26 Jun 2015

It’s Up to Us!

It’s Up to Us!

Dr. Richard L. Benkin

richard_benkinAfter the population transfers that accompanied partition, Hindus accounted for about a third of the East Pakistani population (1948). When East Pakistan became Bangladesh, they were about a fifth (1971).  Today, they are down to nine percent.  In the past 60 years, how many UN resolutions were passed about it?  How many outraged world leaders spoke out about it? How many times did Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch protest it?  The Hindus of Bangladesh are being wiped out, and no one seems to care.  Waiting for those world bodies to do the right thing about this will accomplish nothing but to insure the death of Bangladesh’s Hindu community—just as it has done for Pakistan’s Hindus. And now that we know this, we each have a choice:  either act courageously and relentlessly to stop the slaughter; or do nothing and be complicit in it.

In February, I will again stand with my Hindu brothers and sisters in the illegal refugee camps of West Bengal and Assam; and in cities like Delhi, Siliguri, and Guwahati.  Not only will I do this to show them that somebody does care, but also to continue gathering evidence of these atrocities for people in Washington who are beginning to take notice.  Already two government human rights bodies are receiving the information and promising to act on it.  Already members of the House and Senate are recognizing the atrocities and that what happens over there determine what happens here. An end to the atrocities is within our grasp; we need only seize it, and you can be part of it.

The American Hindu community and particularly Hindu youth, is the key.  If they actively seek justice here and abroad and refuse to be complicit in these atrocities; our future will be secured.  The United States—our United States—is the key because we recognize our obligation to stop the killing, and the US is the most effective entity to get it done.  When I bring this matter before different bodies, they frequently ask why, if things are so severe, are Hindus themselves not up in arms.  My answer is that they are but like everyone else need a focused effort to turn outrage into effective action.  The coming months will have many people can act right now:

1. As the United States considers legislation that affects the Bangladeshi Hindus, we must tell lawmakers that their votes are literally a matter of life and death; and that we expect our lawmakers to stand on the side of life.  We can do that only if we are prepared with an organization that can mobilize phone calls to every Congressional District in the country. We need volunteers to be part of that calling chain—to make calls themselves but and get others to do the same.  The method is simple, but only you can build the chain of moral outrage that will save millions of lives.

2. While real atrocities occur all the time, many of the reports I receive are suspect.  Winning the respect and attention of people in Washington requires that we give them only accurate information and are on solid ground when they receive the expected lies and denials from the perpetrators. We need volunteers to help sort through the information, put it in a format that people can use (and which I will provide); and ultimately allow us to verify or refute the information.

3. Children and students are compelling. Depending on your current level of schooling, we can organize lectures and seminars, vigils and marches, pen pals for Hindu children in the camps, and so forth.

4. And like everything else, this takes money. You can donate to my not-for-profit NGO or get others to do so by going to my web site, http://www.interfaithstrength.com, and clicking the “Donate” link.  All contributions to Forcefield are tax deductible.

Remember your choice: Take a stand to save Hindu lives now or cry over the dead bodies later. Contact me atdrrbenkin@comcast.net or on Facebook.

26 Jun 2015

Stop Ethnic Cleansing of Hindus in Bangladesh

Stop Ethnic Cleansing of Bangladeshi Hindus—and radical Islam

Dr. Richard L. Benkin

What is happening to Bangladeshi Hindus is a crime against humanity.  What is worse is the complicity of the government of Bangladesh it that crime.  What is even worse than that is the world’s silence about it; especially shameful is India’s silence; and especially important is the United States’ silence.  But as terrible as all of that is, we must also understand that it is part of something bigger—international jihad. To stop this crime not only saves lives and prevents genocide but also strikes a blow to the most evil and corrupt movement of the 21st century:  international jihad and radical Islam. richard_benkin

This is an important battle in a greater war—which is how we must treat it.  What should our strategy be?  Many, including our current US President, have counseled “outreach” and finding a way, as he put it, “to turn old foes into friends.”  But that is the deadly sort of thinking that has made our enemies appear strong—just as those who counseled the same strategy in the Cold War against communism.  We need to reject them as President Ronald Reagan did:

“Here’s my strategy on the Cold War: We win, they lose.”

