09/09/2019, 09.31
INDIA
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Jharkhand, two Catholic priests and a catechist arrested for "forced conversions"

by Nirmala Carvalho

The police also accuse the missionaries of illegal land occupation. Sajan K George: "In 2018 the state approved a draconian anti-conversion law which, in fact, is a law on land ownership." The priest released; the other two Christians may perhaps be released after the beginning of the new Islamic year that falls on 11 September.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - The Jharkhand police have arrested two Catholic priests and a catechist accusing them of practicing forced conversions to Christianity. The religious are Fr. Arun Vincent and Fr. Benoy John; the catechist is called Munna Hansda. All three are part of the Rajdaha mission, in the diocese of Bhagalpur.

Speaking to AsiaNews Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), protests against yet another arrest of Christians in India. Then he adds: "The diocese is located in Bihar, although the mission is located in Jharkhand. In 2019 this state approved the anti-conversion law which, basically, is a law on land ownership and a draconian rule made to harass and intimidate Christians ".

The arrest took place on 6 September and was reported by Fr. N M Thomas, vicar general of the diocese, with a circular letter to the faithful. The priest reports that the arrested Christians are accused not only of forced conversions, but also of illegal occupation of land. Later the agents released Fr. Vincent, while the other two should be freed after the Muharram [party for the first month of the Islamic calendar that falls on September 11th - ed].

Sajan K George reports that the arrest was carried out by the Deodand police, who received a complaint lodged by Lakhiram Besra, a villager. He accused the priests of exercising constant pressure for the locals to convert to the Christian faith. According to him, "Jharkhand wants to target the Christian mission in the state. The majority community uses false propaganda to damage all the health, welfare and educational services of Christians, accusing them without proof of having the goal of converting ".

Then he remembers the case of the nun of the Missionaries of Charity of Ranchi, "falsely involved in a case of sale of children, who languishes in prison without the possibility of release on bail. There are many documented incidents of Christian missionaries who are harassed in Jharkhand ".

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