ASIA/INDIA - Bishops in Rajastan oppose anti-conversion law and call for a signature campaign

Wednesday, 16 March 2005

Jaipur (Fides Service) - Christian Bishops in Rajaastan state north west India, have opposed the local authorities’ proposal to introduce a law to ban religious conversion in that state. The state is governed by the Hindu nationalist Baratijya Janata Party which has said it intends to approve the ant-conversion law adopted by other Indian states, which requires that every change of religion be examined and approved by a magistrate.
In a joint memorandum to the chief minister Vasundhara Rahh, the Christian Bishops asked the government not to introduce the law because it would cause tension and insecurity among religious minorities which fear their activity could be labelled ‘proselytising’ and liable to persecution by law. The memorandum was signed by Catholic Bishop Ignatius Menezes of Ajmer-Jaipur, Catholic Bishop Joseph Pathalil of Udaipur and Church of North India Bishop Collin Theodore. Encouraging Christians of all confessions to organise a signature campaign to stop the initiative of the state government, the Bishops said the Church is not interested in “forced conversions” or “immoral conversions” but rather that the law cannot govern consciences and a person’s relationship with God.
The Bishops also lamented that in recent episode of religious fundamentalism against Christians the police did little to identify the perpetrators and bring them to justice and that the state government should aim to protect religious minorities instead of penalising them even more.
In the meantime another episode of anti-Christian violence was reported in Rajastan recently. On March 13 in the village of Koida eight Protestant Christians were attacked and beaten while attending the Sunday service.
Recently a delegation of different Christian leaders, led by the Catholic Archbishop of Delhi Vincent Concessao, had a meeting with the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to whom they voiced serious concern for repeated violence against Christians on the part of Hindu fundamentalist groups. They urged the Premier to adopt opportune and immediate measures to stop the violence, reminding him that Christians in India are committed to promoting the development of the poor and less fortunate citizens.
According to Fides sources in India, in January and February of this year there were 19 attacks on Christian individuals or institutions and 6 were against Catholics.
(PA) (Agenzia Fides 16/3/2005 righe 36 parole 356)