Conversion- Beyond Politics:

6 min readJan 15


A psycho, socio and spiritual emancipatory perspective

Dr. J. Judith Vijaya


The term ‘Conversion’ has become now a political jargon to blame a section people, called the Christians in Indian democracy. It is perceived that conversion to other religions causes disturbance to the Indian social order, so some of the Indian state governments have enacted Anti-conversion laws against so the called “forceful conversion” in spite of Article 25 of the Indian Constitution, guaranteeing freedom of conscience, practice and propagation of religion. Instead of propagating religion as mentioned in the Constitution, a subtle way of polarizing the Hindus is gradually taking place in the country. While this polarization process supporting the Hindu majoritarian principle on the one hand, it undermines the minority religions, rituals and cultural sensibility on the other hand. A silent majority of the Hindus are also unfortunately getting succumbed into the snare of hate politics except some of the southern states like Tamil Nadu.

So it would be appropriate to pay more attention on the in depth meaning of the term ‘conversion” rather than what we superficially hear from right wing proponents. In fact, the term ‘conversion’ could be briefly explained as the external manifestation of the internal process about which we seldom pay attention. It is here, we surely need to pay adequate attention on the dynamic internal process that a person undergoes before deciding to convert to any other religion. Buddha, for instance, underwent a long process of searching meaning for sufferings and death. This process first of all gives self-satisfaction about which a spiritual person would call as “spiritual bliss” i.e. ānanda. Apart from the spiritual bliss, conversion causes definite impacts upon the life style of individuals and society. In this article, I would like to discuss on the impact of conversion, as the external manifestation, in the following three levels.

1) Personal Transformation

No one can bring change in any one’s life, unless the person permits for change. It is much difficult to convert a person forcefully and still more difficult to make him/her remain in a particular religion permanently, untill there is a personal transformation which is in fact, the starting point for any conversion that lasts long. Number of youngsters who were previously addicted to alcohols and drugs have transformed from their addictions through personal encounter with the God. This sort of encounters gives God-experience that leads to personal transformation. St. Paul’s conversion experience is a spectacular example for personal transformation through his encounter with God, on his way to Damascus. He completely got transformed and spontaneously surrendered himself to God. Similarly, St. Ignatius’s encounter with God through Pamplona war in 1521. A.D. brought him with tremendous change. He came out from the Manresa cave as a transformed person and began to see everything new. Many saints and sages in India have transformed their lives through personal encounter with God, the ultimate reality. So religious conversion paves the way for personal transformation because the very nature of religious conversion itself is to show a liberative path to others.

2) Social Recognition

The effect of religious conversion is not merely limited to personal transformation alone, but it leads to social change as well. It promotes certain values in the society like dignity, solidarity, charity, helping tendency and supporting the vulnerable. Conversion also gives a new identity and social recognition, when traditionally oppressed people get converted to Christianity or Islam, they experience a new recognition. If we keenly observe the conversion history of India, we can clearly make out that the poor and marginalized communities have largely converted to Christianity and Islam for self-respect and dignified life. Dr. Ambedkar and his followers converted to Buddhism in 1956. A.D. for rejecting caste domination and gaining a new identity. He started a mass conversion movement wherein 10 lakhs people along with him embraced Buddhism. The converted people began to realize the new recognition and sense of belonging, which would give them social security and dignity. The religious conversion has a strong political significance also. The newly converted people emerge as a new political power that could influence the decision of a government. As far as Tamil Nadu political situation is concerned, the minorities’ votes become significant to decide a government. Thus conversion gives political empowerment to the powerless people. The spiritual significance of conversion in society that it promotes religious values, disciplined life-style and communitarian life.

3) Spiritual emancipation

As far as spiritual emancipation is concerned, conversion paves the way for spiritual as well as material salvation or liberation. If conversion is the starting point of any spiritual journey then it is destination should be salvation or liberation, however the understanding of salvation varies from religion to religion yet the final destination is liberation. My emphasis here is not foster the ideological differences but to enhance the liberated oneness. Practically all religions will agree that there will be peace, harmony and contentment in the state of liberation. A truly spiritual person will spontaneously aspire for this state of liberation ‘here and now’ to resonate its importance on the earth. Spiritually immersed saintly people like Vallalār, Gandhi and Mother Teresa lived a liberated state a life with full contentment and they vibrated positive energy around them. They wanted to build a healthy and harmonious society with vision of holistic growth. Vallalār empathized with suffering humanity and found God in serving the sufferers. Gandhi emphasized Ahimsa and worked for political freedom of India. His Ahimsa was stronger than the weapons of the Britishers. Mother Teresa showed God’s love to the suffering, served the dying destitute and nursed the orphan children. All these spiritual giants were never bothering about religious boundaries. They broke all these artificial boundaries and saw the humanity first. Therefore, the real conversion occurred within an individual becomes a driving force to serve the suffering humanity and thus it empowers the marginalized people specially.


Conversion of heart is ultimately more important than conversion of religion. If a Hindu becomes a better Hindu, a Christian becomes a better Christian, a Muslim becomes a better Muslim and the followers of all other religions become better persons according to their respective religions, then that would be a growing sign of a true conversion. The real growth of India lies in appreciating the plurality and individuality. It has been historically proven that conversions give personal transformation, social empowerment and spiritual liberation. The next level of conversion is to lead a person to be genuinely spiritual which would eventually leads to the state of salvation or liberation. A truly spiritual person must transcend beyond all religious boundaries and even give up the benefits of personal transformation, social recognition and spiritual emancipation as well. He/she will realize that religions are only means to achieve a greater end and serving humanity would be the proper way to enhance the beauty their spirituality. The younger generation must be trained in true spirituality and they can be exposed to variety of spiritualties’, available in this country. So that they can learn to respect the sentiments of other religions and cultures with the focus of promoting intercultural values. In fact, intercultural research is the need of the hour. Hence, we need more enlightenment to look at ‘conversion’ beyond politics and engage in intercultural activities.

(Dr. J. Judith Vijaya, Dean of Sciences & Professor, Department of Chemistry is working at Loyola College from.2001. She is an excellent academician cum researcher and guided 15 PhD Research scholars so far. She has published 200 papers in internationally reputed journals with high impact factor and more citations. She has received top 2% scientist award from Elsevier& Stanford University, USA for the past three consecutive years. To her credit, she has received 5 Indian patents and two international patents in Chemistry. She is a fellow of many academic and research councils. She visited many foreign countries and presented papers as an academic researcher. She has received many projects from Government of India, including for the resilience for the downtrodden and neglected people of the society.)