The two Catholics have been held in Jharkhand since 6 September. A court has rejected their request for bail. In a note, Syro-Malabar Major Archbishop says, “It is clear that those who are not happy with the social and educational activities of the missionaries among the villagers are behind this.”
Mumbai (AsiaNews) – A Catholic priest and a catechist were arrested on false charges of forced conversions to Christianity. Fr Binoy John and catechist Munna Hansda have been detained in a Jharkhand prison since 6 September.
Card George Alencherry, Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church (one of the three rites of the Indian Catholic Church), is demanding they be treated with justice and immediately released. For the prelate, the two men are “under unjust judicial custody,” and prolonging it “amounts to abuse of the legal system”.
Last week the Jharkhand police arrested the two men and a second priest, Fr Arun Vincent. The latter was released, whilst the other s remain in prison on charges of forced conversions at the Rajdaha mission, Diocese of Bhagalpur.
Card Alencherry’s reaction was relayed in a note signed by Fr Antony Thalachelloor, secretary of the Syro-Malabar Media Commission.
In addition to the detention, the Church leader also objects to the methods of arrest. The police went to the house of the three. Without any explanation, they told them to report to a police station where they were formally charged and arrested.
According to the note, “This is a classical case of misusing the provisions of Freedom of Religion Act,” the State’s anti-conversion law. “This is a denial of freedom of right to propagate religion and the right to freedom of conscience guaranteed by the Constitution of India.
The defendants’ lawyers applied for bail, but the Court of Judicial Magistrate Court in Godda rejected their request.
For the cardinal, “It is clear that those who are not happy with the social and educational activities of the missionaries among the villagers are behind this.”
“Christians of the country have always valued and strived for maintaining religious and social harmony. Christianity does not believe in forced conversions and the Church in India does not practice forced conversions.”
“The activities of the Church among the weaker sections of the society are appreciated by all irrespective of political differences. The Christian community of the India is shocked about the arrest of the priest and the catechist based on the accusations fabricated with ulterior motives.”
In a press release issued from the major Archiepiscopal Curia of the Syro-Malabar Church at Mount St. Thomas Kakkanad, the prelate appeals “to the concerned authority to take steps ensuring justice to the arrested.” At the same time, “He also exhorted all the faithful to pray for the arrested, their dear and near ones and for all those who are rendering their service in the mission areas.”