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A Catholic church was vandalized in the southern Indian state of Karnataka even as lawmakers were debating the enactment of a law to prevent religious conversions. “A statue of Saint Anthony was found broken in St. Joseph Church in Bangalore Archdiocese on Dec. 23 morning,” said J.A. Kantharaj, archdiocesan public relations officer. “We have no clue who could be behind the attack,” he told UCA News, adding that the parish priest had already lodged a complaint with police who visited the church. St. Joseph Church is more than 150 years old and it is suspected that Hindu vigilantes may have been behind the attack as part of a well-orchestrated strategy to corner the Christian minority across Karnataka. Indian news agency ANI said a first information report has been registered by the rural police station against unknown persons for vandalizing Saint Anthony’s statue in Chickaballapur district, about 65 kilometers from state capital Bengaluru, known globally as the information technology capital of India. Of late, the southern state ruled by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has become one of the hotspots for anti-Christian violence, with Hindu groups accusing the minority community and its institutions of carrying out religious conversions. Karnataka has witnessed many churches and prayer houses

Read the story in SCROLL.IN The Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Bill, 2021, will still need to be approved in the Legislative Council, where the BJP does not have a majority. Amid strong opposition, the Karnataka Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Bill, 2021, was passed by the state Assembly on Thursday by a voice vote, NDTV reported. The anti-conversion Bill was approved by the state Cabinet on Monday and tabled in Assembly on Wednesday despite criticism from the Opposition. The Bill proposes maximum punishment of a jail term of 10 years for forcible religious conversion of women, minors and people from the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes. It says that “conversion from one religion to another by misrepresentation, force, fraud, undue influence, coercion, allurement or marriage’’ is prohibited. Even after the Bill’s passage in the Karnataka Assembly, it still needs to be approved by the state’s Legislative Council. However, the Bharatiya Janata Party does not have a majority in the 75-member Upper House. The BJP has 32 seats in the Legislative Council, Congress has 29, Janata Dal (Secular) 12 and there is one Independent candidate. Bill brought in by Congress: BJP During the discussion in the Assembly, Law Minister JC Madhu Swamy placed

12/22/2021: Members of more than 40 organizations came to the streets of Bengaluru to protest against a bill passed by the Karnataka assembly to regulate religious convention in the southern Indian state. The December 21 rally demanded the withdrawal of “the Karnataka Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Bill 2021” that the rally organizers described as anti-people and unconstitutional. The bill tramples upon the constitutionally guaranteed rights to freedom of religion, privacy and dignity, they said. Speaking at the protest, constitutional law expert Arvind Narrain said that the Supreme Court has recognized that individuals have the freedom to dress the way they want, eat what they want and practice the faith they want. The bill by seeking to target conversions interferes with both the human right to dignity and the freedom to practice the faith of their choice. Gowramma of Janwadi Mahila Sanghatan stated that Karnataka was facing dark days and that the bill is not just an attack on religion but an attack on all women. The bill presumes that women and individuals from Dalit and SC communities do not have the agency to decide the religion they want to belong to. Demanding that the state withdraw the bill, she asked that

Read the main story in 12/22/2021: “They want to remove us from society,” a Christian farmer said of Hindu extremists. Rising attacks on Christians are part of a broader shift in India, in which minorities feel less safe. INDORE, India — The Christians were mid-hymn when the mob kicked in the door. A swarm of men dressed in saffron poured inside. They jumped onstage and shouted Hindu supremacist slogans. They punched pastors in the head. They threw women to the ground, sending terrified children scuttling under their chairs. “They kept beating us, pulling out hair,” said Manish David, one of the pastors who was assaulted. “They yelled: ‘What are you doing here? What songs are you singing? What are you trying to do?’” The attack unfolded on the morning of Jan. 26 at the Satprakashan Sanchar Kendra Christian center in the city of Indore. The police soon arrived, but the officers did not touch the aggressors. Instead, they arrested and jailed the pastors and other church elders, who were still dizzy from getting punched in the head. The Christians were charged with breaking a newly enforced law that targets religious conversions, one that mirrors at least a dozen other measures across the country that

Read the story at SCROLL.IN Investigation: How VHP and Madhya Pradesh police colluded to put a Christian pastor in jail The pastor won a court stay on notices about religious conversion. A day later, he was arrested – based on a complaint by a man who denies making the statement. Ramesh Vasunia, a pastor from Padalva village in Madhya Pradesh’s Jhabua district, has been in jail since December 5, charged with attempting forced religious conversions. His wife and four others have also been arrested on the same charges. The arrests were ostensibly based on a complaint against the pastor by Moga Vasunia, a resident of the same village. The first information report registered by the police states Moga Vasunia and four others had visited the prayer hall where Pastor Ramesh was conducting a service on December 5. There, the pastor allegedly sprayed holy water on Moga Vasunia. The FIR also claims that the pastor had promised the visitors Rs 1,000 each, a motorcycle and medical facilities if they converted to Christianity. But Moga Vasunia, the 70-year-old pandit of a Shiva temple in Padalva, now denies making those allegations. “This is wrong. I have never been sprayed with [holy] water or lured with a bike, nor

