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Proselytism (pron.: //) is the act of attempting to convert people to another religion or opinion. The word proselytize is derived ultimately from the Greek language prefix προσ- (toward) and the verb ἔρχομαι (to come) in the form of προσήλυτος (a new comer). Historically in the Koine Greek Septuagint and New Testament, the word proselyte denoted a gentile who was considering conversion to Judaism. Though the word proselytism originally referred to Early Christianity (and earlier Gentiles such as God-fearers), it now refers to the attempt of any religion or religious individuals to convert people to their beliefs, or any attempt to convert people to a different point of view, religious or not. Proselytism is illegal in some countries.
Bahá'í Faith 
In the writings of the Bahá'í Faith, the endeavour to attract people to the religion is strongly emphasized. The process of attracting people to the religion is referred to as teaching. The term proselytism is given the connotation of aggressively teaching the religion to others, and is prohibited.
Every Bahá'í has the obligation of teaching their religion, as it is seen as the path toward bringing peace and justice to the world. Some Bahá'ís move to other countries or cities where there are a small number of Bahá'ís to help spread the religion, and this is called pioneering. Some other Bahá'ís move from place to place in a process called travel teaching. When moving or travelling to other countries Bahá'ís are encouraged to integrate into their new society and apply Bahá'ís principles in living and working with their neighbours. In total, however, only a small minority of Bahá'ís are directly teaching their religion to others.
Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the Bahá'í Faith, wrote that those who would be teaching his religion should emphasize the importance of ethics and wisdom, and he counselled Bahá'ís to be unrestrained and put their trust in God. At the same time he stated that Bahá'ís should exercise moderation, tact and wisdom and not be too aggressive in their teaching. In sharing their faith with others, Bahá'ís are cautioned to make sure the person they are proposing to teach is open to hearing what they have to say. In most countries becoming a Bahá'í is a simple matter of filling out a card stating a declaration of belief. This includes acknowledgement of Bahá'u'llah as the messenger of God for this age, awareness and acceptance of his teachings, and intention to be obedient to the institutions and laws he established. It does not necessarily involve negating on one's previous beliefs, due to the Bahá'í belief in progressive revelation.
Many Christians consider it their obligation to follow what is often termed the Great Commission of Jesus, recorded in the final verses of the Gospel of Matthew: "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen." The Acts of the Apostles and other sources contain several accounts of early Christians following this directive by engaging in individual conversations and mass sermons to spread the Good News. Evangelical Christians often use the term "witnessing" to mean discussing one's faith with another person with the intent of proselytism.
Most self-described Christian groups have organizations devoted to missionary work which in whole or in part includes proselytism of the non-religious and people of other faiths (including sometimes other variants of Christianity).
Some Christians define "proselytism" more narrowly as the attempt to convert people from one Christian tradition to another; those who use the term in this way generally view the practice as illegitimate and in contrast to evangelism, which is converting non-Christians to Christianity. An Eastern Orthodox writer, Stephen Methodius Hayes has written: "If people talk about the need for evangelism, they meet with the response, 'the Orthodox church does not proselytize' as if evangelizing and proselytism were the same thing." However the boundary varies from group to group. For instance the Moscow Patriarchate has repeatedly strongly condemned what it describes as Catholic proselytism of Orthodox Christians within Russia and has therefore opposed a Catholic construction project in an area of Russia where the Catholic community is small. The Catholic Church claims that it is supporting the existing Catholic community within Russia and is not proselytizing. Recently, the Balamand declaration on proselytism was released between the Roman Catholic Church and Orthodox Churches.
Groups noted for proselytism include:
- Jehovah's Witnesses
- Jews for Jesus
- Roman Catholic
- Seventh-day Adventists
- Southern Baptist Convention
- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Indian religions 
Indian religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism are largely pluralistic. Hinduism places faith in a Vedic proclamation which states that "Truth is One, though the sages know it by many names"; Hinduism has no conversion/reconversion rituals whatsoever—one is free to choose any religion he/she wants, follow any philosophy or belief one fancies and worship any god in a manner he/she deems fit. Religion for a Hindu is merely a path to a universal destination. This is inherently due to the karmic nature of the religion: you will reap what you sow. It is also not uncommon for Hindus to visit holy men of other religions.
