Globally, Hinduism is not a single cultural unit as subsumed by some scholars under the term ‘religion’, but is a socio-cultural phenomenon.
- The socio-cultural understanding of Hinduism, both past and current, is derived by many from religious texts which differ from practice.
- Earlier Indian Christian theology developed by high caste Hindu converts to Christianity lacks perspectives of people at the grassroots.
- Starting points used to understand Hindus in the past have proved to be unhelpful and there is a call for fresh ones.
- There is a need for understanding unprecedented mass movements following new forms of old Hindu practices, such as yoga, guruism, and others.
- Increased attacks on Christians highlight the insensitivity of Christian traditional methods to Hindu socio-cultural phenomena.
We are called to share good news in evangelism, but not to engage in unworthy proselytizing. Evangelism, which includes persuasive rational argument following the example of the Apostle Paul, is ‘to make an honest and open statement of the gospel which leaves the hearers entirely free to make up their own minds about it. We wish to be sensitive to those of other faiths, and we reject any approach that seeks to force conversion on them’. Proselytizing, by contrast, is the attempt to compel others to become ‘one of us’, to ‘accept our religion’, or indeed to ‘join our denomination’. The Cape Town Commitment II-C-1
- The Hindu diasporas, Hindu insider movements, and the spurt of interest in Hindu spirituality have brought up new challenges in global mission.
- Religion, especially Hindu socio-cultural, plays a major role in politics, business, and everything else.
- Hindus, urban and rural, abroad and at home, sacred and secular, all present new challenges to the understanding of Hindus.
All these factors call for employing contemporary approaches that take the socio-cultural aspect of Hindus seriously. This is a new Lausanne network focusing specifically on Hinduism as a socio-cultural phenomenon and calling for fresh study, research, and sustained engagement with the context.