11/27/2019 India (International Christian Concern) – Christian leaders in India’s Uttar Pradesh state have raised their voices against a proposed anti-conversion law. According to these leaders, the law will likely be abused against the state’s Christian community.
Last Thursday, November 21, the Uttar Pradesh State Law Commission submitted a draft bill, entitled the Uttar Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2019, to the BJP-led state government. If passed into law, this draft bill would allow the state government to regulate religious conversions and would criminalized what the law defines as “forcible religious conversions”.
While the draft bill would seek to regulate and criminalize many religious conversions, it would not affect all conversions. In fact, the draft bill states that an individual seeking to “reconvert” to Hinduism though a ‘Ghar Wapsi’ program would not be affected.
In states where similar laws are currently enacted, including Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, and Uttrakhand, they are widely abused. Radical Hindu nationalists falsely accused Christian leaders and evangelists of forcefully converting individuals to Christianity to justify harassment and assault. Local police often overlook this harassment due to the false accusation of forced conversion.
Speaking out against the proposed laws, Bishop Gerald John Mathias of Lucknow told Crux, “The Catholic church is always against any forced conversions. Forced conversion is a contradictory term; if anyone if forcibly converted, he or she is not actually converted.”
“Anything can be considered as allurement,” Bishop Mathias continued. “Any charitable work we do can be construed as allurement for conversions.”
“Forced conversion is an evil thing and should be considered a crime,” Father Anand Mathew told Crux. “But the big question is who is doing forced conversion. Neither Muslims nor Christians indulge in forced conversion. There have been many cases of forced conversion of Christians and Muslims into the Hindu fold conducted by some militant Hindu organizations, calling it Ghar Wapsi, or Home Return.”
While the draft bill has yet to be passed into law, many Christians in Uttar Pradesh fear there will be an inevitable rise in persecution. If passed, it is highly likely radical Hindu nationalists will use the law to increase their harassment of an already persecuted community.
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