Madhya Pradesh State in India awaits anti-conversion law
Christians of the State of Madhya Pradesh in India strongly oppose a measure that exacerbates the existing measures on the prohibition of conversion. The new law was approved by the executive led by the Hindu nationalist "Bharatiya Janata Party". The "Religious Freedom Act" has been in force since 1968 in Madhya Pradesh, which regulates the conversion from one religion to another. The new law provides that a person who wishes to change religion must inform the district magistrate of his decision. The new provision also obliges the priests who preside a conversion ceremony to inform the State Government a month before on the exact day, time and place in which the conversion takes place, providing for penalties if this does not happen.
"The legislation seems to leave many people with the false impression that the conversion is illegal in India and this idea is carried out by extremist groups who advocate the ideology of Hindutva with religious ferocity," explains in a note sent Fides the "Global Council of Indian Christians", which brings together Indian Christians of different denominations. "This hasty decision is part of a plan that aims to create a climate of suspicion and hatred towards the Christian community, in view of the 2014 parliamentary elections", denounces the GCIC.
Rules such as this, continues the note sent to Fides, "have a negative social impact on Christians. This will diminish the valuable social work carried out by the Christians for the needy and the marginalized". Anti-conversion laws are currently in force in six of the 28 states and seven territories of the Union. The laws, on paper, try to curb religious conversions made by force, deceit or flattery.
Christian leaders in the State, met Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan at Bhopal and petitioned him to reject the bill, while hundreds of Christians have attended protests across the State.
Dr John Dayal, a member of the National Integration Council for the Government of India and Secretary General of the All India Christian Council, says that rather than promoting freedom of religion, laws such as the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act of 1968 are in fact "violations of the religious freedom guaranteed by the constitution". "It is a deliberate attempt to polarise society and to keep Dalits and other marginalised groups in serfdom," he says. "We are determined to challenge such black laws."
According to the "Global Council of Indian Christians," in fact, the laws hinder the conversion in general and are manipulated by Hindu nationalist groups to hit religious minorities. An administrative investigation of the police follows, to ascertain whether there are the conversion ceremony constraints. Christians fear that this will result in more violence against the ministers of worship.
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