07/25/2019, 17.24
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For the Church in Mizoram, the BJP’s overtures are ‘an aggressive game plan’

The Hindu nationalist party has set up a "missionary cell" to tell Christians that “we are friends of Christians". Christian-majority Mizoram is the only state in north-eastern India not governed by the BJP. Elsewhere its militants have devastated churches and attacked missionaries.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) – Overtures by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the ruling Hindu nationalist party, towards Christians in Mizoram are "an aggressive game plan to make some inroads in the Christian-dominant state,” this according to Fr Felix Anthony, spokesman for the Catholic Church in northeastern India.

Speaking to AsiaNews, Fr Anthony said that Yesterday’s initiative received nation-wide media coverage, adding that the BJP is trying to clean up its image by creating a "missionary cell", a step Mirozam BJP president JV Hluna praised.

“We are accused of being an anti-Christian party by most people, including all the Churches in Mizoram,” Hluna said. “To build a relationship with all the Churches and to tell them that we are friends of Christians, friends of Christian organisations, the missionary cell is being set up. We want to tell people we are a secular party which believes in the Constitution of India.”

The BJP’s outreach includes a number of initiatives, like the “highest cross to be built in Mizoram”, as well as a request to the central government “to finance religious trips of at least 20 people annually to places like Jerusalem, Bethlehem and so on.”

According to the 2011 census, Mizoram has a Christian majority. More than 87 per cent of the population is Christian, 8.5 per cent is Buddhist, and only 2.7 per cent is Hindu, the country’s majority religion.

In the December 2018 state elections, a local party, the Mizo National Front, won. It took office reciting a Christian prayer.

Elsewhere in the country, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP has campaigned levelling harsh accusations at Christians. Missionaries have been told to go back to their own countries and that Christianity is not Indian. Clergymen have been accused of converting the poor and ignorant and members of tribal groups on the pledge of money, whilst BJP militants storm Catholic schools, set fire to them, and beat up nuns.

According to Fr Anthony, "The signs are there for everyone to see. The party suffered a massive blow in the recently-concluded elections”, winning one seat out of 41. However, recruiting an “independent Christian candidate, Lalhriatrenga Chhangte, to the party is a clear strategy to remove the anti-Christian tag from the party”.

Although the BJP says it wants to help Christians, including missionaries in distress, “Such a move has set of alarm bells among the people of Mizoram, the only non-BJP-ruled state in the region.” (A.C.F.)

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