05/06/2006, 00.00
INDIA
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Madhya Pradesh: "Social preparation" to counter anti-Christian violence

by Nirmala Carvalho

This is the view of the chairperson of the state's Christian Forum. The intensified violence against our communities is alarming, the spokesman of the Bishops' Conference told AsiaNews. The anti-conversion law is the tool used by the administration to incriminate and molest us.

Bhopal (AsiaNews) – Christians of Madhya Pradesh "need more social, economic and political preparation" to be able to "survive in the face of intensified fundamentalist violence and violent propaganda against minorities", said the chairperson of the Christian Forum of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. In a letter dated 4 May, Indira Iyengar underlined the importance of reinforcing and giving more social weight to Christian communities of these two central-eastern states, to enable them to fight against the fundamentalist forces seeking to annihilate them.

"This will also serve to fight against all kinds of repression practiced by the state against us: we must equip ourselves, in a pacific manner, at political, economic and social levels so that Christian communities can learn from these weapons; they can use them successfully to survive and to finally emerge victorious from the struggle against fundamentalism."

Fr Anand Muttungal, spokesperson for the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Madhya Pradesh, told AsiaNews: "It is eye opening to the entire nation how fundamentalism subvert the law of the country, The anti-conversion law is a tool in the hands of the administrative machinery, to incriminate and indict Christians: they accuse us Christians of being outlaws and the increase in violence against our communities is alarming."

"For many months now, the Jabalpur district administration has intensified its attacks against us: we ask the state government to initiate proper enquiry into the incidents and to punish the guilty ones. If these are proved to be Christians, then they will be punished too."

The Jesuit priest, Fr Cedric Prakash, a renowned human rights activist, told AsiaNews:

"The Madhya Pradesh Dharma Swantantrya Adhiniyam has been in existence since 1968 making it the second oldest Anti Conversion Law.  Despite incessant efforts from fundamentalist forces, there has hardly been any successful prosecution for widespread incidents, but this does not diminish the fact that the law provides fundamentalists and anti-Christian forces with one of their most powerful weapons in their fight against minorities."

The priest, director of the human rights, justice and peace centre, continued: "The right to preach, practice and propagate one's religion is a significant freedom in our Constitution; however, the way the law is introduced and implemented in states of the Union definitely makes a mockery of this Constitutional right."

He added: "We have to understand that the fundamentalists are excellent strategists, they are now targeting Jabalpur as a warning to intimidate Christians in other regions. The position of the district makes it strategic, because it is near the tribal belt; for fundamentalists, Christians do nothing else except convert the poor and this propaganda of theirs gives credibility to their violence."

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