Catholic priest arrested, charged with conversion in Lucknow
Hindu nationalists targeted Fr Dominic Pinto, head of a diocesan pastoral centre, for allowing a meeting of Protestants and Khrist Bhakta; the latter are Hindus who look sympathetically to the teachings of Jesus. For Bishop Mathias, Christians are again victims of a gross abuse; he hopes “that justice and good sense will prevail.”
Lucknow (AsiaNews) – A Catholic priest, Fr Dominic Pinto, was arrested on Monday by police in Barabanki district, Uttar Pradesh, along with others on charges of trying to "convert poor Hindus".
Fr Pinto is the director of Navintha, the diocesan pastoral centre of the Diocese of Lucknow, which occasionally hosts meetings organised by a Protestant group along with Khrist Bhakta (Followers of Christ), a movement whose members follow the teachings of Jesus without formal conversion to Christianity.
The First Information Report (FIR) at the Deva police station named 15 people, including five women, accused of violating Uttar Pradesh's draconian anti-conversion law.
The complainant, one Brijesh Kumar Vaishya, accuses them of attracting to Christianity poor Hindus from Dalit communities, including women and children.
During the incident, a group of Hindus tried to attack the women attending the prayer meeting and protested in front of the police station demanding that the name of the Catholic priest be included in the FIR.
Fr Dominic Pinto had granted a Protestant group the use of some “space for a day to conduct their training or prayer service. It was a rather large group of over 200 people. They were having their talk, preaching, and praying,” said Bishop Gerald Mathias of Lucknow speaking to AsiaNews.
“A group of VHP[*] or Bajrang Dal[†] complained to the police that conversion was going on there. It was totally false. There was no conversion involved. Police came and stopped the prayer and preaching. In the meantime, the VHP/Bajrang Dal mob broke the CCTV cameras and ransacked the place,” Bishop Mathias explained.
“Police took Fr Dominic and about nine pastors and group leaders to police station for questioning. This is a gross misuse of the draconian anti-conversion law in the State,” he lamented.
For the bishop, “Police registered the FIR without any evidence or proof of conversion. They come under mob pressure or succumb to the dictates of higher ups. This is a typical case of harassment and atrocities against Christians.”
Now, “We are praying earnestly and working to get bail at the earliest. I hope and pray that justice and good sense will prevail."
Matters India, a Catholic news platform, looked into the issue. Citing data from the United Christian Forum, a New Delhi-based ecumenical group, it noted that 287 of the 687 incidents of anti-Christian persecution reported across India in the period January-November 2023 took place in Uttar Pradesh.
Christians account for only 0.18 per cent of the State’s population of more than 200 million people, 79.73 per cent of whom are Hindus.
[*] Vishva Hindu Parishad or World Hindu Council.
[†] Brigade of Hanuman, the youth wing of the Vishva Hindu Parishad.