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Indian prelate seeks end to violence against Christians

Archbishop Sebastian Durairaj of Bhopal seeks action against the culprits and dialogue between the Church and its accusers

Indian prelate seeks end to violence against Christians

Archbishop Sebastian Durairaj of Bhopal met with home Minister Narottam Mishra of Madhya Pradesh state on Dec. 7 saying the Christian community feels insecure in the state. (Photo supplied)

Published: December 08, 2021 08:25 AM GMT

Updated: December 10, 2021 06:14 AM GMT

Archbishop Sebastian Durairaj of Bhopal has urged authorities to end the continuing violence against Christians in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.

“A section of our community is feeling insecure. That is why we met Home Minister Narottam Mishra, who has assured us of appropriate action,” the archbishop is reported to have said in a video message released after his meeting with the minister on Dec. 7.

He also appealed for action in the recent attack on St. Joseph School in Vidisha district by a 500-strong mob of Hindutva activists alleging the school management was converting students to Christianity.

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The newly appointed archbishop, who is based in state capital Bhopal, told UCA News that he raised the issue of increasing attacks against Christians and their institutions in the state.

“He asked me ‘Do you convert people?’ and I replied ‘No, we don’t,’” Archbishop Durairaj said about his interaction with Mishra.

“The minister patiently listened to our concerns and agreed to help us. He promised action against those who attacked the school.” 

We need to reach out to all those who have misconceptions or misunderstandings about us to bring peace

The archbishop said he tried to dispel the misconception of the minister that Christians indulge in illegal religious conversion and appealed to move ahead in the spirit of unity and brotherhood.

“But it is unfortunate that some antisocial elements have taken to violence and are attacking our community members,” he added.

Archbishop Durairaj further underlined the need for mutual dialogue. “We need to reach out to all those who have misconceptions or misunderstandings about us to bring peace,” he added.

Madhya Pradesh, like the rest of India, has witnessed a significant rise in violence against Christians this year. Over 300 incidents have been recorded across its 21 states, according to a fact-finding report by the Association for the Protection of Civil Rights (APCR) and United Against Hate and United Christian Forum (UCF).

Surprisingly, official cognizance of the targeted violence was lax, with only 30 complaints registered by police so far across the country.

Pro-Hindutva groups allege Catholic-run schools and health services are a facade for missionaries to convert Hindus, but Christian leaders have consistently denied the charge.

Retired Archbishop Leo Cornelio of Bhopal, who led the archdiocese until October 2021, said the bogey of conversion was being falsely raised to target Christians.

“The population of Christians in the country has not shown any significant increase in the past 30 years, but still we are being blamed and targeted,” he said.

Madhya Pradesh, ruled by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), amended its anti-conversion law in March 2021 making it stringent.

Eight Indian states have laws to criminalize religious conversions done without informing the government. However, no one has been convicted for conversion so far.

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