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    » 12/23/2004, 00.00

    INDIA

    Government and Hindu fundamentalists against Christians in Orissa



    Balasore Bishop appeals to central government. Police and media spread false rumours about conversions to justify anti-Christian violence.

    New Delhi (AsiaNews) – Catholic authorities in Orissa have decided to appeal to the central government to stop an anti-Christian campaign launched in this eastern Indian state by local Hindu fundamentalists, police and media.

    The Times of India yesterday reported three Christians were assaulted suspected of converting residents in the village of Gopinath, Balasore district. In another story, police reported a man was beaten by Christians for refusing to convert. Such contradictory accounts are part of a trend targeting "conversions".

    Mgr Thomas Thiruthalil, Bishop of Balasore, told AsiaNews that the issue of conversions "is a tool easily used by extremist groups who want to arouse communal passion".

    "Anti-social elements are taking advantage of the Orissa Freedom of Religion Act," the Bishop said, "to intimidate Tribals with the knowledge and consent of the local administration".

    The Act prohibits forced conversion but is used as a legal instrument to threaten Tribals most of whom are illiterate and easily swayed by fundamentalists and politicians.

    Bishop Thiruthalil, who is also chairman of the Orissa Bishops' Regional Council, said he was going to write the Home minister to urge him to investigate this matter.

    John Dayal, President of the All India Catholic Union, said that claims about forced conversions are fabricated by fundamentalists whilst stories about anti-Christian violence are all true.

    "Why," Mr Dayal asks, "is the Orissa police not as zealous in investigating anti-Christian incidents as it is when just the word 'conversion' is uttered?"

    Orissa is under a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) administration, a party that till May of this year also controlled the Union government. It is also a stronghold of Hindu fundamentalism. Groups such as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) or World Hindu Council, the BJP's extremist religious wing, and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) or National Volunteer Corps, a Hindu paramilitary organisation, are very active in the state. They are well known for their anti-religious minority ideology.

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    See also

    27/06/2006 INDIA
    Hindu fundamentalists "re-convert" more than 600 tribal Christians

    The ceremony was one of the largest ever to take place in Orissa. But the Church has warned that these were no re-conversions: the tribals had never been "Hindu", and "this is only propaganda by extremist parties". Catholic activists have urged the central government to monitor states of the Union led by the BJP.



    02/03/2007 INDIA
    150 Christian outcastes “return” to Hinduism
    It is the first time such a ceremony has been held in Himachal Pradesh, where an anti-conversion law was recently enacted. A Catholic bishop warns that this is a dangerous situation for all Christians.

    01/10/2004 INDIA
    New attack against Christians in Kerala
    Police suspect attempts to destabilize the region

    18/12/2004 INDIA
    Hindu fundamentalists stage 're-conversions'


    30/05/2006 PAKISTAN
    Around 600 people a year are forcely converted to Islam

    A meeting about the practice was organized by the Minority Rights Commission of Pakistan. The courts were accused of being too dependent on their Islamic environment. A Catholic bishop said the feudal mentality and the economy also play a part.





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