Uttar Pradesh: Hindu radicals "reconvert" Christians, turn church into a temple dedicated to Shiva
Aligarh (AsiaNews) - Some Hindu fundamentalists have "successfully converted" a community of more than 70 tribal Valmiki, baptised in 1995, and turned their church into a temple dedicated to Shiva. As part of a "purification" ceremony in the church, they tore down the cross and installed a large portrait of the Hindu god.
Card Gracias AsiaNews expressed his "sadness for what happened," whilst the president of the Global Council of Indian Christians slammed "increased religious intolerance" amid the "silence of the authorities."
The conversion to Hinduism took place on Tuesday at the Adventist Church in Asroi, a village about 30 kilometres from Aligarh.
The fundamentalists prepared the 'shuddhi karan' purification ceremony. They tore the cross on the church roof, then dragged it outside the gates of the church compound and raised a large portrait of Shiva in its stead.
Despite the fact that India has strict laws against conversions, which radical Hindus use to restrict the activities of the Christian churches, when Christians convert, no one complains.
This is happening "because it is not a conversion but a 'ghar wapasi', a homecoming," said local Hindu leader Khem Chandra. "They made a wrong choice many years ago and now they realise it," he explained. "They came back and we welcomed them with love."
The Hindu leader does not hide the fact that he met the converts "on several occasions" to persuade them to renounce Christianity.
"I once had a crippling attack, I could not move," said Rajendra Singh, 70, who joined the ceremony. "It happened last year, and I am convinced it was a punishment from the gods for abandoning them."
"I became a Christian because I thought they were different, instead they are like the others," said Anil Gur, another member of the group. "The caste system also works for them. They converted us, they built the church and they were gone".
Speaking to AsiaNews, the Archbishop of Mumbai Card Oswald Gracias expressed his sadness over what happened. "For hundreds of years, the Catholic Church has been in the service of the poor and marginalised," he explained.
"Our first mission," he added, "is to ensure the social development of those who live on the margins, the poorest of the poor. The Church understands the reality and the suffering of the most vulnerable sectors. We have been and continue to be at the forefront of this mission, following in the footsteps of Jesus."
In Uttar Pradesh, "violence continues," said Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians. "Hatred, intolerance and violence against the small Christian community are now at alarming levels. In July alone, local Hindu fundamentalist leaders carried out two violent attacks against Christians. The police blamed Christians instead of protecting them and their rights."