An anti-conversion law could come into force in the coming weeks. For the archbishop of Bangalore, the “conversion bogey” is whipping up “anti-religious feelings”. Instead, “Let the government take the count of the educational institutions and health centres run by the Christian missionaries.”
Bangalore (AsiaNews) – The Backward Classes and Minorities Welfare Department in Karnataka launched an investigation on Wednesday into Christian missionaries, both official and unofficial, operating in the state.
Following a meeting by the Backward Classes and Minorities Welfare Committee, the state government is looking into adopting an anti-conversion law in response to recent complaints of forced proselytising.
Some committee members suggested withdrawing government benefits from those who convert to Christianity.
According to Goolihatti Shekar, a member of the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), available information indicates that 40 per cent of the churches in the state are not official.
Shekar cited anecdotal evidence to make his point, mentioning a woman who was converted to Christianity without her knowledge by some kind of brainwashing.
Archbishop Peter Machado of Bangalore responded to the allegations. In his view, nothing good “will come out of it.” The “conversion bogey” will only whip up “anti-religious feelings”.
“Let the government take the count of the educational institutions and health centres run by the Christian missionaries. That will give a fair idea of the service that is rendered by the Christian community to nation-building.”
More generally, “Why is the government interested only in the religious personnel and places of worship of the Christian Community?” the archbishop goes on to ask.
“If as alleged by some, Christians are converting indiscriminately why is the percentage of Christian population going down regularly when compared to the others?” he wonders.
In light of the situation, Archbishop Machado urged Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai not give in to pressure from extremist groups.
All this adds “to the already difficult situation that Christians experience in Karnataka, which is ruled by the BJP,” said Sajan K. George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians, speaking to AsiaNews.
“In recent months the cases of detention, harassment and arrest of Pentecostal pastors have multiplied. Many worship services have been interrupted and the police have arrested some pastors with fabricated accusations of conversion activities.”
The latest case occurred last Sunday when four Pentecostal Christians were arrested on baseless charges of forced conversion.