Mahavira (599-527 BC), the 24th Tirthankara of Jainism, developed an early philosophy regarding relativism and subjectivism known as Anekantavada. As a result of this acceptance of alternate religious practices, the phenomenon of proselytisation is largely absent in these religions but not unknown.
Hare Krishna 
One group that takes in willing converts in Hinduism, but without calumniating other faiths, is the International Society for Krishna Consciousness also known as Hare Krishnas. Devotees of the Krishna Consciousness have no codified rituals of conversion, but promote recitation of the Hare Krishna mantra as a means to achieve a mature stage of love of God. ISKCON adherents view Krishna as the supreme deity that those of other faith traditions worship. A commonly accepted notion among Krisna Consciousness devotees is that ISKCON allows one to recognize the primacy of the supreme deity, Krishna, in the practices and traditions of other faiths. Krishna Consciousness promotes the concept of Sanatana-Dharma, the 'eternal law' that other faiths can uncover.
Sikhism is a proselytizing religion, however, proselytism is largely discouraged "through force or inducement" out of the belief that each person has a fundamental right to practice their religion freely. Although Sikhs freely share their faith with others, offending other religions is against the tenets of Sikhism. However, Sikhism does accept voluntary converts.
In Islam, (see dawah and Islamic missionary activity) inviting people to the religion is a meritorious activity. The Qur'an states "Let there be no compulsion in the religion: Surely the Right Path is clearly distinct from the crooked path." (Al-Baqarah, 2:256) which is taken by Muslim scholars that force is not to be used to convert someone to Islam.
According to Abul Ala Maududi there are those who view proselytism to Islam as a religious duty of all faithful Muslims and that Jihad, religious war, should be waged against Jews and Christians because they are guilty of "committing Shirk", non-Islamic beliefs about the Day of Judgment, and by ignoring laws of Islam. "The Messenger of Allah invited the Arabs to accept Islam for 13 years. He used every possible means of persuasion, gave them "incontrovertible arguments and proofs", showed them "miracles" and put before them his life as an example of piety and morality. In short, he used every possible means of communication, but his people refused to accept Islam. When every method of persuasion had failed, the Prophet took to the sword. That sword removed evil mischief, the impurities of evil and the filth of the soul. The sword did something more—it removed their blindness so that they could see the light of truth, and also cured them of their arrogance; arrogance which prevents people from accepting the truth, stiff necks and proud heads bowed with humility." 
The Hadith (Muhammad's words) describes the following, " ... Fight in the name of Allah and in the way of Allah. Fight against those who disbelieve in Allah. Make a holy war, do not embezzle the spoils; do not break your pledge. When you meet your enemies who are polytheists, invite them to three courses of action. If they respond to any one of these, you also accept it and withhold yourself from doing them any harm. Invite them to (accept) Islam; if they respond to you, accept it from them and desist from fighting against them. Then invite them to migrate from their lands to the land of Muhajirs and inform them that, if they do so, they shall have all the privileges and obligations of the Muhajirs. If they refuse to migrate, tell them that they will have the status of Bedouin Muslims and will be subjected to the Commands of Allah like other Muslims, but they will not get any share from the spoils of war or Fai' except when they actually fight with the Muslims (against the disbelievers). If they refuse to accept Islam, demand from them the Jizya (penalty tax). If they agree to pay, accept it from them and hold off your hands. If they refuse to pay the tax, seek Allah's help and fight them. When you lay siege to a fort and the besieged appeal to you for protection in the name of Allah and His Prophet, do not accord to them the guarantee of Allah and His Prophet, but accord to them your own guarantee and the guarantee of your companions for it is a lesser sin that the security given by you or your companions be disregarded than that the security granted in the name of Allah and His Prophet be violated." 
Unlike in the Hellenistic era (Second Temple Judaism), in the modern era most branches of Judaism do not actively proselytize to non-Jews. Instead non-Jews are encouraged to follow Noahide Law, which is said to assure a place in the World to Come. Some groups, however, will encourage nonobservant Jews to be observant, such as Aish HaTorah or Chabad. Many branches of Judaism are open to the conversion of the non-Jewish spouses of already existing mixed marriages to convert to Judaism. Orthodox Judaism in theory, neither encourages or discourages conversion, however their standards for conversion can be very challenging but persistent and sincere requests for conversion are conducted.
