Bengaluru Christians rally against anti-conversion bill
Bengaluru, Dec 4, 2021: The United Christian Forum of Karnataka on December 4 organized a peace rally in Karnataka capital of Bengaluru against a proposed anti-conversion bill and survey on Christian institutions in the southern Indian state.
The rally was initiated by the Archdiocese of Bangalore in collaboration with all Christian denominations and other Catholic dioceses in the state to condemn the government move to enact the bill and harass the minorities.
The proposed anti-Christian bill “is nothing but a license given to Hindu radical groups to attack Christians, and persecute them,” bemoaned Archbishop Peter Machado of Bangalore while addressing the rally.
The archbishop, who is the most vocal against the bill, said the minority Christians will never bow down before the government, nor remain afraid of its scare tactics. He called all Christians to unite and fight against the injustice meted out to their community, a tiny minority in the state.
Several political leaders, religious heads, Muslim leaders, priests, religious, pastors, and lay people attended the ally held in front of the St. Xavier’s Cathedral in Bengaluru. The gathering, which was initially planned for 25,000 people, was reduced to less than 2,000 people because of the Coronavirus pandemic
Margaret Alva, a veteran Catholic leader and a prominent politician, lambasted the BJP government for playing party politics in bringing the bill when the state is faced with several problems.
“It is a bill against the Constitution, not against the Christians alone,” Alva who observed that such bills in fact attack the democratic values and traditions of the country. “One country, one religion, One law, etc are nothing but open challenge to the secularism of our country,” she said.
If Anti Conversion Bill really means what it is, why are they then targeting only Christians?” asked Alva, who was the general secretary of the Congress Party and held many portfolios in previous federal government. She demanded that the bill’s clauses have to be binding also on majority Hindus who actually forces Christians to convert to Hinduism.
Dwarakanath, former chairperson of the Dalit and Backward Commission, said Dalits are part of all the religions in India and they have chosen where they should belong to. “By bringing such anti conversion bills, Dalits will lose their identity itself,” he warned.
Bishop Prasannakumar Samual of the Church of South India said the Christian missionaries never involved in forced conversion or conversion with inducements. “If that was done, we should have been a majority now,” he added.
K J George, Karnataka’s former home minister and a member of the opposition Congress, said his party would oppose the bill in the state legislative assembly, when it is presented. The bill is proposed to be presented in the Assembly session starting from December 11 in Belgaum, northern Karnataka.
Archbishop Machado accused the government of having an anti-minority stand and warned that Christians will stand united and continue their humanitarian services in the community.
“If a Christian girl marries a Hindu boy and becomes Hindu, are they filing an FIR?” he asked?
“If our services were aimed at conversion, half of the country would have been Christians by now,” the archbishop said pointing out the large number of Hindus the Church serve through its education and health institutions.
The prelate called upon Catholic parishes in the state to organize peace meetings and pray for the government people, so that they may see the truth.
The background of the proposed bill was based on the allegations by Goolihatti Shekhar, a BJP member of the Legislative Council from Hosdurga, who had alleged that more than 20,000 people in his villages including his mother was “forcefully converted to Christianity.”
However, an enquiry by the government proved that no forced conversion had taken place in the villages and 45 Christian families the probe found had given in writing that they joined Christianity on their own.
Meanwhile media reports said the Anti-Conversion Bill will be ready by December 5, and tabled in the next legislature session beginning from December 13.