And that is what happened.  All we need is the will and we will defeat our enemies, too.  That is why we are here, and that is the only reason why we have any business being here.  Empty talk strengthens our enemies.  Our mantra must be:  “The only reason to meet is to act, and the only reason to act is to succeed.”

 

So let us begin first by getting ready for battle:

1.         We need a focus. You will never get people to respond to abstract concepts or gigantic issues.  We need to break them down into achievable goals that every decent human being can support—regardless of party, regardless of political philosophy; so worthy in fact, that those who do not support it will reveal themselves as morally bankrupt.  There can be more appropriate or worthy goal than putting an end to ethnic cleansing; than stopping the horrors visited upon innocent men, women, and children by a racist enemy:  END THE ETHNIC CLEANSING OF BANGLADESHI HINDUS.

 

2.         We need to be organized.  Many individuals are just that, many individuals.  But an organized group commands attention. And that principle holds whether our efforts are underway in the United States, India, or anywhere else where we will fight.

 

3.         We have to have defined goals; and specific objectives. Even people who want to help will not if we do not ask them for the right things.

4.         We have to get others involved. And we do so not just by getting them interested, but also by getting them involved immediately.  Even people who want to help will not if we do not give them specific things to do.

5.         We must be confident, passionate, and audacious. Our enemies are fond of hyperbole and do not mind looking like idiots.  Show them that we are just as passionate and formidable as they are but are not idiots.

6.         We must be tireless and relentless. Our enemies are and they are convinced that we do not have the passion or courage to carry on the fight or stand forever on principle.  Wherever I have been successful, I have outlasted them.  Wherever we have failed, we confirmed their belief.  And we must never compromise with murderers!

So, those are our principles.  How do we put them into practice?  There are three basic tracks:  Public Policy and Public Relations. Although the two need to be worked on as separate tasks, they overlap and tend to build on one another.  And all the time, we need to capitalize on any resource we have to Organize and Grow—in the background while the others are very public, but constant and relentless.

Public Policy

 

We begin with the understanding that there is no internal dynamic within the Bangladeshi government—regardless of party—that will lead to a just solution to Bangladesh’s ethnic cleansing of minorities or appeasement of jihadis.  That means we have to rely on others to create a situation that makes doing the right thing in the interests of the powers in Dhaka.  There are separate public policy tracks for the United States, India, the United Nations, and other countries.

Bangladesh is a nation that is extremely vulnerable in that it is dependent on aid from the outside, as well as continued purchases of its exports.  Its high contribution of UN peacekeepers has become critical to the nation’s economy and social stability.  Each of these vulnerabilities are pressure points that we can use to force Bangladesh to stop supporting murder and injustice.  And there are specific ways to do it with specific actions such as lobbying, resolutions, organized vote banks, public demonstration, and so forth.  Alone, I have been able to help stop pro-Bangladeshi trade legislation in the United States.  Imagine what we can do together!

In all cases, the activities must be planned, coordinated, and compelling so that no one in power will be able to dismiss them.  If we use tried and true methods—and stick with them—we will be able to stop the slaughter.

Public Relations

 

Outside of a small group, very few people beyond the Indian subcontinent know about this, and many of them either do not care or even want to see it continue.  We have to change that with a directed and organized program of speeches, public demonstrations, protest actions, articles, outreach, news interviews, winning the support of high visibility individuals who will speak for our cause.  But the process is long and hard and fraught with failures and tiny successes.  It must be compelling and relentless.  Above all, we must never be afraid to be thought impolite!

The program must be international in scope focusing on the United States, India, Canada, Australia, and Europe.

Organize and Grow

 

Ultimately, the success of many activities depends on numbers; on how many people seem motivated enough to do something about the situation.  Each locality provides a unique set of challenges and opportunities.  For instance, as I traveled North and Northeast India, meeting with Bangladeshi Hindu refugees; I noticed that several lakh were living in “refugee camps.”  That provides an easy structure to organize actions.  In the United States, we are divided into Congressional districts.  One prominent Congressman has said that any Member of Congress who gets at least ten phone calls fro constituents on any issue will take notice and likely vote that way.  It is not quite that easy, but we have natural structures here for organizing people who can be mobilized on a particular issue at a moment’s notice.

