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India ’s Church Praying for Those Who Would Threaten It

ICC Note:

Legislature of Indian state adopts law requiring anyone who wants to convert to inform the district magistrate a month prior to the formal conversion ceremony; church responds by praying for opponents to be “touched by God.”

by Nirmala Carvalho

AsiaNews (07/26/06) – Freedom of religion and freedom of conscience are protected by India ’s constitution. In complete harmony and unity with the universal Church, the Church of India is praying so that those who threaten it with anti-conversion laws might be touched by God who reveals truth and establishes peace, this according to Card Telesphore P. Toppo, chairman of the Bishops’ Conference of India and archbishop of Ranchi, who spoke to AsiaNews about Madhya Pradesh’s new and harsh anti-conversion law.

“ India has constitution that ensures and protects freedom of religion and conscience, and we Christians in our beloved motherland— India —have always been law-abiding citizens,” the prelate explained.

“As citizens of India , who respect the law and the constitution, we must however raise the issue [anti-conversion laws] before the Bishops’ Conference because it is important to understand that these are attempts to upset and trouble us Christians, not mention to get rid of our mission.”

The Legislative Assembly of the north-central state of Madhya Pradesh yesterday adopted a bill that makes the 1968 law against conversions even stricter. It bans “conversions obtained through force or fraud” and now requires that anyone who wants to convert must inform a district magistrate a month before the formal conversion tales place. Failure to do so would entail a fine of up to a thousand rupees as well as imprisonment.

Similarly, religious officials performing conversions are henceforth required to inform the authorities and provide the latter with would-be converts’ name, address and expected date of conversion; otherwise, they too might be slapped with a fine (of up to five thousand rupees) and sentences to a year in prison.

“We are not worried,” said the archbishop of Ranchi . “The Church has a rich history that goes back 2,000 years, and India ’s Church, which is in complete harmony and unity with the universal Church, finds strength in this tradition.”

“Whilst we pray for our Church, its ministry and witness, we intercede with the people who frame such regulations,” he said. “We pray that through our work and our ministry, God may touch their hearts and the truth may be revealed to them. Thus in our beloved India , a society of justice and peace may be established”.