03/16/2006, 00.00
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Some 500 Tribal Christians "reconverted"

by Nirmala Carvalho

"They are not Catholic," says Mgr Lewis, bishop of Jaipur, but "poor Tribal Pentecostals who are economically depend on the majority community for employment".

Meherat (AsiaNews) – The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) or World Hindu Council, a Hindu nationalist paramilitary organization, reconverted back to Hinduism some 500 people in Meherat, a community in the Indian state of Rajasthan.  The ceremony took place last week when VHP activists visited area villages and placed a Hindu idol at the newly-constructed Baba Ramdev Temple and a yajna, a traditional service of acceptance into Hinduism, was performed.

Until now the local community was included a variety of Christians, Muslims and Hindus. During the "visit" by VHP activists even the "non reconverted" were convinced to return to the Hindu fold.

"First of all," Mgr Oswald Lewis, bishop of Jaipur, (Rajasthan's capital) told AsiaNews, "it must be said that the reconverted are not Catholic. They are Tribals belonging to a Pentecostal sect, who are extremely poor and defenceless and economically depend on the majority community for employment".

"Even though the state government wants to implement a bill against re-conversion, rightwing Hindu nationalists effectively do as they please without any control. The whole of Christianity is under the thumb of these people who, with the tacit consent of the government, continue such [re-conversion] drives."

Under anti-re-conversion legislation, people may switch religion if they provide a series of documents, including affidavits, to back their intention to change religious status.

Bishop Lewis said that in light of what was happening the Catholic Church was going to organise a 'Protest for Peace' against what it considers the state government's failure to enforce the law when it applies to re-conversions to Hinduism.

"We must make people aware of what is going on," he said. "All Christian denominations will take part [in the event], but we want it not only to be a protest but also a day of prayer for the whole state".

"The Church and Christians are very often victims of this type of attack. And although we forgive our aggressors and look beyond [what they do], this does not mean that we cannot put things in the right perspective. It is in this sense that we are organising the protest."

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