10/08/2007, 00.00
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Persecution strengthens the faith in Chhattisgarh

by Nirmala Carvalho
The bishop of Jashpur talks to AsiaNews about the latest bill to amend the state’s existing anti-conversion law. The Church is not afraid because repression strengthens its faith.

Jashpur (AsiaNews) – The Church in the central India state of Chhattisgarh has lived for years under the constraint of an anti-conversion law and has not been stopped. Instead “persecution is making the Church stronger and more vibrant,” said Mgr Victor Kindo, bishop of Jashpur in response to the news that Chhattisgarh Governor, E S L Narasimhan, has referred the new anti-conversion bill adopted by the Baharitya Janata Party-ruled state legislature to the Attorney-General of India, Milon Banerjee, for a legal opinion. The new bill includes provisions that penalise those who switch to non Indian religions that plague the state without informing the authorities.

For Mgr Kindo, regardless of the impact of the state-sponsored bill on religious minorities, local “Catholics have learnt to live under persecution.” The bill, which human rights groups consider draconian, “has made our flock stronger and more united in its faith. Being under the constant scrutiny of hostile forces has helped us grow and deepen our faith.”

Nationalist attacks are not limited to conversions. “For years we have had to fight false accusations that depict us as land grabbers and profiteers. There is no greater lie than that. The land on which we built our structures was regularly bought from Tribals and are managed in a transparent way that is respectful of the authorities,” he said.

Charges against Catholics that they are proselytising, and which often lead to violent and senseless attacks, are daily occurrences.

“They say we use our social activities to convert the poorest people, but none of us has ever done such a thing,” he insisted.

Hence the Church is looking forward with interest and no fear to the legal battle. “We are particularly concerned about the provision [in the new bill] which would not punish re-conversion [to Hinduism].”

”In this area there are lots of Christian converts. We are sure that none of them will use this loophole [to reconvert] and that they will all remain united as we have till now,” he added.

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