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ICC Note:

The government of India’s Madhya Pradesh State has shut down a Catholic college in Sagar under false pretenses. According to local church leadership, the government has shut down the college because of accusations of religious conversions happening at the college and the college itself being build illegally on land it does not own. In spite of a police investigation that proved both of these accusations false, the state government has forcibly close down the Christian college. Christian leaders claim this is being done as another attack on their community mostly driven by the efforts of local Hindu radicals. 

09/20/2017 India (Asia News) – The Madhya Pradesh government has closed a Catholic college that offered hospitality to the poor tribal peoples of the area for the last 20 years. Authorities claim the mission does not have the appropriate permits and was built on land that it does not own. Local Hindu nationalists are also accusing the Christians of providing accommodation to young tribals with the sole aim of forcibly converting them.

The bishops of the area are not willing to tolerate such provocations and reiterated that the hostel has all the legal certifications and serves the local population for the benefit of the most needy.

Speaking to Asia News, Anthony Chirayath, the Bishop of Sagar, under whose jurisdiction the college falls, claimed that the purpose of the accusers “is to drive out Christians from this area. There are just two Christian families here and yesterday one of them told me they received threats. Now lives in fear.”

The bishop underlined that the police conducted investigations “and found that the alleged accusation of converting 200 people is false. Police officers have also verified that property really belongs to the church, so there is nothing illegal about the land on which the structure is built. They only want to attack us.”

Leo Cornelio, the Archbishop of Bhopal, spoke of “harassment against Christians and an anti-Christian atmosphere surrounding our mission. This is a land dispute. And it is also a question of Ghar Wapsi, that is to return to the religion of origin. But tribals have never been Hindus. So the [nationalist]’s claim to return the land to the people is unfounded and only responds to the goal of tormenting Christians.”

Guna’s district administration has sealed the college in the village of Mohanpur, aimed at welcoming tribal children. Fr. Siljo Kidangan, in charge of the college, told Matters India that the authorities are also forcing him and the children they host to abandon the facility. The young people were transferred to another government college, against their will and the priest’s appeal for dialogue.

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