The year was 1925. Gandhi sat (due to a health challenge at the time) before a college for Christian missionaries in India. The topic he had been invited to address was how they, an audience of European missionaries, could best serve the Indian people, and they also asked Gandhi to teach them more about “the Christ.” Very skillfully and characteristically directly, he opened his heart with his views about Europeans converting others to Christianity, which he knew that many in the audience felt was their purpose. In short: it was an insult to God.
He had met converts and simply professing that they accepted a new religion did not mean in any way that the message of the religion had sunk in and grasped their hearts. For Gandhi, it was enough if the latter took place, regardless of the religion you claim as your own. To that end, he told the missionaries that they could still serve India and her people without working to convert them by joining the struggle for India’s freedom.
Could not the missionaries put on the khadi cloth and support the poor who were using the spinning wheel as a means for economic empowerment? Had they identified themselves with the poor and the starving? What would be a better identification with the life of Christ?
He went on: “Let your work be a silent testimony. What do you want to convert them for? If your contact ennobles them and brings them a ray of light, is that not enough? If you take a piece of bread to starving children, is that not enough? (…) I have spoken from the depth of my heart and I hope that it has touched your heart.”
How could it not have, I wonder.
Do something generous today without telling others about it or expecting something from them in return. Let the act in itself “be enough.”
The Metta Center for Nonviolence, PO Box 98, Petaluma, California 94953 707-774-6299 email@example.com