People also are hungry to help but need to be given directions on how to help; once they do, we can see how interested they are in taking on other duties, even leadership.  It all depends on good organization.

This intense seminar is designed to take these ideas and immediately turn them into action that we all can participate in creating.

Our job will be to make the Bangladeshi’s appear to be the “bad guys” that they are.  (What else do you call people who are willing to tolerate murder, rape, and ethnic cleansing?)  We can do that, too, because it is the truth.  Our other concern is this.  We often seem to be losing or not making gains in the war against radical Islam because they set an agenda and we follow it.  We have to change that dynamic.  We have to show them up for who they are—and show up anyone who is willing to appease them—and make them react to us.

26 Jun 2015

Advocacy For Pakistani Hindu Migrants

For Pakistani Hindu Refugees in Jodhpur

Date: 24-12-2012

COLLECTOR OFFICE EVENT NO = 22278

Gaurav Goyal Ji,

Collector Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India
E-mail:     dm-jod-rj@nic.in
Office: 0291 – 2650322
Res: 0291- 2650344

Subject: Hindu Mahasabha of America (HMSA) request you to assist recently migrated Pakistani Hindu refugees in Jodhpur area.

Namaste

Hindu Mahasabha of America is a Hindu organization based in USA with members from medical, engineering, IT, legal and business and others areas. HMSA conducts events in USA namely Hindu Sports Day, Hindu Memorial Day and other events and fundraisers for world’s wide Hindu causes like defamation, bigotry and religious intolerance against Hindus. You can get educated about us at below e-mail / phone / website / address etc.

During my visit to Jodhpur, I got informed about the recently migrated ~240 (approx) Hindu refuges from Pakistan to Jodhpur(Rajasthan, India) composed of 120 men, 40 women and 72 children. I visited the site and met them, also a donation of grains (flour and cereals) and chocolates for children were arranged to help those families. A good conversation occurred with them and these Hindu families are appreciative of the work your administration is doing for them like

1. Allowing them to reside at Jodhpur and space allocation

2. BPL Cards and other administration help

HMSA would like to thank you and administration for helping them!

After further discussion, I learnt that there are two major issues they are still facing:

1. First: These Hindu refugees from Pakistan need a proper land to dwell; currently they are residing on a private plot where the plot owner (thought we appreciates his generosity) many times requests them to vacate, which demoralizes these Hindu refugees and in past they have changes number of locations.

Thus HMSA request you to allot / provide a government land as long term place to inhabit, so that they are stable with respect to residence and can focus on other key surviving issues such as job cards, food and security.

2. Second: These Hindu refugees from Pakistan need a drinking water facility for drinking, cooking food etc. Currently they have to get a water tanker purchased every day which is expensive. If your administration can provide a water tap etc or a pump at their dwelling place (this depends on first point where once they have a dedicated area , they can get utility)

Thus HMSA request your administration to provide a water tap etc or a pump or other water facility at their dwelling place.These brothers and sisters have travelled a large distance from a terror struck and uncivilized religious intolerant country (Pakistan) to this(India) great nation to live in peace, flourish and access the fundamental rights of education, religion. Hence it’s our moral duty to accommodate and provide best of service to our brothers and sisters who share the same culture, heritage and beliefs that of ours.

Regards
Rahul Chandra
Secretary, Hindu Mahasabha of America

Tel: 832-800-HMSA
http://hmsamerica.org/
E-mail: rahul.chandra@hmsamerica.org

26 Jun 2015

How Christian Evangelists Target Hindu American Students

Francis C. Assisi

In a fictional account of a freshman year at an American State University, author Chris Sherman tells us of an Indian-American student from the Midwest, who is “born again” after a year of intensive prayer and prodding by his evangelical Christian roommates.

Born in India and raised in the United States, the protagonist Hari Singh is caught between the Hindu-Indian culture of his immigrant parents and his desire to “be rid of his Indian roots.”

An avowed agnostic when he arrives at the State University, by the end of his freshman year Harry “Bob” Singh’s newfound Christian faith presents him with a final challenge: facing his parents. “What to say? He knew he had to somehow begin to see them as his parents, to “honor” them, to show this in a way they with their Hindu heritage would recognize. How was he to do this? He didn’t know.”

