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  • mediazioni e arbitrati, risoluzione alternativa delle controversie e servizi di mediazione e arbitrato


    » 07/26/2005, 00.00

    INDIA

    Hindu extremists slander the Church but send their children to Church-run schools

    Nirmala Carvalho

    False charges of "forced conversions" are levelled at a Catholic priest. For the local bishop, this is a plot by Hindu extremists, backed by the state government that provides the legal instruments. Behind it, there is an attempt by extremists to get free access to high-status Catholic schools.

    Jhabua (AsiaNews) – The growing anti-Christian campaign in states controlled by Hindu fundamentalist administrations has fallen upon another Catholic priest. For the bishop of his diocese who has come to the clergyman's defence, this is another example of how the Madhya Pradesh's Freedom of Religion Act can be used as a "legal instrument" for every kind of abuse.

    The main character in the story is Fr Thomas P.T., a parish priest at St Michael's Church in the diocese of Jhabua (Madhya Pradesh). He was arrested on July 21 on false charges of favouring the conversion of local Tribals. The facts are quite different.

    The Father's troubles go back to July 8, when Rusmal Charpota, an activist with the Hindu paramilitary group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), and six other people pressed charges against the priest in the village of Jhaapadra for violating the state's Freedom of Religion Act, which bans forced conversions.

    On June 25, Mr Charpota had already publicly accused Father Thomas with raising fees at the mission school he runs in order to discriminate against Hindus.

    On that occasion, the RSS activist warned the Catholic priest that his organisation would decide what steps to take against him at its next meeting and would inform the authorities.

    Father Thomas was eventually charged with demanding very high tuition fees whilst offering parents who couldn't pay them with the option of converting to Christianity in order to have the fees waved. The parents are said to have refused and so their children were not allowed to attend school.

    In an interview with AsiaNews, Mgr Chaako Thottumarickal, Bishop of Jhabua, the diocese in which Father Thomas's parish is located, rejects the charges as false, a plot by Hindu extremists.

    "These accusations are completely false. Sister Pratima and the teachers are in charge of admissions. The priest is the overall administrator but he is not involved in the day-to-day affairs of the school," Bishop Thottumarickal said.

    According to the prelate, "Father Thomas's arrest is part of a conspiracy by the Sangh Parivar (an umbrella group, a 'family' of organisations and parties to which the RSS belongs). In the RSS's agenda, there is a campaign to foment anti-Christian hatred among Hindus and cause social unrest as a means to increase its popular appeal and slander the Church and its missionaries".

    What is more, for Bishop Thottumarickal "the attitude of Hindu extremists towards Christians is inconsistent. First, they attack us and then they want to send their children to our schools because of the high quality of education."

    The problem, he laments, is that often these families "demand their children pass the admission exams and be exempted from the fees".

    The situation is made worse by the tacit support of the state government for these anti-Christian acts.

    "The Freedom of Religion Act is a legal instrument offered by the authorities to extremists to persecute missionaries whom they accuse of 'forced conversions'," he said.

    "Being persecuted is the price the Church must pay to pursue its mission, but at the same time our voice must be heeded. We need justice and those responsible for these odious crimes should be punished to prevent future violence."

    Still, there is a silver lining in all of this, namely "solidarity among Christians in such a critical time."
    None the less, "everyone is angered by the false charges brought against Father Thomas and are determined to obtain justice," Bishop Thottumarickal stressed.

    After the priest's arrest, Jhabua Catholics in fact submitted a memorandum to the local and district administrations demanding that" the charges against Father Thomas be dropped and that his accusers be charged with unjustly attacking Christians and their institutions, which provide a valued service to the population in the social, educational and health fields".

    The state of Madhya Pradesh is administered by the Bharatiya Janata Party, a Hindu fundamentalist party.

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    See also

    19/09/2008 INDIA
    Hindu radicals set fire to Jabalpur cathedral, threaten new attacks in Madhya Pradesh
    Dharm Raksha Sena groups dare parish priest to stop their action. More destruction is planned. Violence is tied to BJP election campaign. Gathering is to take place tomorrow, bringing Christians, Muslims, Sikhs and moderate Hindus together in Vijayawada (Andhra Pradesh).

    28/07/2005 INDIA
    Hindus say Christians blameless in proselytising

    Panel in Jhabua district find no forced conversions. Tribals' interest in Christianity stems from love and care missionaries provide.



    27/08/2008 INDIA
    Orissa: burning and looting continues, Christians beaten and cut to pieces
    Vikram Nayak was killed, and then cut to pieces. Two Christians die two days after suffering serious injuries. Unrest by radical Hindus continues as police is ordered to shoot on sight those who break the curfew. Two nuns who were attacked tell their stories; Catholic schools to close for a day; the faithful are called to observe a day of prayer and fasting.

    17/05/2005 INDIA
    Four people arrested for handing out Bibles


    12/12/2007 INDIA
    More than 500 cases of anti-Christian violence in 23 months
    Members of the Church, believers and places of worship have been victimised. A Christian group has collected the evidence and has slammed the collusion and protection with Hindu nationalists. Now it wants the central government act against the violence which is “worse than terrorist attacks.” The bishop of Vasai calls on believers of every faith to work together for human rights.



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