Conversion and the Future of Christian-Hindu Conflict


On August 23, 2008 (Janmāṣṭamī day), an armed group from the Communist Party of India (Maoist) killed revered Hindu religious leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati and some followers at his ashram in district Kandhamal, Orissa. Although early on the group that murdered Laxmanananda had been identified as insurgent Maoists, the incident nevertheless sparked protracted Christian-Hindu riots across Orissa and further Christian-Hindu unrest across the rest of India. Hindus continue to blame Christians, not Maoists, for killing Laxmanananda.

Despite the fact that Maoists are outspokenly atheist, their killing of Laxmanananda clearly coincided with Christian interests. As reported in the Indian Express, Orissa Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda explained why they killed Laxmanananda:

Laxmanananda was encouraging Brahmanism and simple tribals were being converted to Hinduism. Tribals are not Hindus as they have their own culture and God. They practice animal sacrifice. They have separate religion. He was attacking people who ate beef and converting Christians into Hindus. That’s why we killed him (Mohanty “Maoists Own Up”).

Police believe that Laxmanananda’s killing split the CPI(M), with some Hindus forming the IDGA-Maoist party.1 The IDGA-M has denounced the CPI(M) for the killings. In response, CPI(M) leader Sabyasaci Panda admitted the affiliation between Maoists and Christians in Orissa. “Our supporters in Orissa’s Rayagada, Gajapati and Kandhamal also belong to the Christian community,” said Panda. “The persons who have broken away could be Hindus” (Mohanty “Hindu Maoists”).

This incident demonstrates that the conflict between Christians and Hindus is fundamentally religious. Theoretically, Maoists should object to Christianity as much as they object to Hinduism. As Mao Tse Tung himself once told the Dalai Lama, “Religion is poison.” Yet here we find a Maoist leader who effectively cites religious reasons for the killing and speaks without discernable apprehension about the Christian affiliation of his party’s cadres. However informal the alliance between Maoists and Christians, the ties between them appear to go beyond that of convenience. The conflict between Christians and Hindus is perhaps better understood as a religious conflict instead of a class conflict. Conversion, not class conflict, is the central issue underlying all aspects of the conflict between Christians and Hindus.

Using a comparative religious approach, this essay examines four areas related to conversion: the theology of conversion, welfare work as it relates to conversion, the impact of demographics on conversion, and the relationship between politics and conversion. For the foreseeable future, Christianity is poised to be the long-term winner in its conflict with Hinduism. There are, however, emerging conditions on both sides of the conflict that could make Hinduism the long-term, decisive winner instead of Christianity. This essay will also explore these emerging conditions.

Nevertheless, as compared with Hindu doctrine and belief, Christian doctrine and belief presently encourages religious, social, and political behavior that is better suited to the survival and propagation of Christianity. Each of the four parts of this essay will attempt to explain from different perspectives why Christianity has the upper hand in this conflict and what Hindus will most likely have to do to counteract the progression of Christianity.

The full article (Part 1 of 4 – The Theology of Conversion) is available at

1 Idealise of Democrat Garila [Guerrilla] Army [Maoist].

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