One recalls a parallel in the real-life situation of Indian-American congressman Bobby Jindal who converted to Christianity during his second year at Brown University. At the time, Jindal wrote: “It was hard for me to struggle with the competing commandments ‘Honor thy parents,’ which includes showing respect through honesty, and ‘Love God with your whole mind and heart’.”

Anyway, it should come as no surprise that the earlier fictional account includes an Indian American character in the plot, because, since the 1990s, Asian American students have become central players in American evangelical Christianity – one of the fastest growing religous/social movements in the United States.

Whereas the characterization of Hari – hard working, philosophically tenacious, and troubled by his Indianness – hints at larger issues about South Asian American identity in the context of evangelical Christianity, there is increasing evidence that Christian evangelical groups are aggressively targeting Hindu students in American college campuses for conversion.

In fact, a sampling of Asian American-identified evangelical fellowship websites reveals mission statements targeting Asian and Asian American students for outreach and membership, while simultaneously affirming a non-race-specific evangelical identity.

There is evidence that large numbers of Asian American college students are turning to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ through the encouragement and support of national and local prayer and Bible study organizations. Alongside the large national organizations, there are numerous local bible studies and fellowships that are often sponsored by local churches and are ethnic specific.

In response to an increasingly diverse college population, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF), for example, developed a series of “ABC” (Asian, Black, and Chicanos) conferences beginning in 1976 and experienced a membership boom in the 1980s and 1990s producing a significant number of Asian American IVCF student leaders.

One reason for the present renewed aggressive effort is that, unlike other Asian Americans, Hindu-Americans have staunchly resisted efforts at conversion. Also, unlike other Asian Americans who are becoming increasingly associated with evangelical Christianity on college campuses, Hindu-Americans have their own campus groups such as Hindu Students Federation.

Nevertheless, evangelical “parachurch” organizations like Campus Crusade for Christ (CCC), The Navigators, and IVCF are soliciting large numbers of students to their weekly bible studies, prayer meetings, and social events. There is no doubt that Asian Americans – especially Korean and Chinese – are becoming increasingly associated with evangelical Christianity on the college campus. The hope is that Indian-Americans will follow suit.

ORGANIZATIONS TARGETING DESIS

The main concern of the recently established Fellowship of South Asian Christians (organised at the Overseas Indians Congress on Evangelism) is the evangelization of South Asians living abroad. The organization acknowledges that it is gearing to become a dynamic force for evangelism among Hindus, scattered in countries other than their homeland.

The Institute of Hindu Studies, based in the Midwest, says its mission is to be “a resource base, strategy center and a facilitator of knowledge” by providing “reliable information on India, Hinduism and the Indian Diaspora.” The IHS says its vision is “To stimulate and encourage the growth of a culturally relevant movement for frontier missions among the 2,700 unreached, predominantly caste Hindu people groups existing mostly in India, but found throughout the world.”

Bhanu Christudas, a student at William Carey International University on the campus of the U.S. Center for World Mission, writes: “I believe it is high time for us to concentrate our efforts on reaching the dear Hindu men and women around the world before this form of Satan’s deception begins to devour millions more into its philosophy.” He asks fellow Christians: What is your part in reaching the Hindus for Christ?

In ‘Reaching The Hindu World’, Christudas observes, “since Hinduism “converted” into a missionary religion during the last century, it is growing more than ever before around the world.”

A recent report received by Henrietta Watson, head of the Institute of Hindu Studies at the U.S. Center for World Mission, states: “The Indo- American Society in Chicago overtly stated their goal is to have a Hindu temple and a training center in every American city with a population over 500,000 …They are on target with imported idols and priests from India.” Should we wait to hear more such reports before we begin to act, asks Christudas.

