Tuesday, 28 March 2006
By BosNewsLife News Center
NEW DELHI, INDIA (BosNewsLife) -- Indian Church officials on Tuesday, March 28, condemned the adoption of anti-conversion legislation in a key state, after members of a US-backed mission group were attacked by Hindu militants for allegedly "illegally" converting people to Christianity.
In remarks published Tuesday, March 28, the All-India Christian Council (AICC) strongly condemned the Anti-Conversion Bill proposed by the Hindu-dominated Government of Rajasthan.
"The move to introduce the Anti-conversion Bill by the Rajasthan Government is not just mischievous, but downright unconstitutional. The right to follow or change to a particular faith can never be unlawful. At least not in a civilized society," the Press Trust of India quoted the Council's spokesperson Abrahim Mathai as saying.
In another statement monitored by BosNewsLife, the Bishop of Jaipur Oswald Lewis, warned the law "is against the Indian Constitution and curtails a person’s freedom." Under the “Rajasthan Dharma Swatantrik Vidhayak," or Rajasthan Religious Freedom Bill, anyone is found guilty of indulging in conversion activities "by deceitful means, or by means that are against the law," would be liable for imprisonment of two to five years, church sources said.
There are fears the law will be used against missionaries the same way as in neighboring Madhya Pradesh where last week Hindu militants broke into a Youth With a Mission (YWAM) office and training center in the city of Jabalpur, attacking several students and the group's India Director Mukesh Jacob and his wife Sarla Jacob, BosNewsLife learned.
Although police arrived on the scene and arrested five suspects on charges of ransacking private property and assaulting the couple, they also detained Mukesh and Sarla Jacob for "illegal conversion." They were later released on bail, several church sources confirmed.
The attack was carried out by over a dozen supporters of Hindu groups Bajrang Dal and Dharam Jagran Manch, said the advocacy group Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI). "With no substantial proof of conversion but in sheer anger borne out of hatred against the Christians, five attackers of Bajrang Dal along with Dharam Jagran Manch workers attacked the YWAM office of Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh," said EFI General Secretary Richard Howell.
"They then proceeded to ransack the YWAM Bible Study Centre and the couple’s house," he added. "The miscreants damaged the furniture and belongings of the family. The YWAM office and study Centre were vandalized and the office furniture including the computer was damaged beyond repair."
EFI said the couple was beaten during these raids, but in an interview Jacob seemed to play down this information. He was quoted as saying that YWAM trainees received minor injuries and that militants groped female trainees until the men present forced them to stop.
They reportedly also tore up Bibles and damaged a television, computers, furniture and windowpanes. Hindu extremists also attacked three pastors during a street outreach in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh on March 19, and all three required hospital treatment, Christian news agency Compass Direct said. Local Christians claimed the attack was sparked by the presence of a Christian convert who was formerly a member of the Hindu extremist group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
Christians say anti-conversion laws have aggravated the situation. Similar laws are already in place in Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu and will likely be adopted by parliament in Rajasthan this week. In Rajasthan, Christians represent 0.11% of the population and Muslims 8%, while Hindus account for 89%, according to church estimates. (With BosNewsLife Research and reports from India).
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