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Political Play
Ratan Sharda
'Surrogate Advertisement' enters religious arena too 21 November, 2013
A campaign named 'Power to Change' has hit Mumbai in November. I am witnessing buses carrying message of 'Power to Change' with brand ambassadors like Johny Lever and Naghma, and telephone numbers of people who would rescue you out of your despondency. They are out to 'save' you.

There is similar campaign on radio too with Johny Lever trying not to be funny and exhorting people to call and meet people who would change your life. Apparently, it does not look religious campaign. No mention of any religion etc. Another friend of mine called the 'helpline' and asked what was the free book that is being given, the person on the other side refused to say anything about the supposed book.

It was kind of hush-hush nudge-nudge approach. So, I approached our ultimate saviour  - the net! And Yahoo! I found the link to Youtube promo which talked of 'Jesus the Saviour'.

So, there you are! Surrogate advertisement has entered religious arena in a big way to stoke religious conversions. Much bigger than any such marketing campaign seen in India. Apparently it is a high cost, high impact marketing campaign for religious conversions.

There is a call centre, there are individual volunteers and then there are mass meetings too with testimonials etc. But, all this is unknown to innocent ?sinner? till he gets in touch with this group. From the look of it and  from my experience  of marketing, this blitzkrieg cannot cost less than 6-7 crore rupees.  

If one had any doubt whether conversions are a big business or a purely religious affair where one propagates one's religion openly and urges people to join, this campaign clears such doubts.

'Surrogate Advertising' described in Wikipedia is a form of advertising which is used to promote banned products like cigarettes and alcohol, in the disguise of another product. It is said that birth of surrogate advertising happened in Britain, where housewives started protesting against liquor advertisements which provoked their husbands.

The protest rose to a level where liquor advertising had to be banned and brand owners seeing no way out decided to promote fruit juices and soda under the brand name, the concept later emerged as Surrogate Advertisements.

A CBN report that I tracked is like a typical press handout from the promoters. It tells us that advertisements in major cities from Asia to the Middle East are introducing millions of people to a life-changing message about Christ. It gives details of such exercise earlier executed with finesse in Hyderabad in 2012.

I am told it also happened in Chennai. The PR person has a typically Hindu name Sushruth Pradhan, leader of Refreshing International Ministries. His language is typical language of  ?saviours.?

This report quotes Hannu Haukka, President of Great Commission Media Ministries, who helped develop the campaigns. He said it's an effective way to saturate unreached, urban populations. Thousands of callers flood the campaign's phone center requesting the free book with stories of lives changed by God.

"And we're talking about Hindus, Muslims in the city of Hyderabad. It's something that churches have never, never seen in that city," he said. This report also quotes that during the past decade, Haukka's Finland-based ministry has taken the Power to Change media campaign to more than 60 cities, including Jesus' home town of Nazareth, in Israel.

On further search you reach gcmediaministries.org This site takes us to the origin of these campaigns, called GCM ministries with headquarters in Canada. It tells us that GCM Ministries, Great Commission Media Ministries (formerly IRR/TV), is a non-denominational modern missions organization which focuses on taking the Gospel to the nations of Russia, Asia, the Middle East, North Africa.

The tools of television, radio, the internet greatly enhance the fulfilment of the Great Commission of Christ. For the Church to prevail in missions these tools must be utilized massively by the Church in today's world. The site proudly proclaims that their mission is - Win! Train! Send!

To achieve its goals of reaching the peoples of Russia, Central Asia, China, India and Israel GCM Ministries produces evangelistic radio programs, television programs, videos and literature in 40 languages. In addition GCM Ministries systematically trains indigenous workers in their respective cultures sending them to their own peoples. Humanitarian aid is provided in hard hit areas suffering from natural disasters and to children in Russia's children's prison camps.

The site also gives us a snapshot  of  this movement, started  by Josh McDowell in 1967. By 2007 with 500 staff members in more than 15 ministries, thousands of supporters and an exciting new strategy, Campus Crusade for Christ, Canada makes a unified decision to become Power to Change Ministries.

All this is apparently funded well by devout  Christians  of US  and Europe who find their saved flock dwindling and wish to serve 'God' and 'Jesus' by recruiting followers from other gullible countries.

Swami Dayanand Saraswati says that religious conversion is a violence against spirit. It snatches a person away from his social and spiritual moorings and creates divide in the society. The religious conversion doesn't stop just at changing your way of worship but also influences your life style and asks you to follow an alien culture. This is a major cause of schism where overt and covert conversion campaigns are taking place.

Therefore I abhor conversions. But, may be because I am a Hindu and there is no history of Hindu society converting people by force or with sly campaigns. For Abrahamic religions conversion is a mission of life. It is a mission to 'save' people who have ?sinned? as they are born out of 'original sin'. For them it is either their way or one way street to hell. It is their bounden duty to save such 'fallen' or 'kafir' souls.

Marx called religion opium for the masses. But, the world has seen largest massacres and holocausts in the name of religion. Wars have been mainly between Christians and Muslims called crusades or jihad by respective religious groups. Hindus have suffered millions of deaths or conversions during their history of more than 1000 years. Their fate is left unsung, suppressed historical accounts by our leftist secular historians.

But, truth cannot be hidden. It has a nasty way of popping up from somewhere. It is sad that in spite of all this unrest our religious ?competitors? have not understood the enormity of damage they are doing to humanity by their efforts to spread their 'exclusivist' religions by all means fair or foul, direct or surrogate.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
About The Author
Ratan Sharda is a citizen journalist. He has authored books like 'Secrets of RSS'. A marketing consultant by profession, Mr. Sharda is a keen observer of the country's political scenario.
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