Marketing Religion in India: Who does it, how they do it?

Written by: Oneindia Contributor
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"When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said "Let us pray." We closed our eyes. When we opened them, we had the Bible and they had the land", said by late Kenyan president Jomo Kenyatta and later quoted by Desmond Tutu Desmond Mpilo Tutu, the first black South African Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984.

[Man handling ISIS Twitter account has Bengal connection]

[Man who handled ISIS Twitter account worked in a food company]

As the debate on religious conversions rages on let us take a look at where the exact problem lies and how religion has become such a marketing stunt that the number of conversions in India rose from 24 million in 2000 to 71 million in 2013.

Marketing Religion

When it comes to religious conversions there is more than what meets the eye. It is a deep rooted menace that India has or has not been dealing with. These are not religious preachers. Instead they can be termed as marketing executives of a religion trying to impose their will and faith on people for whom food, shelter and clothing is a basic necessity.

In other words, the downtrodden life style of people especially in rural belts are being taken advantage of in a bid to propagate a faith and build the numbers.

A twitter post by Dr James O Davis says it all. " there are 60 million Christians in India, the second largest Christian population in any nation. It will become the largest in the world." This brazen post would set eye balls rolling as to how the numbers are going rise since there is a two child policy even for Christians in India. Dr Davis is the founder of Cutting Edge International and the CoFounder of Billion Soul Network.

The Billion Soul Network is a growing coalition of more than 2,000 Christian ministries and denominations synergizing their efforts together to build the premier community of pastors worldwide to help plant five million new churches for a billion soul harvest. Cutting Edge International and Billion Soul Network, consist of more than 475,000 churches.

Who collects the funds:

As per a report of the Home Ministry prepared with the inputs of the Intelligence Bureau, there are several NGO's through which funds are pumped in. There are scores of NGOs across the country which get an annual remittance of Rs 10500 crore. However here are a list of the main NGO's against whom there is a watch by the agencies in India.

The Kanyakumari based Tuticorin Diocesan Association and the Tuticorin Multipurpose Social Service Society are major beneficiaries according to the Home Ministry.

These NGOs mentioned above are followed by the Rural Uplift Centre and Association(TDA) of the Latin Catholic Diocese of Tuticorin. They have been getting a large part of their funds from France, Italy, Germany and the United States of America.

The Intelligence Bureau says that there is no justification for most of the funds that have come in. Take a look at the remittances here. Rs 44.16 crore, Rs 20.60 crore, Rs 10.30 crore, Rs 5.15 crore, Rs 3.22 crore. While asked for a justification by the investigators the NGOs say that most of the funds had been spent on welfare of orphans, immunization camps, salaries of priests.

The Benny Hinn show:

As a junior reporter around 10 years back, I was told to cover the Benny Hinn show in Bangalore. Benny Hinn is considered to be one of the most popular evangelists and he came down to Bangalore amidst allegations of conversion tactics. The High Court had to intervene and let the show go on on the condition that he shall not undertake conversions.

As we made our way to the venue, we saw burnt buses, mobs pelting stones. However once at the venue, it reminded of a rock show. There was music blaring and people dancing. Benny Hinn made a Michael Jackson like entry on to the stage. And before we all knew what hit us, he announced, " religion can wait, first let us stand up to the beautiful national anthem of this great country." I giggled and whispered to my friend, " this guy is a marketing genius." However what Benny Hinn was marketing was religion.

The next day of this three day event saw the likes of Oscar Fernandes and Margret Alva going upon on stage. It was miracle time. People came on wheel chairs and moment after being blessed by Hinn, they walked. Fernandes and Alva then went on stage and the latter collapsed only to wake up feeling enlightened as she claimed.

Marketing religion:

It has been seen that religion is marketed in a big way in India. It is said that they can go up to any length to market religion. Those wanting to avail the money and comforts provided by the missionaries have a condition to fulfill. That is to convert their religion. It is all about the numbers game and this is a major movement that is being followed across the world to build up the numbers.

The modus operandi includes targeting the sick, the needy and also the God fearing. People who land up in hospitals and cannot afford medical treatment are preyed upon by the missionaries. Those who cannot afford a decent lifestyle are also the targets. There is a whole other strategy for the God fearing.

Phillip Goldberg writes in the Huffington Post, "I heard about missionaries who dress in orange robes to look like swamis. Gullible and desperate villagers are told that their traditional gods are actually corrupted versions of Christ; that the venerable saints and sages of India's past were really Christians; that the three horizontal stripes traditionally drawn on the foreheads of Shiva devotees stand for the Holy Trinity; that the Upanishadic prayer that includes.

"Lead us from darkness to light" was meant as a cry for Jesus to save them."

The rise and the rise:

Dick Mcclain the CEO of the Mission Society says that there are more than 71 million claiming Christianity. With 456 languages and more than 2,611 distinct people groups, India still has more people groups unreached with the gospel than any other nation - 88 percent of its population."

The Mission Society is responsible for training and sending Christian Missionaries around the world. As per its own report they are reaching groups which are beyond the lower caste.

In a survey that was conducted back in 2000, 24 million in India had identified with Christianity. Today it stands at 71 million.

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