Hindu extremists blocked buses carrying Christian children who were supposed to attend a program organized the Catholic church in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.
“I am very saddened (over the incident),” said Archbishop Alangaram Arokia Sebastian Durairaj of Bhopal in a report on AsiaNews.
He said the annual program was organized for young people to get “professional guidance” and participate in cultural programs “for their growth.”
“There is absolutely no ongoing conversion activity,” said the prelate, adding that the children “all come from Christian families for generations.”
“It is unfortunate that our children’s training programs are misunderstood,” he said.
“Every religious denomination has the freedom to educate its own young people,” said the bishop. “We were absolutely not doing anything illegal or even criminal,” he added.
Activists from the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bajrang Dal stopped buses carrying children who were on their way to the Saint Pius School of the Diocese of Khandwa.
The activists claimed that the children were being taken to a ceremony for their religious conversion. Anti-conversion laws are in effect in the state of Madhya Pradesh.
Quoting eyewitnesses, AsiaNews reported that the blockade “lasted for a long time,” until police and district officials arrived.
Animesh Joshi, one of the leaders of the activist group, said he “received information that a group of tribal boys and girls were being brought in for religious conversion.”
Father Augustine Madathikunnel, diocesan coordinator, said the annual youth gathering, which was supposed to continue until October 5, was postponed.