The conflict between Hindus and Christians over evangelism is present not only in India but also among the large Indian diaspora in the Caribbean, reports Hinduism Today (November/December, January/February, 2001 issues).
Much of the interreligious violence and clamp down on religious freedom in India has stemmed from the Hindu claim that Christians are destroying local culture by proselytizing Hindus, particularly the rural population. The same kind of dynamics are taking shape in Trinidad and Guyana. Evangelical churches are “sprouting up across” both countries, often inspired by the influence and support of American evangelists, such as Benny Hinn.
“The competition touches on the delicate balance between Trinidad’s East Indian and African communities, each comprising almost half of the population of 1.3 million. East Indians were once overwhelmingly Hindu, [but] Christian churches have made steady headway in recent decades and now can claim perhaps one-third of East Indians.”
Recent census figures show that Hindus now account for only one-quarter of the Trinidadian population. In Guyana at the beginnng of the 20th century, about one percent of the population were Christian; today it is 15 percent. As in India, the evangelicals–particularly Pentecostals–are having the most success with the rural poor. There is a similar Hindu backlash against Christians. Sat Maharaj, head of the Hindu organization, Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha in Trinidad, says “I told our people to throw these people [evangelical missionaries] out of the villages.”
Another Hindu calls the conflict a “religious war,” and notes that programs of “reconversion” are being started by Hindus to counter the Christian expansion in their community.
(Hinduism Today, 107 Kaholalele Rd., Kapaa, HI 96746-9309)