Indian Christians seek repeal of anti-conversion laws
PREVENTING SOMEONE FROM FOLLOWING A RELIGION OF CHOICE CURTAILS THE FREEDOM GUARANTEED IN THE INDIAN CONSTITUTION
Christians in India have sought the federal government’s intervention to ensure the repeal of anti-conversion laws enacted by some provincial governments making religious conversion by force or allurement a punishable offense
Preventing someone from embracing or practicing a religion of choice curtailed the freedom of conscience and religious beliefs guaranteed in the Indian constitution, they said at a special meeting with Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, the federal minister for minority affairs, and John Barla, the junior minister, in New Delhi on Sept. 28.
Another key issue they sought to highlight was the new legal restrictions being imposed on receiving foreign donations for charitable works meant for the benefit of India’s poor and deprived masses.
Naqvi highlighted India’s age-old tradition of celebrating all religions and underlined the need to strengthen the shared cultural heritage and legacy of coexistence. “Any attempt to disturb this fabric of unity and harmony will hurt the soul of India,” he said.
The 50 Christian leaders belonging to various denominations submitted a memorandum listing all issues plaguing the minority community. It was read out by Archbishop Anil Joseph Thomas Couto of Delhi during the three-and-a-half-hour meeting.
“It was a great opportunity for us to appraise the ministers about our concerns,” said Archbishop Kuriakose Bharanikulangara of Faridabad Archdiocese of the Eastern-rite Syro-Malabar Church.
The continued violence against Christians under the false pretext of stopping so-called forced conversions as well as the destruction and desecration of their places of worship were highlighted at the discussion.
Members of the delegation also decried the lukewarm response of police and administrative officials in matters where Christians are unnecessarily victimized.
“The ministers promised to look into our concerns positively and assured all help from the government,” Archbishop Bharanikulangara told UCA News on Sept. 29.
The new National Education Policy, changes in health education, the plight of Adivasis or indigenous people, Dalits and other marginalized people also came up in the discussion.
The discrimination against Dalit Christians and Muslims in reservations for education and jobs was discussed too. It was suggested that religion should not be a determining factor while extending benefits meant for historically disadvantaged castes or tribes.
Other key demands raised at the meeting included the setting up of a government-funded National/Central Christian University on the lines of Aligarh Muslim University and Banaras Hindu University, ensuring socioeconomic empowerment of the community and promoting skill training, entrepreneurial skills and small industry and livelihood development.