August 24, 2004

To: Editorial Office, India Abroad
From: Board of Directors, Hindu American Foundation, Inc.
Re: Response to Letter to Editor from Living Waters Ministries citing Hindu American Foundation (IA, August 20, 2004)

Dear Editor:

We, at the Hindu American Foundation, have followed with interest the unceasing tide of responses to the interview of Ravi Zacharias (India Abroad, June 25). Indeed, our rapid rejoinder to the evangelist’s inflammatory vilification of Hinduism and Buddhism clearly articulated our position (July 9). We respond again, herein, to the letter by Philip Benjamin and Stoney Shaw of The Living Water Ministries that cited our original letter as the rationale for their polemical entrée into the debate (August 20).

The Living Water Ministries is an international evangelical group with a self-avowed mission to “invade and interrupt the staus quo” in India for the “harvest of souls” (livingwaterministries.org). And it, like many before, recapitulates the same hackneyed arguments that have long camouflaged programs for religious conversions—distorting the concepts of varna and jati, conceptualizing callous Hindu Gods as unsympathetic to the individual journey through cycles of karma and reincarnation and citing the dubious Aryan invasion theory to raise the specter of primeval marauding Hindu barbarians.

Benjamin and Shaw begin their letter with an imperious claim to a finality and monopoly on Truth—a conception so singular to evangelicals, and so alien to Hindus—as they write, “Christian faith is in the finished work of providence.” And as quickly as they reject the magnanimity of the Hindu concept that divinity underlies all of Creation, they relegate Hinduism’s greatest gift of tolerance as simply a ploy by upper castes to perpetuate their status. What a spectacular exercise in sophistry! Hindus know that the tolerance enshrined in their religion emanates only from the seminal concept of Vasudhaiva Kutumbukum, that the entire world is our family. But going beyond mere tolerance, Hindus, of course, embraced pluralism since its earliest history with Rig Vedic verses extolling one universal Truth that seekers describe in various ways.

What a shame that Benjamin and Shaw, infused with evangelical fervor, position themselves for conflict with an eternal tradition that has no quarrel with their faith. Indeed, the Hindu ethos of tolerance and pluralism, despite the shortcomings of its imperfect practitioners, is even more relevant for modern societies replete with violence perpetrated by religious zealots. And to the tired, untenable implication that Hinduism is the source for today’s poverty in India, one has only to view a list of the ten poorest countries in the world to confirm that the material wealth has not followed the advent of Christian faith to those lands.

Contemporary Hindu practice, impacted by an unparalleled history of carnage, subjugation and devastations continues to evolve and adapt as it has over the millenia. Constructs such as jati must, and are, reconciling to modernity in many ways. These are challenges, certainly, for Hindus as their reformations continue from within, but the obstinate, destructive focus of evangelical messiahs of any faith must be countered. For the evangelical hunt for converts is not a mission born of love or respect for its prey, but a mission that can only lead to conflict, intolerance, and the end of freedom and pluralism.


Aseem R. Shukla, M.D.
Member, Board of Directors
Mihir Meghani, M.D.

Hindu American Foundation