The recent hue and cry over conversion has managed to garner national attention. Conversion has become a contentious issue with re-conversions and a sudden suspicious call being given by some parties for a national debate on it and passing an anti-conversion bill all across India. Why is it such an emotive and contentious issue? Why is there so much insecurity and fear when the word conversion is mentioned?
Freedom of religion is enshrined as a fundamental right in our constitution, the right to practice, profess and propagate any religion of our choice is a fundamental right of every citizen in this country. There are specific laws in the Indian penal code against any misuse or fraudulent means or forceful conversion. Over and above this to bring a blanket ban on conversion is infringing on the individuals fundamental rights and it goes against the secular and democratic credentials of this nation. To paint all conversions happening in this country as induced and fraudulent is doing injustice to the sensibilities of the common man and dehumanizing them as without any ethics or sense to make a simple choice. Freedom of choice to eat what they want, to dress as they like and to believe in what they want to, is very basic to every civil society.
Conversion is not just limited to the externals as many think and view it, conversion is primarily an inward transformation which no human being on the earth can stop, if a person wants to believe in something and follow that truth then it is impossible for someone else to evaluate it and stop it simply because it is an inward invisible change. There might be some external elements accompanying a person’s conversion, like some rituals or practices or even a simple thing like change in their attitude or habits etc. Most of the time it is these external elements that people see and then say that a person is converted. Another fact about conversion is that no human being can make another person to convert in the actual sense of the term; if conversion is a result of human action alone then it as a false conversion. God alone can bring a genuine transformation of the heart. If a person has so called converted for benefits or for upward mobility or through force or inducement then it is not a genuine conversion.
Another important aspect is the objectivity of truth and its exclusive nature. I think you would agree with me that there cannot be differing statements on the same topic that can be true at the same time. For example; the law of gravity is true everywhere on earth and in any place at any time. It is an absolute truth. No one can say that we have the law of gravity different in Delhi than in Mumbai, we will call that ridiculous or foolish. But when it come to matters of faith many tend to become subjective and inclusive, they would start defining truth in any way they want and even claim that there are no absolute truth with regard to God, well interestingly for that statement to hold water it has to be an absolute truth by itself otherwise it is self contradictory. When people are confronted with the truth and when they are convinced of it, they believe it and voluntarily choose to follow it, this actually is an inward change or transformation which many call as conversion.
Jesus is the only one who claimed to be God – He said, “I am the way truth and life, no one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6) He is the only one who rose from the dead- the empty grave is the proof and He appeared to many after His resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:3-6) He claimed to have the power to forgive sins and He is the only one who died for the sins of the world- no one else has ever done so, “God demonstrates His own love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8) and He is offering eternal and abundant life to anyone who believes in Him (John 3:16 & 10:10). If the claims that Jesus made were false and He knew it then that would make Him a blatant Liar; and if His claims were false and He didn't know it, he was sincerely deluded then that would make Him a Lunatic or a mad man. Well all of us would agree that Jesus was neither a Liar nor a Lunatic; that leaves us with only one option, what He said was true, in which case He is God Himself and one can either accept Him or reject Him as their Lord and savior. Jesus never said that He came to establish a religion or a sect. He called people to come to Him and Know Him and follow Him. His call is for an “everlasting relationship” not to a “religious conversion”.
If someone chooses to believe this truth and is willing to follow Jesus what do you call that? Forced conversion! Induced conversion! Whatever you call that the truth is that thousands are coming to Him and knowing Him and finding purpose and meaning for their lives, not just in the illiterate, rural and poor tribal belts as some claim but right in the hearts of our metros- educated, high profile, elite are also making this choice to follow Him. Well as some people claim, if people have converted from other faiths through inducements, or for benefits through fraudulent means then it is good that those people as well return to the original fold ( home coming) through the same means that is now being publicized and offered by those groups. But for those who have had this genuine encounter with Jesus and have come to know Him and have experienced His unconditional love and the life transforming power, nothing can make them go back, even mighty force leave alone petty inducements, they would rather gladly lay down their lives for their master, millions of people have done so in the past and even now thousands are doing it every day in different parts of the world; history is a witness to this.