Updated: October 16, 2021 04:55 PM GMT
A woman walks in front of Victoria Memorial Hall in Kolkata, India. Church people in Karnataka state are upset by a state move to conduct a survey of missionaries. (Photo: AFP)
Catholic leaders in India’s Karnataka state have expressed anguish over a state government move to conduct a survey of Christian missionaries, calling it a dangerous move.
Archbishop Peter Machado of Bangalore (Bengaluru) was critical after the Backward Classes and Minorities Welfare Department reportedly agreed to order a survey of missionaries working in the southern state.
“We consider this exercise as futile and unnecessary,” said Archbishop Machado in a statement on Oct. 15.
“There is no good that will come out of it. In fact, with the background of the conversion bogey and anti-religious feelings that are being whipped up, it is dangerous to make such surveys. Our community places of worship, as well as pastors and sisters, will be identified and may be unfairly targeted. We are already hearing of such sporadic incidents in the north and Karnataka already.”
The pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) runs the state government. Christian leaders complain that BJP-run state governments tacitly support a pro-Hindu agenda of making India a Hindu nation by targeting religious minorities such as Christians and Muslims.
“Why is the government interested in making a survey of the religious personnel and places of worship only of the Christian community?” Archbishop Machado asked.
None of our personnel work underground. Everyone is working with the people for their welfare and the government is well aware of it
Christian leaders in Karnataka say their people have been witnessing targeted attacks on their personnel, institutions and even prayer meetings at houses mostly from radical Hindu groups believed to have indirect support from the administration.
The survey move “will put our people in danger,” Archbishop Machado told UCA News.
“None of our personnel work underground. Everyone is working with the people for their welfare and the government is well aware of it. But still, I don’t understand the purpose of such religious profiling of only Christians and their institutions,” he said.
“Let the government take the count of education institutions and health centers run by Christian missionaries. That will give a fair idea of the service that is rendered by the Christian community to nation building and how many people are converted in these places and institutions.
“If Christians are converting indiscriminately, as alleged by some, why is the percentage of the Christian population reducing when compared to others?”
Archbishop Machado also questioned the government's reported plan to bring in a law to check religious conversion in the state.
“Why do we need any anti-conversion law when there are enough safeguards enshrined in the constitution and the legal system of the country to punish the guilty?” he asked. “We need support and encouragement from the government.”
Eight Indian states have anti-conversion laws criminalizing religious conversions.
Christian leaders consider the profiling of missionaries and places of Christian worship as an attempt to target a community that works among the poor and needy.
Karnataka has 61 million people, of whom 84 percent are Hindus, followed by Muslims at 13 percent and Christians at 2 percent.
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