New Delhi (AsiaNews) The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), an extremist Hindu paramilitary organisation, has called for a public inquiry into the foreign funds sent to Christian missionaries.
An article published in the Daily Dharitri, a paper with the largest circulation in the state of Orissa, reports that the Church received 4.5 billion rupees (around 81 million, US$ 90 million) over the past three years to "finance conversions in the country". The same article did not however provide any information about funds Hindus and Muslims receive.
In an interview with AsiaNews, the Archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneshwar, Mgr Raphael Cheenath, said: "These are all strategies of the VHP; these are well-planned tactics of these right wing fundamentalist groups to discomfit Christian missions. There is a sinister plan in this article showing in detail what money Christians receive, whilst nothing about foreign funds to Hindu and Muslim agencies is mentioned at all. If we wanted details about Hindu funding, we would have to approach the Finance Department, whilst all contributions to Christian agencies are printed in details on the front page."
"The VHP is planning a 'Dharma Sansad"a religious convention at a famous Hindu pilgrimage centre in the district of Puri, in Orissato mobilize public support for their cause against Christian missionaries. These people have the tacit support of the government, so there is nothing to stop them or their activities," the prelate said.
"But strangely," he added, "this does not intimidate us; we are not working for personal glory, we are on a mission here, and that's important. These are impediments to our missionary work, but it does go on. However, I am worried that this may cause dissention within the Church itself, because now people may feel that since the Church receives so much money from foreign agencies, they, too, must be beneficiaries of [some of that] money".
"These are well-planned strategies by the VHP as they continue their attacks against Christian missionaries," said Father Bernard, the Archdiocese's financial administrator.
"These fundamentalists are convinced that all Christians do is proselytise and convert. Even humanitarian work by the Church is looked upon with suspicion. Social welfare programmes by the Church are seen as part of some ploy designed to convert people to Christianity," Father Bernard.
The VHP is organising Dharma Sansad in six places including Puri in Cuttack to highlight the conversion issue.
Central VHP Secretary Mohan Joshi said in a press conference that a major portion of the money missionaries receive from the government and abroad was "being used for religious conversion and creating disharmony".
He went on to demand a comprehensive law to ban religious conversions, arguing the laws already in force in some states, including Orissa, Madhya Pradesh and Chhatisgarh, "needed to be made more stringent".
According to Joshi, the law should impose a 10-year sentence on anyone charged with conversion and the government should amend those articles of the constitution that confer special rights to Christians and Muslims. He claimed that "the policy of appeasing the minorities create more disharmony and social injustice".