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ICC Note:

The Bishop of Sagar, located in India’s Madhya Pradesh state, has called out for help in the face of rising extremism. According to the bishop, instances of persecution and intolerance have been growing over the past couple of months with Christians being falsely accused of forced conversions. This culminated with a torch-lit march earlier this week in which Hindu radicals claimed they would “finish Christians”. Will India’s government take steps to protect this Christian community? 

11/17/2017 India (Asia News) – Hindu radicals “are trying to eliminate Christians,” said Father Anthony Chirayath, the Bishop of Sagar, located in India’s Madhya Pradesh. Hindu fanatics have accused Christians in his diocese of forced conversions, he told Asia News, but “this is totally false.”

Nationalists are “creating an atmosphere of hostility against us, spreading fake news through newspapers, television channels, brainwashing. Their goal is to create fear among Christians and above all among the people around us, who attend church, and have relations with priests, so as to prevent evangelization by whatever means,” Bishop Chirayath explained.

For this reason, he is relying on Asia News to make a plea. “We are afraid; we can be attacked at any time. Our schools, institutions and orphanages can be harmed. Help us!”

“Everything started with the closure of Mohanpur’s Catholic college,” the bishop said. “Then Hindu radicals staged a protest in Sagar. It is a tactic. Who knows which other mission they will attack.”

He said that he “asked for help from civil authorities. We called for protection and security for our men and women religious and institutions. ”

Owned by the church, the Mohanpur College was inaugurated in 1997 and provided free food and board to tribal children. It was shut down by order of the authorities of Guna District at the end of September, “because local radicals complained about forced conversions of minors.”

“The radicals arrived in the middle of the night with four trucks, threatened the children and the priest and cleared the area. But there was no provocation on our part,” the bishop explained.

Some 225 tribal families live in the village of Mohanpur, five of them Catholic.

“The college has worked for years to serve the poor. At present, it is still closed. The accusation radicals made against us is that we converted 200 people in the village, but the police carried out their investigation and confirmed that there were no conversions.”

“We are waiting for a court ruling. We have also called for protection for Christian families, who receive threats and are told to leave.”

After this incident, another event has alarmed local Christians: a torch-lit march by a thousand Hindu radicals on 10 November in the city of Sagar.

“Less than a thousand Catholics live in the city out of a total population of 300,000,” said the bishop. “In addition, no Catholics live in the area where the march took place. This is the paradox. In view of these small numbers, what’s happened is absurd.”

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