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India’s Hindu nationalists disrupt Catholic youth meet

The Khandwa diocese was compelled to cancel the convention of some 200 Catholic youth in the central province of Madhya Pradesh
Minority Indian Christians hold placards during a protest outside the Sacred Heart Cathedral following recent attacks on churches in New Delhi on February 5, 2015

Minority Indian Christians hold placards during a protest outside the Sacred Heart Cathedral following recent attacks on churches in New Delhi on February 5, 2015. (Photo: AFP)

Published: October 05, 2022 11:21 AM GMT
Updated: October 05, 2022 11:45 AM GMT

In the latest attack on Christians in central India, suspected Hindu groups stopped a Catholic youth program, accusing the Church of trying to forcibly convert gullible tribal people in the Khandwa area of Madhya Pradesh state.

The intimidatory tactics forced the Khandwa diocese to cancel the Oct. 3-5 convention of some 200 Catholic youth it had planned inside one of the diocesan schools that were closed because of the popular Hindu Dussehra festival, said Father Jayan Alex, diocesan public relation officer.

“As our young people started to arrive in vehicles at St. Pious School from different parts of the diocese, a group of young people blocked their vehicle. They alleged that the youths were being brought there for religious conversion,” Father Alex told UCA News on Oct. 5.

The Hindu activists believed to be members of the hardline Vishwa Hindu Parishad or World Council of Hindus, and its militant youth wing, Bajrang Dal, also called in the police and sought action against Church authorities for violating the provision of a state law that prohibits conversion by fraud or allurement.

Father Alex said police promptly arrived and took statements from the 200 youth present on the campus seeking to know who they are and why they came to the school campus.

The Hindu activists dispersed only after the police assured them that a complaint has been registered and investigations will be conducted.

A police officer, who is part of the team probing the case, however, told UCA News on condition of anonymity that the conversion charge would not stand. “All the young people present there were Catholics. There wasn’t a single person from any other religion,” he said.

Father Alex said the Church officials are not worried about the case.

“We are more worried about how such events tarnish the image of the Church. Our program was disrupted. It gives an impression that the Church is bent on violating laws and fraudulently converting the poor,” he said.

“We could not conduct a program that had been planned for months. Besides incurring financial loss to the diocese, it also creates an impression that Christians are incapable and weak,” he added.

Christian leaders say the Hindu groups work to create a false impression that missionaries are involved in illegal conversion of economically and socially poor Dalit and tribal people.

“They spread the impression that Catholics are working to convert. It is a blatant lie… but it is being publicized against us,” Father Alex said while expressing concern that such false news will eventually threaten the harmony of the society and the safety of a minuscule of Christians in the area.

Father Babu Joseph, a former spokesperson of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India, said that the “uncalled for intervention and even intimidation of Christians and their institutions have unfortunately become a pastime for some organizations owing allegiance to the majority community in the state.”

Father Joseph told UCA News that Madhya Pradesh has been one of the first states in India to pass an anti-conversion law and recently amended it to introduce more stringent penalties on those who choose to change their religion.

“When there is a law, it was the duty of the activists to report their suspicion [of conversion] to the police rather than blocking the movement of Catholic youth, an illegal action,” Father Joseph said. “If everyone starts blocking the movement of others on any suspicion in a civilized society what will be the condition of the state? Obviously, there will be only chaos.”

Madhya Pradesh has witnessed several such incidents in the past and is known as the hotbed of Christian persecution. It is currently ruled by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party.

Christians are a tiny minority in Madhya Pradesh, making up 0.29 percent of the more than 70 million people, mostly Hindus.

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4 Comments on this Story
WILLIAM KING
Keep up the good work Hindu people of lndia and stop the evil false religion of catholism spreading though India this church is of Satan and is the vile Scum of the earth.
ALDYSS
Why differentiate and discriminate people based on their religion? What good have they done by harassing the youth and who said India belongs to only Hindus? Learn to grow above hatred and discrimination first. Each one of us contribute to this society and country. It is a democratic country not a violent country that everything should be sorted with violence.
G. CHAN
Don't be afraid little flock, said the master. As they have disparaged the master, so will the followers will be. We all need to follow the master. Don't count the cost. His only solution to every human misfortune is "Love". Hopefully everyone will accept His message.
CHACKO
No one should try to change the demographics of the country
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