Church leaders in Karnataka have dismissed a state government offer of funds for Christian welfare schemes as a sham.
Chief Minister B. S. Yeddyyurappa yesterday earmarked 500 million rupees (US$11.11 million) for Christian development projects in his state budget presented to the legislative assembly.
It was the first time the government had made such an allocation in the budget, he said.
The offer came amid increasing criticism from Christian groups over what they call a government commission’s biased report on attacks on churches in 2008.
Archbishop Bernard Moras of Bangalore, who heads the Catholic Church in Karnataka, called the offer a “political ploy” to satisfy Christians who are upset at the commission’s failure to name the church attackers.
Such “crumbs” will not satisfy Christians in the state, the archbishop said today.
“We want the government to safeguard our right to practice and profess our religion,” he added.
The prelate said the government offer has not surprised Christians since they have demanded such assistance for years.
Father Faustine Lobo, spokesperson for the Catholic Church in the state, dismissed the move as “a populist measure to pacify Christians.”
“It’s just a government bribe to keep Christians on its side,” the priest said, adding he was skeptical about whether the funds would “really” reach the needy.
Church of South India Reverend Manohar Chandra Prasad, president of the Dalit Christian Federation in Karnataka, said the whole thing as a “smoke screen” to appease Christians, who are upset at the government commission’s report.
Jesuit Father M. K. George, who directs the Indian Social Institute in Bangalore, says the “pittance” offered aims to divert Christian attention from major issues.
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