Another research report contains specific tips based on the field experiences of a senior evangelist, including detailed “do’s and don’ts” :

“Do not criticize or condemn Hinduism. …. Criticizing Hinduism can make us feel we have won an argument; it will not win Hindus to Jesus Christ…Never allow a suggestion that separation from family and/or culture is necessary in becoming a disciple of Christ. …Avoid all that even hints at triumphalism and pride. …Do not speak quickly on hell, or on the fact that Jesus is the only way for salvation. …Never hurry. Any pushing for a decision or conversion will do great harm. …. Even after a profession of Christ is made, do not force quick changes regarding pictures of gods, charms, etc. …Do not force Christian ideas into passages of Hindu scripture. … Empathize with Hindus. …. Learn to think as the Hindu thinks, and feel as he feels…. Those who move seriously into Christian work among Hindus need to become more knowledgeable in Hinduism than Hindus themselves are…A new believer should be warned against making an abrupt announcement to his or her family, since that inflicts great pain and inevitably produces deep misunderstanding….”

Indian Christian evangelist Rajendra Pillai of Clarksburg, Md., gives the following advice in the Baptist Press of August 15, 2003: ‘Learn to think as the Hindu thinks, and feel as he feels’. Based in Clarksburg, Md., he is the author of a new book, “Reaching the World in Our Own Backyard.”

Pillai explains: “We are slowly realizing that our neighborhoods, communities and workplaces are changing. We’re waking up to the fact that we now have new kinds of neighbors — they look different, they speak a different language, they eat different kinds of food and speak with a foreign accent. We know they aren’t Christians, because they worship other gods.

“North America has always been a land of immigrants, but now we have a new wave of people coming from countries in Asia, Africa and the Middle East adding to the growing religious diversity in North America. We don’t have to go overseas to meet someone from another culture. Each one of us can now be a missionary in our own communities.

“Between 1990 and 2000, Hinduism has emerged as one of the fastest-growing religions in America. The number of Asian-Indians, most of whom are Hindu, has doubled every 10 years since 1980 to reach a record 1.7 million in 2000. USA Today reported that there are currently 1.3 million Hindus in the United States. The Pluralism Project of Harvard University (www.pluralism.org) lists more than 700 Hindu temples in the United States, many built in the last 10 years. Many more are in the construction stage.”

Pillai observes, “We can effectively reach Asian-Indians by knowing a little about their culture, beliefs and practices. First and foremost, we need to learn as much as possible about Hinduism.”

And he offers the following pointers:

“The Indian culture is highly collectivist. This means that most Indians will consider their acceptance of the Gospel in light of how it will impact their families and friends. There is also a strong possibility of being rejected by family members if a person changes his or her religion. Chances are you will not get an immediate response. Be prepared to walk with and support your Indian friend if he or she wrestles spiritually.

“As Indians come from a collectivist society and yearn for community, many will be open to coming to church if it means being a part of a community where people are genuinely concerned about each other. You might start by inviting them to less-threatening events outside of a Sunday church service.

“Most Asian-Indians yearn for community. Coming from a collectivist society, they have a tough time adjusting to the American individualistic culture. This is where Christians can step in, and the church can become the community they are seeking.”

Pillai warns: “One thing that turns off many Asian-Indians is when Christians in this country just share the Gospel but are not interested in them in any other way. So if they say “no” to the Gospel, the same Christian friends and acquaintances disappear from their lives. Christian Asian-Indians who used to be Hindus say the most convincing argument for following Christ came through the love Christians showed toward them.”

Finally, asks Pillai: “If His heart beats for people from every nation and if Jesus died for all nations, then how can we keep the great news of the Gospel to ourselves, especially now that they live next door?”

In Mission Frontier’s article ‘personal evangelism among educated Hindus’, H.L. Richards writes: ‘Friendship evangelism is usually easy to initiate with Hindus. Most Hindus esteem religion in general and are free and open to speak about it. A sincere, nonjudgemental interest in all aspects of Indian Life will provide a good basis for friendship. Personal interaction with Hindus will lead to a more certain grasp of the essence of Hinduism than reading many books. A consistently Christ-like life is the most important factor in sharing the gospel with Hindus. The suggestions that follow should help to break down misunderstandings, of which there are far too many, and help to build a positive witness for Christ. Yet learning and applying these points can never substitute for a transparent life of peace and joy in discipleship to Jesus Christ.’

He advises: 1. Do not criticize or condemn Hinduism. There is much that is good and much that is bad in the practice of both Christianity and Hinduism. Pointing out the worst aspects of Hinduism is hardly the way to win friends or show love. It is to the credit of Hindus that they rarely retaliate against Christians by pointing out all our shameful practices and failures. Criticizing Hinduism can make us feel we have won an argument; it will not win Hindus to Jesus Christ.

