Delhi, BJP: 'Get Christian missionaries out of India'
by Nirmala Carvalho

According to Rakesh Sinha, the religious are ruining Adivasi culture. Fr. Joseph: Christians have always dedicated themselves to the oppressed tribals and have not gained in terms of conversions, contrary to what right-wing extremists would have us believe. President of the Global Council of Indian Christians: Adivasis are animists, not Hindus.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) - A member of the Indian Parliament would like to kick Christian missionaries out of the country. According to Rakesh Sinha, of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Hindu nationalist party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the religious are ruining the culture of the Adivasis (tribals) and taking advantage of the right to religious freedom.

The MP said this in a recent interview with Dainik Jagran newspaper, endorsing the "Christian missionaries, leave India" campaign.

"What Rakesh Sinha said is absurd," commented Fr. Babu Joseph, former spokesman for the Indian Bishops' Conference. "Legal action should be taken for his statements. In this way he defames large sections of the population who have every right, guaranteed by the Indian Constitution, to profess the religion of their choice."

Msgr. Joseph then defended the work that the missionaries have carried out with the indigenous tribes: "The tribals of India have lived a life of misery for centuries. Missionaries have helped them improve their condition through education and medical care. Is that why [Sinha] is picking on Christians?"

Sajan K. George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (Gcic), also pointed out the danger of Sinha's statements: "Back in 2018, he had written tweets against missionaries, calling them 'vestiges of colonialism' and condemning their proselytizing," but the topic of conversion is used by the far right as a propaganda tool.

According to figures from the latest government censuses, the percentage of Christians in India has remained essentially unchanged: from 2.34% in 1991 to 2.30% in 2011. In Kerala, in 2020, it is Hinduism that has gained the most faithful with 47% of total religious conversions. Out of 506 converts, 241 renounced Christianity or Islam to embrace Hinduism, while 144 people became Muslims and 119 became Christians.

"It is important to note that Adivasis are not Hindus, but animists," explained. George. "They have never been Hindus and they are not now."