Currently the Dor Deah branch of Orthodoxy is the only group known to actively encourage the proselytizing of Gentiles to Judaism. Today there is no official Dor Dai movement, but the term is used for individuals and synagogues within the Yemenite community (mostly in Israel) who share the original movement's perspectives.
Inherited membership 
Views on the propriety of different types of proselytism differ radically. Some feel that freedom of speech should have no limits and that virtually anyone, anywhere should have the right to talk about anything they see fit. Others see all sorts of proselytism as a nuisance and an intrusion and would like to see them restricted (either completely or to a limited arena). Thus, Prof. Natan Lerner of Tel Aviv University observes that the issue is one of a clash of rights—the perceived right of a person to express his or her views versus the perceived right of a person not to be exposed to views that he or she does not wish to hear.
Some don't mind preaching but are concerned if the speech is accompanied by material benefits (e.g., a soup kitchen that provides food, but only under the condition that the recipients listen to an evangelical discourse) or new converts are given material benefits not available to those who don't convert. Others are concerned if the preaching is aimed at children without the knowledge and consent of the parents.
Many religions, including Christianity and Islam, believe that their religion is the One true faith. Judaism discourages active proselytism and maintains an exclusivist doctrine on adherence while Christianity and Islam both doctrinally advocate active proselytism, while discouraging converts from maintaining multiple adherences or apostasy.
Legal standpoint 
From a legal standpoint (international, as well the European Union, or nationally India, Canada and United States), there do appear to be certain criteria in distinguishing licit from illicit proselytism. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Article 18 states,
- Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.
- No one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice.
- Freedom to manifest one's religion or beliefs may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.
- The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to have respect for the liberty of parents and, when applicable, legal guardians to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions.
The first amendments to the constitutions of United States and India, the European Union Charter of Human Rights and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms provide that all people have:
- the right to have religious beliefs (or to not have religious beliefs) (Freedom of Religion);
- the right to form organizations for the purpose of worship, as well as for promoting their cause (Freedom of Association); and
- the right to speak to others about their convictions, with the purpose of influencing the others. (Freedom of Speech).
By the same token, these very rights exercise a limiting influence on the freedoms of others. For instance, the right to have one's religious (or non-religious) beliefs presumably includes the right not to be coerced by the government into changing these beliefs by threats, discrimination, or similar inducements.
Proselytism is considered inappropriate, disrespectful, and offensive by some individuals. As such, it is not protected in certain environments open to the public or are owned privately: government buildings, public education (grade schools and college campuses), the workplace and private properties like ones' home or front yard. These environments, due to either their openness or privacy, are often where proselytism takes place and can come from a variety of sources depending on the environment (e.g., students or teachers in schools and colleges, coworkers or employers, office workers, family members, or neighbors in a community).
Limits on proselytism is a combination of what is considered legal (and this varies from country to country) and what is considered moral or respectful (and this varies from person to person).
Some countries such as Greece prohibited all proselytism until 1994 when Jehovah's Witnesses were legally recognized as a religion and allowed to preach. Some countries such as Morocco prohibit it except for Islam and in Canada or certain parts of the USA, sociocultural norms suggest proselytism is improper. Some restrict it in various ways such as prohibiting attempts to convert children or prohibit offering physical benefits to new converts.
Religious groups also draw lines between what they are willing to do or not do to convert people. For instance the Catholic Church in Ad Gentes states that "The Church strictly forbids forcing anyone to embrace the Faith, or alluring or enticing people by worrisome wiles." The World Council of Churches in The Challenge of Proselytism and the Calling to Common Witness states the following: (Note: this document uses proselytism in the negative sense only.)
