages in India refused to convert in return for aid.
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF, dominated by Evangelicals)along with other human rights groups haveopposed these laws against fraudulent conversions accusing the targeted states of committing human rights violation or denying religious freedom. Their charges are given support by India’s resident secularists.
These secularists should read these reports about Korea which narrates the harmful effects wrought by conversion on their Buddhist community. Notable excerpts from the reports are reproduced below:
Beginning in 1980 many of the newly converted Christians began to burn and vandalize Buddhist temples and art. More than 20 temple buildings were destroyed by arson; crosses were smeared on temple wall paintings; Buddha statues were smashed or decapitated.
1984 February- Red crucifixes are painted on priceless temple wall paintings at Muryangsa Temple and Ilsônsa on Samgaksan Mountain outside Seoul. Dirt is smeared on the paintings and on a statue of the Buddha located outside one of the temples. A large ancient carving of the Buddha chiselled into stone is damaged with axe-like instruments.
In 1995 young fundamentalist Christians began a campaign of aggressive proselytizing on the campus of Dongguk University in Seoul, a Buddhist school, handing out anti-Buddhist literature in front of the school’s main Buddha statue.
This video will also show the Korean evangelical’s mentality:
Now based on the evidence provided,the question we in India should ask: should this misplaced notion of religious freedom deny Hinduism and other Dharmic traditions the right to keep its followers free from intrusion, intimidation, and aggressive proselytization by exclusivist religions?
To be continued