5. Do not speak quickly on hell, or on the fact that Jesus is the only way for salvation. Hindus hear these things as triumphalism and are offended unnecessarily. Speak of hell only with tears of compassion. Point to Jesus so that it is obvious he is the only way, but leave the Hindu to see and conclude this for himself, rather than trying to force it on him. Richards says that a Hindu who professes faith in Christ must be helped as far as possible to work out the meaning of that commitment in his own cultural context.

He also warns: A new believer should be warned against making an abrupt announcement to his or her family, since that inflicts great pain and inevitable produces deep misunderstanding. Ideally, a Hindu will share each step of the pilgrimage to Christ with his or her family, so that there is no surprise at the end. An early stage of the communication, to be reaffirmed continually, would be the honest esteem for Indian/Hindu traditions in general that the disciple of Christ can and does maintain.

HINDU STUDENT MINISTRY

Steve Edwards, an IVCF staff member serving on the campus of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and Virginia State University, recently outlined his view of Hindu ‘student ministry’ in no uncertain terms.

He observes that students from India have recently surpassed the Chinese as the largest international group on the campus where he serves, but that ‘in spite of their large numbers there are very few believers.’

Edwards acknowledges that while working with Indian students, the evangelists often “get a foot in the door” by meeting practical needs. This may include assisting with English or hospitality needs. “The best way to start is through friendship, taking the time to listen and to learn about their individual backgrounds and beliefs” he advises.

According to Edwards, “even if believing in Jesus were acceptable to the family, it would likely become a point of conflict when it came to issues of marriage and children. Hindus may and often do find Jesus personally appealing. But an individual decision to become a follower of Christ is quite difficult because it implies a rejection of one’s own dharma and the acceptance of the “Christian” dharma.”

He explains: “God has given us a wonderful opportunity to welcome them and share the good news of Christ with them. But significant obstacles exist. Therefore, it is vital for us to understand the challenges that we must face in sharing Christ with them and also the challenges they face in coming to Christ.

“Most Hindus readily acknowledge the reality of God’s work in life and are not afraid to discuss spiritual matters. As a result, offers to pray for and with them are rarely refused and often welcomed. This is a tangible way we can show our concern and ask God to bless them and provide specifically for their needs. Simply put, Hindus are open to spiritual things. Edwards reveals: “Recently, I met a new student from India who seemed quite interested in visiting church and perhaps a Bible study. But first he wanted to make sure that he didn’t need to be baptized or believe that Jesus was the only way to God before attending. As believers our response is to invite them to “Come and see,” with no strings attached and allow the person of Christ as seen in the Bible and the work of the Holy Spirit to lead them to faith.”

Noting that the majority of Indian students come from Hindu families, Edwards discusses conversion efforts directed at Hindu students on American campuses and, specifically, his experiences of prayer, partnerships and perseverance, which he claims has been essential in the formation of an ‘Indian Christian Fellowship’.

“It is my prayer that this would encourage others in sharing Christ with Indian students in their campuses and communities. May God pour out his grace on India and bring many into his kingdom in the coming years.”

OBSTACLES ENUMERATED

As Edwards sees it, Indian culture and religion present significant obstacles to communicating Christianity to Indian students. He is convinced that, “given the ancient spiritual strongholds that exist in the Hindu world it is essential that this ministry be founded upon and sustained by faithful prayer.”

One of the method he advocates, besides prayer, is “partnerships with like-minded Indian believers among students and in the community.” He notes that “while some Indian students want to interact with other cultures it seems that most prefer to remain in a culturally familiar environment.”In addition, explains Edwards, the partnership helps to dispel the widespread preconception that Christianity is just a Western religion.

Finally, he notes that a common suspicion among Hindus is that Christians want to make converts for selfish reasons like pride, financial gain or political power. In contrast, the Bible reminds us that love must be sincere. “We have seen God at work, but it is often a very slow process…We must be patient and wait for God to bring fruit as we are faithful in planting and watering the seeds of the Indian Christian Fellowship.”

