I have often come across this term ‘rice bag’ to refer to people from the Christian community in India.
In two or three rare occasions in the past, some over zealous persons have attempted to taunt me with the term ‘rice bag’. I am not sure if they were hyper-ventilating on nationalism or religious fervour.
In all fairness, in the context of my life, I find the term ‘rice bag’ to be most amusing because if I go back into the lives of my ancestors several centuries ago, as a family we owned a good portion of rice-fields in my ancestral village and the neighbouring village in Goa.
Conversion is a bane in India. It is not a concern that has hit India over the last couple of decades, it has been a problem for over centuries. Proselytisation was rampant and is rampant in India. Sanatan Dharma has survived and will continue to survive because Sanatan Dharma, unlike the Abrahmic religion is rooted in the cultural and social ethos of India.
Wilful conversions to any religion by an adult is the right of an adult. Forced conversions or conversions through allurement is diabolic and dangerous to the social and religious fabric of India.
Calling an Indian Christian a ricebag is nothing but a useless taunt. I, like most Christians, do not know why our ancestors followed Christianity. My ancestors could have been tortured, my ancestors could have wilfully converted to Christianity. The moot point today is not what were reasons for the conversion of my ancestors, but, what is my view on Christianity and my view on India. We must acknowledge our past, reconcile in the present and set strong foundations for the future. We cannot live in the past.
I come from a Christian family who is deeply rooted in India. My parents never felt the need to opt for Portuguese citizenship, even when they could have because they never considered themselves to be of Portuguese descent. Their parents taught them that they were Indians and my parents taught us to be Indians. Our roots are Indian.
Both my father and mother have told me in their simple words that as an Indian you must be an Ambassador to the world. You must always ensure that you bring glory to India andto the people of India.
‘By your actions make India proud,’ my grandfather once told me when I was 9-years old.
I was born into the Christian faith and my mother taught me to respect every other religious faith because God lies in humanity. That is a lesson I will take with me to my death bed. Christianity taught to me by my mother and my Cathechism teachers helped me to learn to ‘Love God and Love My Neighbour As I Would Love Myself’.
Christianity and the Roman Catholic Church has it own fault, every institutionalised religion will be riddled with anamolies because religious institution are governed and controlled by people. People in most cases are biased and ambitious for power. It is said that with great power comes great responsibility but with great power also comes corruption.
The sins of the Catholic Church of the past. The sins of Christian Churches now in the present is not a yardstick to measure the nationalism of a Christian who believes in the teachings of Christianity. Just because someone is an Indian Christian does not make him or her a ricebag. Even if adult decides to wilfully convert today to a religion because he or she has immense faith in a religion, then it is that person’s personal choice. No one has a right to demean his or her religious choice.
Religion is not a measure to define nationalism. If religion becomes the measure to define the nationalism of an Indian, then the essence of Sanatan Dharma will be destroyed in India. Sanatan Dharma survived centuries of persecution and continues to face attack even now but will survive because of its all inclusive nature.
Sanatan Dharma is about finding the God in you and around you. Unlike the Abhramic religions, Sanatan Dharma did not and does not need to proselytise, when people come in touch with Sanatan Dharma they automatically follow its tenets and its cultural ethos.
Nationalism is defined by the dedication and devotion of a citizen to India. Many Christians over the years have played vital roles in different areas of importance and have contributed to the growth of India.
It does not matter to me if an Indian Christian does not like Prime Minister Modi or the BJP or the RSS for whatever reasons they have arrived at this opinion. I, as an Indian Christian, accord value to Prime Minister Modi, BJP and RSS because of my interactions with them and my understanding of their commitment to India. I know many Christians who do not see BJP or RSS in the manner in which I do, so be it. I will not change my view. I don’t expect someone else to change their view because I am saying it. They must arrive at their own opinion based on their own experience.
I tell some of my Catholic priest friends who tell me that ‘I am good person in a wrong party’ that, “I have always arrived at my decisions after a lot of thought, research and pray. Christians are not in danger in India because of the BJP or RSS. Indians are in danger in India because political opportunists and people who do not want to see a united India. These vermins are stoking the communal fires. Sadly, most of us Indians, Hindus, Christians, Muslims, Sikhs and Indians of all other faiths pour more kerosene into the communal fires. We forget to look at the Indian. We forget to look at the human.”
Someone’s political or religious opinions are of no concern to me. I am most concerned about the views of the Indian Christian on India. Barring a few who have not lost their colonial hangover, a lot of Christians in India, love India, believe in India and contribute towards nation building. They do not love India because they get ricebags, they love India because this is their motherland. India is dear to them and so is their religious faith.
Sometimes, some Christians, even some Hindus and some Muslims in their hate for Prime Minister Modi demean India and the people of India. The hate has gone to the extent that they now mock Hindus and the Hindu beliefs. And some Hindus in their honest defence to curb conversion and widespread anti-India negativity seem to put all Christians in the same bracket of a ‘ricebag’ and conventiently forget the Indianness.
I am an Indian Christian. I know many Indian Christians. We are not ricebags. India is our mother too. Let us ensure that together as Hindus, Christians, Muslims, Sikhs and all other Indians of different faiths that we live like children of Mother India unitedly and as one Indian family.
As we say in Goa, Mog Asu!