The archbishop of Bangalore condemned what he described as the harassment of Christians in the Indian state of Karnataka following reports of an investigation into the activities of Christian missionaries in the area.
“Why is the government interested in making a survey of the religious personnel and places of worship only of Christian community?” said Archbishop Peter Machado of Bangalore in a statement released on October 15.
Last week, Karnataka’s Backward Classes and Minorities Welfare Department has ordered a survey of both official and non-official Christian missionaries in the southern Indian state, following a discussion on Christian conversions in the state on October 13.
Archbishop Machado said the government should instead look into the contribution of Christian missionaries in the field of education and health to give an idea of the service “that is rendered by the Christian community to the nation.”
“We consider [the survey] as futile and unnecessary,” said the prelate, adding that there is “no good that will come out of it.”
“We are sad that the Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai succumbs to the pressures from fundamentalist groups, who wish to indulge in disturbing the peace, harmony, and peaceful co-existence in society,” read the bishop’s statement.
“We are against forceful, fraudulent and incentivized conversions and we repeat that we lawfully abide by the prescriptions of the Constitution of India, which for us is supreme and sacred,” said Archbishop Machado.
Members of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the Karnataka government have recently made statements supporting the enactment of an anti-conversion law, claiming that conversions to Christianity have gotten out of control.
“The government is studying laws implemented in this regard by the various state governments in the country,” said Chief Minister Bommai.
Across India, Hindu nationalists have been using the reported mass conversions to Christianity and Islam as reason to enact laws limiting the religious freedom of minorities.
Christian religious leaders in India have criticized the passage of an anti-conversion law early this year in the state of Gujarat.
The religious leaders said the new law goes against the Indian Constitution that allows citizens to profess, practice, and propagate a religion of their choice.
Critics of the law called on the western Indian state government to abrogate the “Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act 2021.”
A report by the Catholic pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need said Gujarat, which enacted the law in 2003, amended the legislation to include stringent provisions for up to 10 years imprisonment and a fine of up to 500,000 Indian rupees (US$6750).
The BJP that rules the state amended the law for the purpose of checking the “love jihad,” mostly to target Muslim youths who allegedly feign love to marry girls from other religions and convert them to Islam.
The Hindu nationalists oppose Christianity and Islam because of their foreign origin and target their followers, accusing them of promoting religious conversion or eating beef, among other things, said the ACN report.
Christians form 2.3 percent and Muslims 14.2 percent of India’s population of 1.37 billion people. – with a report from Matters India