Edwards, who began his involvement with Indian students while he was a graduate student in an engineering school, recalls: “I was surrounded by Indian students in my classes and actively involved in an international student fellowship. Like so many, I was amazed by the openness of the Chinese students who sought out knowledge of the Bible, often from the moment they arrived. Indian students on the other hand would scarcely ever come to any Christian sponsored event even though their numbers were comparable to those of the Chinese students.”

Edwards explains: “So, I began praying for India and for the students that I knew and learning about their culture and beliefs. During that time, God brought me into a close friendship with a Hindu background believer. Through our friendship I saw how difficult it was for him to reconcile his faith with family expectations and pressures. (I also developed a love for Indian food which is a fringe benefit).

“I also had a growing friendship with a Hindu classmate. We had numerous occasions to openly discuss spiritual matters and even though he freely admitted that his life was incomplete I was saddened to see so little change. Periodically, he would remind me that he was a Brahmin, the highest caste in Hinduism, which I learned only added to the barriers.

“One evening early on in our friendship he told me he would be very disappointed and hurt if I was only trying to be his friend in order to “convert” him. His directness shocked me, but it was something I needed to hear. It showed me the suspicions that Hindu students often have of the motives of Christians and their repulsion at the very idea of conversion. It also underscored how essential it is for our love to be sincere and the value of partnering with Indian believers so that Christianity is not equated with Western culture.”

Thus, on completion of graduate studies, Edwards joined as staff member with IVCF’s international student ministries. “From the start, one of my personal desires was to reach out to the large Indian community. While ministry opportunities with other student groups grew, it remained difficult to make more than isolated contacts with the Indian community.”

Edwards says he ‘began praying for the Indian community and for God to bring some Indian believers to join us. There were several years of prayer before we saw any answers, and many disappointments along the way. He once even contacted an Indian Christian student ‘to see if he had a desire to reach out to the Indian community but he frankly said “No.”’

During the following summer Edwards visited India and got a firsthand taste of Indian culture. “Those experiences were priceless and opened doors of trust and understanding that I doubt I could have gained any other way” he says.

According to Edwards, the next fall brought 3 Christian students from Kerala with whom he formed the Indian Christian Fellowship (ICF) “with the faculty advisor being one of our prayer partners who shared our heart for the South Asian students.”

“Later that semester, two Hindu friends we had been praying for went on an international evangelistic retreat with us because of the invitation of an Indian Christian friend. The speaker at the retreat was also from India and their experiences at that event challenged them to seek God further. Immediately afterwards they began attending the fellowship regularly. Even though they faced some challenges from other Indian friends, they soon became a part of our “family.”

“After attending the fellowship for one year, one of these students began following Jesus. Initially, it was a private decision. But it was soon apparent that it was a genuine step of faith with strong evidence of God’s work in his life. Within a short period of time his friends began to ask him what had happened to him and why he had changed. In the months that have followed, he has grown dramatically in his knowledge of the Word and in witness: bringing several friends to the fellowship and even leading a college friend to Christ.

“Although these students face difficult issues ahead (family and marriage especially) we are excited about how God’s work will overflow as we grow and serve together. As a result of these developments and as an answer to prayer, in just the past few months we have seen a significant increase in the number of students visiting the fellowship or curious about Christ.”

AGGRESSIVE EVANGELISM

The perception that Asian American students are currently disproportionately involved in InterVarsity and Campus Crusade for Christ appears to be well founded, according to available information.

The aggressive evangelism that took place in Asia after World War II was responsible for Christianizing an emigrant Korean and Chinese population. Evangelists note the dramatic growth in Korean Christianity from three million believers in 1974 to seven million in 1978 as a striking example. They say that a good percentage of Korean American evangelical students in the 1990s would appear to be the harvest of Campus Crusade’s farsighted sowing as Korean immigration to the United States rapidly increased in the decades following. A similar trajectory is seen for the emerging South Asian American community numbering about 3 million.

