Church leaders fear government's 'anti-Christian agenda' in MP

Published 19 April 2016  |  
File photo of Christians protesting in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh.

Church leaders have accused the Madhya Pradesh state government of an anti-Christian agenda following a move to reassess the minority status given to some schools.

Christians in Madhya Pradesh are concerned that Hindu hardliners will be given freedom to harass missionary schools under new recommendations by the state's minority commission.

Secretary of the commission, Nisar Ahmed, told UCA News that some "undeserving private schools" are using a law that exempts minority schools from needing to provide 25 per cent of their places to local poor students.

They have unlawfully secured minority certificates to avoid the rule, Ahmed said.

The commission has recommended that all schools currently registered as minority-run in Madhya Pradesh be reassessed.

However, church leaders have warned this may be a move by the government to undercut protections currently awarded to minority groups, including Christians, Muslims and Sikhs.

Father Maria Stephen, spokesman for the regional bishops' council, told UCA News the recommendation was "highly disappointing".

"The minority commission is meant for protecting and promoting the welfare of the minority institutions but by this move it has failed to do its duty," he said.

Christian leaders were not told of the recommendation before it was announced, he added.

The Hindu nationalist ideology espoused by the ruling BJP party and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a right-wing combination of social movement and paramilitary group, has led to hostility toward Christians in some areas of India.

Persecution charity Open Doors has ranked the country as 17th in its list of countries where Christians' lives are most endangered.

A recent report by the Catholic Secular Forum named Madhya Pradesh as the state where Christians experience the most violence.

The report, India Christian Persecution, said seven Protestant pastors and one lay person were killed in 2015. It put the total number of victims of violence, including women and children, at around 8,000, and said many churches were damaged or destroyed.

Reprints

More News in Nation