Obituaries: The Newest Route to Convert the Living

Professor Anantanand Rambachan’s recent column in the Huffington Post reveals a stunning practice that I had never heard of before: strangers sending condolence letters upon the death of a loved one to try and convert grieving family members to Christianity. It is wholly inappropriate, as Prof. Rambachan writes, to try and exploit “an occasion for emotional vulnerability.”

We at HAF consider the above to be an instance of “predatory proselytization”, a term we coined to highlight “conversion campaigns which continue to harass, intimidate, and exploit the most vulnerable segments of society through unethical means.”

One hopes that the process of scanning obituaries for conversion targets isn’t an organized campaign, but after reading Prof. Rambachan’s piece, it would not be surprising to find out that there is a coordinated effort with significant money behind it, similar to the “aid-evangelism” campaigns described by HAF Board Member Padma Kuppa in her recent Hinduism Today article. If there is an organized campaign, it needs to stop, and even if there isn’t one, Christian leaders need to denounce the practice. Not only is it unethical exploitation, but it also delegitimizes genuine charitable efforts done by Christian groups who are not interested in proselytizing in a predatory manner and impairs efforts to reach genuine interfaith understanding. If we seek a better world, then we need to treat obituaries as homages to the recently departed, not as a target list to convert the living.