We should all know about the riots and demonstrations that are happening in India. At this time, more than twenty people have been killed, property has been damaged, and the reputation of the nation is at risk. The problem is a kind of civil war between religious groups, Hindus and Muslims.
I am writing about this as a Christian, and I don’t want to take sides. I hope the people involved can find a solution for their disagreements. India and Pakistan have a history of violence between Hindus and Muslims, and millions have died.
- Death toll in India citizenship law protests climbs to 23: CBC
- Father Raymond de Souza: Is India abandoning secularism to exclude Muslims?: National Post
In the most recent violence, the Government of the nation has been accused of discrimination against Muslims. The party that governs India is composed of Hindu nationalists, and the troubles can be seen as a religious argument. The Government has passed a bill to give citizenship to refugees who escape from three neighboring countries. Those neighboring countries have Muslim majorities and are governed by Muslims, so the refugees are escaping from Muslim oppression, or that is the theory. Special treatment is offered to “Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians” but not Muslims.
The Government believes that Muslims are not a minority that needs protection. This is an explosive idea, and Muslim protesters have been joined by non-religious people who want the government of India to be secular, not religious.
Apparently, people who identify as Christian in India don’t like this new law. They are concerned that they might be next. There are almost two hundred million Muslims in India, one of the largest Muslim populations in any country. Also, the three countries of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh have almost four hundred million Muslims. Afghanistan was on the border of British India, and those three countries separated from Hindu-majority India for religious reasons. There are more than a billion Hindus in India.
In history, the British conquered India and in time, that colony became a secular democratic nation, minus the three Muslim-majority countries. When the British first arrived, many of the local rulers were Muslim, and the region was being converted to the Muslim religion. For example, the emperor who built the famous Taj Mahal, one of the world’s great tourist attractions now, was Shah Jahan, or Shahab-ud-din Muhammad Shah Jahan. Note that one of his names was “Muhammad.” The British brought their Christian religion and stalled Muslim expansion.
The roots of this Hindu Muslim quarrel are very old, and the people who are arguing for one side or the other have many things to say. I am not qualified to join the debate, but there is something in this quarrel that a Christian can understand. The theology is clear; the unstoppable force is smashing against the immovable object.
Hinduism is the most enduring of the world’s major religions. In Athens Greece, we can visit the Acropolis, a ruined temple for a religion that no longer exists. We could also visit Hindu temples in India that are as old as the Acropolis. The difference is, the Hindu temples are clean and painted, and still in use. That’s how old and enduring Hinduism is.
Islam grew from an army that invaded from a desert, and conquered a large part of the world in a few years. Many devout Muslims today are triumphalists; they believe the expansion will continue and some day the whole world will be Muslim. They believe they are the future.
Theologically, that is like a mixture of oil and water; one side will not move, and the other will not stop. Christians can understand both sides from the Bible. The first verse of the Christian Bible is “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1). That’s as far back as we can go. The almost last words are “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.” (Revelation 22: 20). That’s the final triumph.
In Asia today, we have two huge religious communities, emphasizing opposite sides of the equation, and the clash could change the history of the world.
Belief is very powerful.
For secular people who believe that religion is something we will evolve away from, the world is still filled with believers and our beliefs endure. Our beliefs also expand and triumph and it’s dangerous to ignore those facts. Even secular thinkers believe, and they want us to be like them.