19. Proselytism as described in this document stands in opposition to all ecumenical effort. It includes certain activities which often aim at having people change their church affiliation and which we believe must be avoided, such as the following:
- making unjust or uncharitable references to other churches’ beliefs and practices and even ridiculing them;
- comparing two Christian communities by emphasizing the achievements and ideals of one, and the weaknesses and practical problems of the other;
- employing any kind of physical violence, moral compulsion and psychological pressure e.g. the use of certain advertising techniques in mass media that might bring undue pressure on readers/viewers;
- using political, social and economic power as a means of winning new members for one’s own church;
- extending explicit or implicit offers of education, health care or material inducements or using financial resources with the intent of making converts;
- manipulative attitudes and practices that exploit people’s needs, weaknesses or lack of education especially in situations of distress, and fail to respect their freedom and human dignity.
||The examples and perspective in this article may not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (August 2010)|
Since the collapse of the former Soviet Union the Russian Orthodox Church has enjoyed a revival. However, it takes exception to what it considers illegitimate proselytising by the Catholic Church (even though the Catholic Church had been set up in Russia before the Soviet Block severely limited the contacts of Catholics with the outside world), the Salvation Army, Jehovah's Witnesses and other religious movements in what it refers to as its canonical territory.
Greece has a long history of conflict, mostly with Jehovah's Witnesses but also with some Pentecostals over its laws on proselytism. This situation stems from a law passed in the 1930s by the dictator Ioannis Metaxas. A Jehovah's Witness, Minos Kokkinakis, won 3,189,500 drachmas (US $10,600) in damages from the Greek state after being arrested repeatedly for preaching his faith from door to door. In another case, Larissis vs. Greece, a member of the Pentecostal church also won a case in the European Court of Human Rights.
See also 
- "LSJ: προσήλυτος". LSJ: προσήλυτος. Retrieved 16 November 2011.
- Religion, Politics, and Globalization: Anthropological Approaches - Page 224, Galina Lindquist, Don Handelman - 2012
- Smith, P. (2000). A Concise Encyclopedia of the Bahá'í Faith. Oxford, UK: Oneworld Publications. pp. 334–335. ISBN 1-85168-184-1.
- Hatcher, W.S.; Martin, J.D. (1998). The Bahá'í Faith: The Emerging Global Religion. New York, NY: Harper & Row. p. 220. ISBN 0-06-065441-4.
- Smith, Peter (2008). An Introduction to the Baha'i Faith. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 198–199. ISBN 0-521-86251-5.
- Kondrusiewicz, Archbishop Tadeusz (2002-02-15). "Moscow's Catholic Archbishop Responds to Alexy II's Accusations". Innovative Media, Inc. Retrieved 2007-09-29.
- Fagan, Geraldine (2005-08-03). "Altai officials prefer eyedrops and cattle to Catholics". Forum 18 News Service. Retrieved 2007-09-29.
- "Russian patriarch renews complaints on Catholic "proselytism"". Directions to Orthodoxy. 2005-06-05. Retrieved 2007-09-29.
- "CWNews". CWNews. 2001-09-28. Retrieved 2012-08-06.
- "Daily Mail". Daily Mail. 2007-12-14. Retrieved 2012-08-06.
- "Philosophy". International Society for Krishna Consciousness. ISKCON.org. Retrieved 24 September 2012.
- Sebastian, Rodney; Parmeswaran (April 2008). "Hare Krishnas in Singapore: Agency, State, and Hinduism". Sojourn: Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia 23 (1): 81.
- Āhalūwālīā, Jasabīra Siṅgha (1983). The sovereignty of the Sikh doctrine: Sikhism in the perspective of modern thought. Bahri. p. 47. Retrieved 26 September 2010.
- Salili, Farideh; Hoosain, Rumjahn (2006). Religion in multicultural education. IAP. pp. 29–. ISBN 978-1-59311-489-3. Retrieved 26 September 2010.
- Moss, Aron. "Why Do Rabbis Discourage Conversions? - Jewish Identity". Chabad.org. Retrieved 2012-08-06.
- "Welcome to Dor Deah". Dordeah.com. Retrieved 2012-08-06.
- "English translation of the Greek constitution - Article 13.2".
- "Canonical Territory in the Russian Orthodox Tradition". Catholic-church.org. Retrieved 2012-08-06.
- C. Davis (1996). "Joining a Cult: Religious Choice or Psychological Aberration?". Cleveland-Marshall Journal of Law and Health 11.
- "Russian Canonical Territory".
- "Human Rights Without Frontiers Int.". European Court Final Judgments on Religious Freedom Issues 1964-2001.
- "YouTube Gets Religion". Time.com.
- "Rabbi Asher Meza's Jewish outreach organization". BeJewish.org.
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