Asian American evangelicals report that being a Christian does not mean rejecting Asian American identity or Asian culture. One IVCF Chinese American staff worker involved with InterVarsity since the early 1970s explained that she came to a deeper understanding of herself as Asian American through the Pacific Alliance of Chinese Evangelicals and an IVCF Discipleship Training program that took her to Singapore. Other students find that evangelical Christianity reinforces “Asian ” values of family, work, and education: “Many Confucian ideas are similar to Christian ideals – like honoring your parents, living a moral, virtuous life, and working hard…there are definitely teachings from Buddhism that are very Christian…not harming anyone, trying to live a good life. ..Asian culture has it embedded that you are supposed to give respect to older people…My parents used to say bow to your grandmother when she comes. I might have done it but I tended to be rebellious. But now I know from the Bible that that’s a very Biblical thing. Now it’s not just for cultural reasons, but for Bible reasons I want to follow that part of Korean culture.”

And, as Bobby Jindal explained in a letter to a Sikh friend: “Only after years of open feuding did my parents realize my new faith had not caused me to reject them or my heritage.”

It is clear that evangelical Christianity will continue to attract large numbers of Asian American college students because it provides well-structured and nurturing communities tailored for surviving the anxieties, alienation and liminality of the college experience. Until well-documented evidence is available, we can only speculate as to why some Asian Americans, and specifically Korean and Chinese American students, are more involved in evangelicalism in comparison with Filipinos and South Asians.

An example of what evangelical faith entails is found in an Ivy League based Indian Christian Fellowship statement of purpose: “The purpose of ICF is to establish, assist, and encourage students who attest the Lord Jesus Christ as God Incarnate and have these major objectives: To lead others in to a personal faith in Christ as Lord and Savior. To help Christians grow toward maturity as disciples of Christ through the study of the Bible, through prayer, and through Christian fellowship. To present the call of God to the world mission of the Church, and to help students and faculty discover God’s role for them.”

THE CASE OF BOBBY JINDAL

As it turns out, the story of Piyush Bobby Jindal’s transformation from a devout young Hindu to a zealous Catholic offers an intriguing glimpse into the struggle, often traumatic, of a young Indian American caught between his heritage and his parents on the one hand and his intellectual and emotional turmoil in America.

“My journey from Hinduism to Christianity was a gradual and painful one,” Bobby Jindal acknowledged in a 1993 article that he wrote while he was a graduate student at Oxford. As Jindal readily confessed in that article, “it never occurred to me that I should consider any other religion; to be a Hindu was an aspect of my Indian identity.” So his parents were especially surprised that he had investigated Hinduism and found it lacking. “It was important that I had given our shared faith fair consideration.”

Jindal recalls, “my parents were infuriated by my conversion and have yet to fully forgive me.”

As Jindal explains, “My parents went through different phases of anger and disappointment. They blamed themselves for being bad parents, blamed me for being a bad son and blamed evangelists for spreading dissension. There were heated discussions, many of them invoking family loyalty and national identity.

He elaborates: “My parents have never truly accepted my conversion and still see my faith as a negative that overshadows my accomplishments. They were hurt and felt I was rejecting them by accepting Christianity. According to Jindal, his parents resorted to “ethnic loyalty” to counter his new faith.

What was the motivation for Jindal’s rejection of Hinduism and his acceptance of Christianity? The answer can be pieced together in his own words.

Essentially Jindal claims that having studied the Bible, he accepted Jesus Christ’s radical claim to divinity, along with Christ’s redemptive sacrifice on the cross. That is, Christ had died to redeem mankind from sin.

“I was comfortable in my Hindu faith and enjoyed an active prayer life; I only gradually felt a void and stubbornly resisted God’s call…it was truth and love that finally forced me to accept Christ as Lord” Jindal recalled in an article.

In comparing Hinduism with his new faith, Jindal noted that whereas “Hinduism taught me to earn my way to God’s grace” he found Christ’s sacrifice on the cross meant something personal for him. “God loved me and was lifting me up to Him” declared Jindal, two years after his conversion. The young Hindu American had examined Hinduism and found it wanting. Looked at from another perspective, the Hindus whom he approached were not competent enough to satisfy his intellectual curiosity.

While he explains that he is aware of “gross injustices in the name of truth and God” committed by missionaries in India and elsewhere, Jindal is appreciative of their enormous contributions to health and education. That’s why he exhorts: “Let us all become missionaries and live so that the world will know us by our love.”

In his 1993 article, Jindal wrote wistfully, “I long for the day when my parents understand, respect and possibly accept my faith. For now I am satisfied that they accept me.”