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May 21, 2006

Pope condemns Indian ban on religious conversion

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Pope Benedict XVI has condemned Hindu nationalist attempts to ban religious conversions in India in a speech in Paris on 18 May 2006 reflecting growing tension among major faiths about the role and nature of missionary work.

In an unusually strong language, the Pontiff told Amitava Tripathi, India’s new ambassador to the Vatican, that efforts in some states to outlaw conversions were unconstitutional and should be rejected.

It was his second declaration this week in defence of religious freedom in countries with non-Christian majorities. On 15 May 2006, he urged Muslim countries to give their Christian minorities the same rights as Muslims enjoyed in Western states. “The disturbing signs of religious intolerance which have troubled some regions of the nation, including the reprehensible attempt to legislate clearly discriminatory restrictions on the fundamental right of religious freedom, must be firmly rejected,” Pope Benedict said.

Anti-conversion laws were “unconstitutional (and) contrary to the highest ideals of India ‘s founding fathers,” he said, according to the text of his speech released by the Vatican .