America is a global center for education. Thousands of people from every corner of the globe come here every year for school in the hopes of attaining degrees, high-paying jobs, international exposure and career building. These international students participate in American culture by trying new food, traveling to new places and meeting new people.
They didn’t come here to be converted to Christianity.
It’s just not one of the goals they have in mind for their trip. If they were interested in converting to Christianity, they could have just as easily converted in their native countries. Most international students don’t think about becoming a Christian before stepping foot in America.
Nonetheless, here at K-State, many international students are being targeted for conversion to evangelical Christianity. No one is converting them by force, but the process takes up a lot of time that would otherwise help their education.
If you ask me, converting people to Christianity is not easy, but it’s possible when done properly. For example, in the first week of a new semester at K-State, many Christian students seek out foreign students on campus (mainly in the Union) and get to know them. They are gracious and wish the students good luck on their semester and later get their names and email addresses. Over the weekend they provide community, friendship and help in the form of food and rides.
In my experience, the first step of conversion begins with food. Food brings people together, leading to friendships, which eventually lead to openly sharing views and opinions. Christian students then show religious movies that are visually stunning, consequently making a huge impression in order to tempt students to get involved.
Before or after the food, fun and deliberations, they give out free Bibles to the international students and make them read the New Testament, thus inducing them to follow the holy book of Christianity. Often, the international students are invited to attend Christian conferences in Colorado, Florida and California to prompt them to convert.
Few international students convert to Christianity on their own without the influence of these evangelical students. Most of the international students I know who converted to Christianity did so due to peer pressure and the influence of their Christian friends. These students wouldn’t have converted in their own countries; they are converting in the U.S. specifically because of the massive social influences being levied on them.
According to a March 10, 2011, ABC News article, the evangelical group InterVarsity Christian Fellowship has international student ministries on more than 60 college campuses — including K-State. The article cites an InterVarsity official who claims that 45 percent of all international students participating in InterVarsity groups are from China.
Why are these Christians more successful with Chinese international students than with students from, for example, Islamic countries? Could it have to do with the fact that the social benefits here are outweighed by the even greater social burden that Muslims often face when they return to their home countries? How can we possibly know which religion is right? What makes Christians so confident that committing to Jesus Christ is the best way for others to live their lives?
Wouldn’t it be better to serve people and help the needy rather than go to services? Isn’t that what Jesus wanted?
I’ve personally had many friends who converted religions and many experiences with people attempting to convert me as have many others. Li Weiyi, freshman in food science, has had his fair share.
“Currently I’m living in the dorms. When I came for the first time they tried converting me to Christianity by taking me to churches and their houses,” Weiyi explained. “One of my friends living next to my door in the dorms started explaining about the Bible. The first time it was OK for me, but later on I felt bad for some reason.”
So what makes Christians deem that their religion is the right one? Is it that for most of them, Christianity is the dominant religion where they grew up? Christianity is, of course, not necessarily bad. Many good things can happen from it. Although Weiyi didn’t choose to convert, many of his friends have had positive experiences.
“At first, Chinese were helpless because everything was new for us, but after they converted to Christianity they get more Christian friends,” Weiyi said.
Christians shouldn’t purposefully befriend international students just to get them to convert. What do the international students get from it if they do convert? Better grades? Better lives?
What’s more important is whether there is room for education. Do you get closer to accomplishing your goals by converting? Do you get closer to your degree? It’s better to learn, to explore more about your major and utilize the resources of the university than to spend your time in America wondering whether you should convert.
Anu Muthyam is a sophomore in computer science. Please send comments to [email protected].