The Conversion Debate: How Surjit Bhalla conveniently ignores other significant variables

The Conversion Debate: How Surjit Bhalla conveniently ignores other significant variables

Father Dominic Emmanuel's response to Surjit Bhalla's article titled ‘Census, Christians, Conversions’

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While pointing out the ‘wrong conclusions’ by commentators on the latest data of Christian population, Mr. Bhalla (‘Census, Christians, Conversions’, 29th Aug) has allowed himself, as is known in formal Logic, to slip into, ‘informal fallacy’. Lest people are misled by his convoluted conclusions, let the records be put straight.

Bhalla makes, by his own admission, several assumptions, allowing others to assume that he buys into the rhetoric advanced by the RSS, VHP and other rightwing groups. Individuals emboldened by these groups have been engaged not only in physically burning churches, raping nuns and heaping other atrocities on Christians with impunity, but have gone to the extent of attacking a saint like Mother Teresa. They completely disregard the fact that Missionaries of Charity nuns run houses all over the world, among people who regardless of their income, are predominantly Christians. Are they all run for conversion activities? But such sane arguments are drowned in the din of the unfounded right wing screams about conversions.

Also Read: Bend it like Bhalla

Bhalla slips into his second ‘fallacy’ saying that according to 2011 census, the Christian population at 2.30% has remained ‘relatively constant’. How indeed I pray? The Christian population according to 2001 census was 2.33%; in 1991 2.34% and was 2.6% in 1971. Is that constant?


Bhalla tries to compare with the Sikh community to show how despite its education level and wealth, its population declined while that of Christians has not. He conveniently ignores other significant variables that could explain the differences in population growth/decline. For instance, Christian doctrine places great value on ‘sanctity’ and ‘right to life’. Thus Christians in comparison to other religious groups, would not be free in conscience to interfere with the life of the ‘unborn’ child, resorting to unethical and immoral means of terminating pregnancies. This is proved by the existing male-female ratio between Christians and Sikhs (Hindus too).

Thus even though Bhalla points to the fertility rate between Christian and Sikh women at 3.8 and 3.9 respectively, he does not mention that while in Punjab and Haryana, the sex ratio between male and female is 895 and 879 respectively for 1000 males, in contrast to states with higher number of Christians. For instance the ratio in Tamilnadu is 996; Pondicherry – 1034; Kerala – 1084; Goa – 973; Megahalaya – 989; Nagaland – 973; Mizoram – 976. Did Mr. Bhalla hide this fact to orchestrate a lie advanced by the right wing Hindutvavadis to target Christians?

He also completely ignores the issue of migration. Several studies (cf. “Religion, Power and Violence”, Sage, ed. Ram Punyani, 2005) point out that the first community to migrate in large numbers mainly to Canada and the UK and to the African continent was of the Sikhs. Though no statistics regarding religion based migration is currently available, traditionally it is the Sikhs and Gujaratis who have been migrating out of India.

Bhalla again wrongly presumes that the Christian community is one of the richest. Besides obviously bypassing the Jain community, can Christian community be said to be one of the richest? And how does the comparison of wealth/poverty level between 80% of Hindus with 2.30% work out?

One is also led to question his stand with regard to ‘freedom of religion’, guaranteed in the Indian Constitution, not to mention about his views with regard to the practical brains of the poor, who repeatedly express their intelligence every five years during elections. In addition, the Christian community has always held that anyone indulging in unlawful conversion or any other activities should be brought to books. Despite all their lungpower, none has been held guilty so far.

And most importantly, is it not an insult to the Christians that he claims to be most educated and richest, that after two thousand years of their ‘conversion project’, they remain just 2.30%, in a country where over 60% are among the poorest in the world? And this, despite the presence of British, Portuguese, French and missionaries galore in India! Christianity arrived here before it did in Americas and Europe.

Should the missionaries not hang their heads in shame with their inefficient ways to have reached nowhere ‘converting’ the poor gullible masses? They do, however, run highly successful schools, colleges, hospitals, orphanages and other institutions. Let it be made clear that if missionaries did have an agenda to convert they would have shown equal if not greater efficiency in that area too.

And yet Christians walk with their heads held high and continue to work for the poor, with or without foreign donations, because that is the mandate received from Jesus, “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers/sisters that you do unto me. For I was hungry and you gave me to eat, I was thirsty…”! And whichever way Mr. Bhalla may twist the religion based population data, let him not undermine either the efficiency of the missionaries or the intelligence of the poor.

Author is the former spokesperson of Delhi Archdiocese and now lives in Vienna.