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ICC Note:

Joseph D’Souza, a Christian leader in India, spoke out against the passage of a new anti-forced conversion law in the northeastern state of Jharkhand. The law passed in Jharkhand makes religious conversion illegal if it is done by coercion, fraud, or allurement. Indian courts have yet to adjudicate the meanings of the terms in the law, so what is legal verses illegal is still vague. Unfortunately, these vague laws are widely abused by Hindu radicals in India to harass Christians and their spread throughout the country will only lead to more attacks. 

08/25/2017 India (Christian Today) – A prominent Indian bishop is speaking out against his country’s crackdown on freedom of religion as another state passed anti-conversion laws.

Joseph D’Souza, moderating bishop of the Good Shepherd Church and president of the All India Christian Council, warns the legislation will ‘sully the image of India globally’ and foster division not unity.

It comes after the state government in Jharkhand, northern India, joined seven others in passing a new ‘freedom of religion bill’ which D’Souza described as a ‘cleverly disguised anti-conversion law’ in an article for the Washington Times.

‘A majoritarian political appeasement and religious homogeneity, which the anti-conversion laws promote, is a step toward division, not unity,’ he writes. ‘These bills increase local misuse of the law and attacks on Christians and churches by extremists. They sully the image of India globally.’

He accuses both President Nahendra Modi’s BJP and Congress parties of supporting these laws which mean anyone found guilty of the vague crime of converting people could be sentenced to a minimum three years in jail.

‘Barring the general justification that these laws are intended to protect vulnerable people from fraudulent conversion through “allurement” or “coercion,” there’s no doubt the primary suspects and assumed perpetrators are Christians’ he writes.

‘Implicit in the anti-conversion laws is the assumption that there’s a foreign Christian agenda to convert Indians and that the tribals and Dalits — also known as “untouchables” — are especially susceptible to conversion schemes.

‘Perhaps the anti-conversion laws stem out of a suspicion against Christianity based on the history of colonial British rule; or perhaps they’re fueled out of a fear that religion will split the country, as it did during the India-Pakistan partition.’

But he goes on to say Christians do not condone forced or fake conversions and themselves promote people’s right to choose their faith.

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