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Indian pastor on black magic charge after 'conversion bid'

Dominic D’Souza was accused along with his wife and several members of his Five Pillar Church in Goa
The Basilica of Bom Jesus in Goa. A controversial pastor has been arrested by police in the western Indian state for attempting to convert a Hindu man using black magic.

The Basilica of Bom Jesus in Goa. A controversial pastor has been arrested by police in the western Indian state for attempting to convert a Hindu man using black magic. (Photo:  AFP)

Published: January 04, 2024 07:00 AM GMT
Updated: January 04, 2024 08:27 AM GMT

Police have arrested a controversial pastor in the western Indian state of Goa for attempting to convert a Hindu man using black magic.

Pastor Dominic D’Souza was arrested based on a complaint by Balasubramaniam Vadivel, the man he allegedly tried to convert, police in Mapusa, in northern Goa told UCA News on Jan. 3.

D’Souza, who heads the Five Pillar Church, was arrested on Jan. 1, police inspector Shitakant Nayak said.

“Nine offenses are registered against him,” he said.

The charges include promoting enmity between different groups on the grounds of religion, deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings, and criminal intimidation.

He also faces charges under the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act 1954. The tiny state is ruled by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

 "They made 'all-out efforts to convert me'"

Similar charges were slapped on D’Souza’s wife, Joan Mascarenhas, and several unidentified members of the Five Pillars Church, set up by D’Souza in Siolim, a village in northern Goa.

According to Vadivel’s complaint, D’Souza and his wife wanted him to “leave my religion” and “accept Christianity.”

They made “all-out efforts to convert me", he said in the complaint.

Vadivel visited Five Pillars Church on Dec. 31 and was told to remove all articles he was wearing on his body linked to his Hindu faith, according to the complaint.

It was unclear why a black magic charge was brought against them, but the complaint said the pastor’s wife threw water on him saying, it was meant to "clean" him. 

The couple had been investigated previously for offering "holy oil" as a health cure. 

Father Socorro Mendes, Catholic parish priest of St. Anthony Church in Siolim village, told UCA News on Jan.4 that D’Souza started a "healing ministry" a few years ago after his involvement with a charismatic movement.

"We have no idea what is going on [at that church]. Everything is done there clandestinely. They don't allow anyone inside without registering," Mendes said.

Most of the members of the Five Pillars Church hail from poor economic backgrounds.

"I have seen poor Hindus visit Five Pillars Church and read the Bible without leaving their Hindu faith," the Catholic priest said.

In 2022, North Goa district collector Sanjeev Desai banned all activities of the Five Pillar Church, citing illegal religious conversion through allurement or fraud.

The church, however, managed to get an injunction against the ban from the state High Court.

D’Souza was also arrested on May 27, 2022, following written complaints.

Goa became the center of the Catholic mission in Asia after Goa diocese was established in 1533. The diocese's jurisdiction at the time stretched from the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa to China and Japan.

Catholics once dominated Goa’s socio-political activities but currently, they form only some 25 percent of the state's estimated 1.5 million people. Hindus are the dominant community with 65 percent of the population.

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