STATEMENT: December 20, 2021. Washington DC. The Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations (FIACONA) welcomes the confirmation of Ambassador Rashad Hussain, an Indian-American to become the next Ambassador at Large at the Office of International Religious Freedom. He is the first Muslim-American to hold this office. We trust Ambassador Hussain will successfully bring the U.S. State Department toward a point of effective focus and action to diminish the oppressive danger presented by extremist Hindu nationalist (Hindutva) groups affiliated with the R SS, the fascist paramilitary outfit of which Prime Minister Modi is a lifelong member in India. Mr. Hussain's voice will be critical for protecting the vulnerable Christian and Muslim population in India from the radical Hindu nationalists. He would also be a forceful voice to protect the most vulnerable Christian and other smaller religious groups in many Islamic nations like Pakistan, Nigeria, Egypt, and elsewhere. (updated 11:50 AM)

12/20/2021: The purpose of such laws is to give state protection for perpetrators of violence in society On paper, Article 25 of the Constitution guarantees everyone the right to profess, practise and propagate their relgion. This is subject to two kinds of restrictions — the laws regulating or restricting the secular aspects of religious practices, and the state regulating the religious practices themselves in the interests of public order, morality, health, and specific to Hindus, social welfare and reform. Constitutionally, one can choose one’s religion or choose none at any point of time in one’s life. The Constitution doesn’t say one is free to practise only one’s birth religion (or worse, only one state-mandated religion). So where do “anti-conversion laws” such as the one currently being contemplated by the Karnataka government fit in? Anti-conversion laws in India are not particularly new. Their history goes back to even pre-Independence days but post-Independence, Odisha had the first in 1967. The motivation behind this law was to check Christian missionaries in states with large tribal populations. Somewhat ironically titled the ‘Orissa Freedom of Religion Act, 1967’, the law prohibited “forcible conversion” and also mandated that anyone choosing to convert out of the faith they had been

12/18/2021: The pro-Hindu government in Karnataka plans to ignore protests and go ahead with the introduction of an anti-conversion bill in the southern Indian state’s legislative assembly. Latest information indicates that the bill titled the “Karnataka Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Bill 2021,” will be presented in the assembly on December 20. The bill proposes a 10-year jail term for forcible conversion of persons from Dalit and Tribal communities, minors and women, to another religion. “Why do we need any anti-conversion laws when there are enough safeguards enshrined in the constitution and the existing legal system in the country to punish the guilty?” asks a press statement from the Bangalore Archdiocese, signed by its Archbishop Peter Machado. Several protest meetings were held and the Karnataka Regional Bishops’ Council and ecumenical council met the chief minister asking him to withdraw the decision, but radical Hindu groups strongly campaign for the bill. Attacks on Christian groups, pastors and priests are also on the increase in Karnataka since the debate on the bill started. The archbishop’s statement says Christians are alarmed after several Church groups were attacked in the past two months. Archbishop Machado told the latest protest rally on December 6 that the anti-conversion bill will give

12/17/2021: Christian official hits back at RSS chief's claims and tells Hindu activists to end interference in other religions Indian Christians have been told in as many words to mind their own business and stop converting people from other religions to their faith. The message was conveyed at a pre-Christmas gathering in capital New Delhi on Dec. 16 by Indresh Kumar, a senior leader of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the mothership of pro-Hindu organizations including India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The gathering held at Nagaland House, a popular venue for Christmas gatherings, was billed by the RSS as an “outreach effort” with tribal people from the Christian-dominated northeastern state of Nagaland. Donate to UCA News with a small contribution of your choice It was attended by some 300 people including federal minister R.K. Singh, RSS and BJP leaders and foreign diplomats from the US, Russia, Syria and Korea. Kumar, who spoke in the native Hindi language, said the greatest message of Christmas was peace, brotherhood, love and tolerance. “Respect all, follow your own [religion], there is no need of violence, no need of conversion,” he added. Kumar said if one respected all religions, then there was no need for conversion. “If we follow this path,

An FIR was lodged in this regard under the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act at Makarpura police station Sunday based on a complaint by District Social Defence Officer Mayank Trivedi. The Missionaries of Charity, an organisation founded by Mother Teresa, has been booked under the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act, 2003, for allegedly “hurting Hindu religious sentiments” and “luring towards Christianity young girls” in a shelter home it runs in Vadodara city. The organisation has rejected the charge. The FIR lodged at Makarpura police station Sunday is based on a complaint from District Social Defence Officer Mayank Trivedi who, along with the Chairman of the Child Welfare Committee of the district, visited the Home for Girls run by the Missionaries of Charity in Makarpura area on December 9. The FIR states that during his visit, Trivedi found that girls at the home were being “forced” to read Christian religious texts and participate in prayers of Christian faith, with the intention of “steering them into Christianity”. “Between February 10, 2021, and December 9, 2021, the institution has been involved in activities to hurt the religious sentiments of Hindus intentionally and with bitterness… The girls inside the Home for Girls are being lured to adopt Christianity

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