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India

Indian bishop steps up opposition to survey of missionaries

Archbishop Machado tells Karnataka government chief that the Christian community will oppose it tooth and nail

UCA News reporter

UCA News reporter

Published: October 22, 2021 05:43 AM GMT

Updated: October 22, 2021 08:55 AM GMT

Indian bishop steps up opposition to survey of missionaries

Christians in a religious procession in Kumarakom in southern India. The community is upset by the government of Karnataka ordering a survey of missionaries. (Photo: AFP)

Archbishop Peter Machado, president of the Karnataka Region Catholic Bishops' Council, has said that the Christian community will not rest until a draconian order for surveying missionaries in the southern Indian state is withdrawn.

In a letter to Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai, the prelate appealed to him to call off the survey ordered by the state’s department for backward classes and minorities' welfare.

He further urged the chief minister to also put off the Karnataka government’s plan to enact an anti-conversion law as it would trigger more violence and harassment of the beleaguered Christian community. "We continue to register our firm opposition to the proposed bill and oppose it tooth and nail," he added.

The decision to conduct a survey was taken on Oct. 13 after ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lawmaker Goolihatti Shekhar alleged that his mother had converted to Christianity and he was being threatened by missionaries.

Church leaders in Karnataka have denied his charges while also expressing the fear that the “false bogey” of conversion could lead to churches being attacked and vandalized.

Archbishop Machado reminded Bommai of their meeting on Sept. 22 where a delegation of Catholic bishops explained the dangers of going ahead with an anti-conversion law based on a false premise.

Where is the complaint coming from and what is the motive behind such false and fabricated news?

The prelate further urged the government to take account of the educational and health institutions run by Christian missionaries to get “a fair idea of the service that is rendered by the Christian community to nation building.”

Millions of students attended these institutions and became responsible citizens and hold important positions as political leaders, judges and bureaucrats to serve the country. Similarly, so many irrespective of their caste, creed or religion received the best of medical attention from Christian-run hospitals and rehabilitation centers across the country and state, he said.

But not one among them was guilty of conversion. “Where is the complaint coming from and what is the motive behind such false and fabricated news?” Archbishop Machado asked.

The Christian community, through its institutions, reached out to the vast suffering humanity during the pandemic and in the process extended a helping hand to the government. “The service rendered is purely on humanitarian grounds and social responsibility in mitigating the suffering of our fellow men and surely not with any malafide motives,” he said.

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Against this background, Archbishop Machado wondered what is the need for the survey or an anti-conversion law.

The prelate, however, admitted that there might be stray or sporadic incidents of religious conversions but that should not be a reason to “portray the entire community in a bad light.”

“The government’s statistics prove beyond doubt that since independence there has been hardly any increase in the number of Christians” who make up just 2.3 percent of India’s 1.3 billion people.

Cautioning the government about the dangers of an anti-conversion law, the prelate said that “if the bill is passed and translated into a law, we fear that it will give way to large-scale, uncontrolled communal conflagrations.”

“Fringe elements and communal forces will be let loose and take the law into their own hands. Moral policing will take precedence and will be the order of the day,” he noted

Archbishop Machado finally sought to clarify that “the Christian community does not encourage forced conversions.”

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