Bishop Paul Toppo: "It is true that few people convert by their own free will and conviction, however they must undergo a two-year training course and also provide a legal affidavit of their intention to embrace the Catholic faith, nonetheless there are many fabricated conversion charges ".
Mumbai (AsiaNews) - Three Korwa tribal families in a Jharkhand village have been fined and beaten after a court with a sham trial declared them social outcasts for having recently converted to Christianity.
The incident took place in Khala village in the Dhurki block of Garhwa district on January 22, according to sources. Jaiwardhan Kumar, the local magistrate of Banshidhar Nagar, confirmed that he had received information on reactions against conversions in the area.
"Reports from some Khala villagers have come to my attention, but there is no official confirmation yet. I can't say more before an investigation into the matter is carried out," he said. The Korwa are officially classified as a particularly vulnerable tribal group. About two dozen families from the Scheduled Tribe and Scheduled Caste communities have converted to Christianity in the past year, villagers said.
The three Korwa families allegedly targeted for conversion were fined 25,051 rupees each (about 280 euros), as well as being flogged. Bishop Paul Toppo of the diocese of Raigarh Chhattisgarh told AsiaNews: "When Tribal peoples embrace Christianity, then they have to face humiliating consequences and social ostracising, and often economic deprivation, which is certainly inhuman. Tribal people are a communitarian people, so while I am not aware of this particular case- but anyone attending a prayer meeting is marked as being converted. I am a Tribal and my grandfather was a convert.”
The bishops added:”I am proud to be a Tribal Christian. We take Christian Faith as a Blessing for our people. We are proud of Tribal and proud of being Christians. Faith has given us many things, firstly it brought us overall liberation. Faith has liberating us from many social evils like 'superstitions' and practices which were detrimental to our overall growth. We are proud of being Tribal Christians.”
“The charges of forced conversions are baseless and fabricated,” he continued. “There are many prayer services held, and when some elements see Tribals attending such prayer meetings and services, they falsely assume that people are getting converted. It is true, that few people, get converted out of their own free will and their own conviction, but they have to undergo a two year RCIA and also give a legal affidavit of their intent to embrace the Catholic Faith’, but there are many fabricated conversion allegations."
AsiaNews also spoke to Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians: "Systematic and targetted violence against Tribal Christians in Jharkhand and Chattisgarh is increasing in frequency and alarming violence. The right wing groups keep surveillance on any prayer meetings, their vigilante groups have almost become 'militant' and are ready to carry out attacks on the Christians tribal communities”.
“In Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh - he added - the tribals their source livelihoods and even food security are under sustained attack, characterized by daily humiliation, harassment and discrimination. While the right wing extremists make baseless 'conversion charges, the local groups like the VHP ( Vishwa Hindu Parishad), routinely organize "Ghar Vapasi or home coming of the Tribals Christians in the district, to Hinduism, but Tribals were never Hindus, their ancestors were animists. The anti-conversion laws do not deem Ghar Vapasi as forced conversion. This is the sad interpretation of the secular nature of Indian society ".