Karnataka Ignores Bishops, Goes Ahead With Ant-Conversion Law,
By Thomas Scaria
Mangaluru, Sept. 29, 2021: The government in Karnataka has issued an order to check “forced conversions” in the southern Indian state.
State Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai on September 28 instructed the district deputy commissioners to become vigilant about the conversions in their respective jurisdiction and punish those violating the rule.
The order came five days after the Catholic bishops in the state governor to express their concern about the proposed Anti-Conversion Law in the state.
Bommai said he has received complaints about the forced conversions during his recent visits to various districts and that such activities cannot be tolerated. He reiterated the government plan to bring in a legislative ban on conversions in the state.
Father Faustine Lobo, the director of the regional Pastoral Center in Bangalore, says the Catholic Church does not involve in any forcible conversions, although it cares to more than 30 percent of the population with schools and hospitals.
“If we really wanted to convert people through our schools or hospitals, we could have done it easily,” the priest told Matters India September 29. He also challenged the government to prove if any such incidents had been reported.
However, he expressed concern that an anti-conversion law might result in people taking law into their hands and harassing “Christian workers and our institutions.”
The bishop’s delegation on September 23 was led by Archbishop Peter Machado of Bangalore.
Archbishop Machado had expressed his concern about this proposed law when “no such forced conversions were happening anywhere in the state, despite the fact that the Catholic Church runs several schools, colleges, hospitals and social service centers under each bishop in Karnataka.”
In their memorandum the bishops warned that such a law might lead to “communal tension and unrest.”
However, certain ministers and legislators in the BJP-ruled state have alleged that forcible conversions were happening with inducements in the state. Last week, Goolihatti Shekhar, a legislator from Hosadurga, said in the legislative assembly that his mother was converted to Christianity falling prey to some inducement.
The chief minister said since they hear often complaints about conversions, “we are making a law to prevent it.”
Some other states ruled by the BJP such as Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh have already enacted such Anti Conversion Laws.
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