The Prime Minister extended his wishes for the day of the Feast of St. Francis Xavier on Friday, December 3, alluding that this occasion may further harmony and brotherhood in the society.
For the unenlightened, St. Francis Xavier may appear to be some great personality who endeavored for the wellbeing of the society and instilled harmony and brotherhood. Again, a multitude of educational institutions has been named after St. Francis Xavier in cities like Mumbai, Patna, Delhi, Bangalore, and Kolkata. All the schools and colleges that go by the name St. Xavier are named after this evangelist.
But how many Bharatiyas, the Hindu parents who send their wards to such institutions, or the students that get educated in these establishments know who this much-celebrated “Saint” was?
Born in 1506, Xavier was a Spanish Roman Catholic and the co-founder of the Society of Jesus and was ordained to the priesthood in his youth. In 1540 when the King of Portugal, John III, wanted to send missionaries to spread Christianity in his Bharatiya colonies, Xavier was roped in with seven more evangelists to undertake the assignment of Christianization of Portuguese-occupied Bharat.
He arrived in Bharat in 1542 and was enraged to see the newly converted Christians of Goa practicing their native Hindu Dharma, secretly and upholding their Hindu ideologies. On May 16, 1546, he wrote to the King advocating for an inquisition of Goa to compel the Goans to follow Catholicism. The inquisition started with the banning of the apostasy of Roman Catholics to their original religion including Hindu Dharma, Judaism, and Islam.
The sale of books in the local languages like Marathi, Sanskrit, and Konkani, and the use of Konkani were completely forbidden in Goa. Along with the Hindus, this inquisition also affected the New Christians of Europe who were from the Jewish community and had fled to Bharat to live among the Jews here. During the inquisition in Goa, both the local Hindus and the Jews were brutally hounded by the Christian missionaries.
They called the Hindus ‘uncultured’ ‘savages’, who worshipped black idols ‘resembling demons’; and forced them to abandon their religion and succumb to Christianity. Even the mere rumor about a native indulging in idol worship or uttering a Hebrew prayer would result in severe punishments. If anyone was found to practice any faith other than Roman Catholicism, they were subjected to unspeakable tortures.
They would often be subjected to public flogging. Some natives, found to follow their original religion, would be burnt on stakes, have their nails and eyes crushed, or put on a rack by the Catholic missionaries. Thousands of Goan natives became victims of the Christian missionaries during the inquisition.
An inquisition office was also set up to discriminate against the Hindus who were prohibited from holding public offices and inheriting their father’s properties. If the colonialists thought that a Hindu child was an orphan, the child was ‘seized’ by Xavier’s the Society of Jesus and converted to Christianity. At times, they snatched away the Hindu children from their Hindu parents, tied the parents, and forced them to see as the missionaries burn their children, till they accepted Christianity.
To further this discrimination, a law introduced in 1567 barred Christians from employing Hindus. Inspired by the Islamist invaders, the missionaries imposed the Xenddi tax on the Hindus.
Today, the Hindus of Goa watch as the Christians hold fair for Xavier at the Hatkatro Khamb treating him as a Saint. This lone pillar, to this day, stands as a witness of the extent of oppression by the missionaries and the Portuguese ruler. This is the pillar where the followers of Xavier chopped off the hands of the natives who would refuse to convert to Christianity.
Xavier had an intense detestation for the Brahmins for he knew that it is the Brahmins that are holding the Hindus to their roots. “I want to free the poor Hindus from the stranglehold of the Brahmins and destroy the places where evil spirits are worshipped. The Brahmins are the most perverse people in the world…. They never tell the truth, but think of nothing but how to tell subtle lies and to deceive the simple and ignorant people… They are as perverse and wicked a set as can anywhere be found, and to whom applies the Psalm, which says: ‘From an unholy race, and wicked and crafty men, deliver me, Lord’. The poor people do exactly what the Brahmins tell them…. If there were no Brahmins in the area, all Hindus would accept conversion to our faith,” writes Xavier in one of his letters.
Proud that he had converted 10 thousand non-Christians into Christians in one month, in his letter to the Society of Jesus, he boasts, “As soon as I arrived in any heathen village where they had sent for me to give them baptism, I gave orders for all, men, women, and children, to be collected in one place. Then, beginning with the first elements of the Christian faith, I taught them there is one God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; and at the same time, calling on the three divine Persons and one God, I made them each make three times the sign of the Cross; then, putting on a surplice, I began to recite in a loud voice and in their own language the form of the general Confession, the Apostle’s Creed, the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer… After their baptism, the new Christians go back to their houses and bring me their wives and families for baptism. When all are baptized I order all the temples of their false gods to be destroyed and all the idols to be broken in pieces. I can give you no idea of the joy I feel in seeing this done, witnessing the destruction of the idols by the very people who but lately adored them.”
Such violent pursuit of exterminating the local culture, faith, and languages continued for over 200 years. Therefore, when the Prime Minister hails the proponent of this violence evoking “brotherhood” and “harmony”, his message serves as a disturbing reminder of the inquisition to Goan Hindus who have put up a tough struggle to hold on to their history and cultural identity.
Even if on account of holding the country’s high office, PM Narendra Modi is obliged to extend his wishes to his countrymen, it is our duty and responsibility that we educate ourselves about the “Saints” who are being imposed on us and whom we are being forced to idolize.