The president of the Karnataka Region Catholic Bishops' Council (KRCBC), Archbishop Peter Machado of Bengaluru, has expressed concern over the state government's actions against the Christian community, claiming that they infringe on individuals' rights and cause communal conflict under the disguise of combating forced conversion.
“The discussion and debate in the State on alleged ‘religious conversion' is warming up even as the government is considering promulgation of an Anti-Conversion Bill,” the Archbishop remarked in a press release on Monday.
“The Backward Minority Welfare Department of Karnataka has also directed its Administration and Police Intelligence to conduct a survey of the religious personnel and places of worship, institutions and establishments only of the Christian Community,” he added.
Furthermore, Archbishop Machado stated that “The entire Christian Community in Karnataka opposes the proposal in one voice and questions the need for such an exercise when sufficient laws and court directives are in place to monitor any aberration of the existing laws.”
Citing Article 25 of the Indian Constitution, the Archbishop argued that all individuals have the “freedom of conscience and the right to freely profess practice and propagate religion subject to public order, morality and health.”
He also pointed that Article 26 of the constitution protects the freedom of religious communities to conduct their own affairs in issues of religion.
The Archbishop also questioned the state government's order to examine both official and non-official Christian missionaries, as well as their institutions and establishments in the state, claiming that Christians “failed to understand the compelling need behind such a move.”
Let the government do the survey if it so chooses, he stated, but he wondered why "only the Christian community is targeted” and designated for this arbitrary, erroneous, and irrational approach.
The archbishop questioned why another pointless effort since all essential data is already accessible with the federal and state administrations. Since independence, the government has had accurate census data on Christians in the country. If the accusations of widespread conversion are genuine, he questioned, why hasn't the number gone above 1.87 percent as per the previous census figures?
Emphasizing the Christian community's educational assistance to hundreds of thousands of students in various schools and universities, Archbishop Machado stated that “Thousands of patients, irrespective of caste, creed, and colour, receive the best medical attention from our hospitals and care centers.” If the allegations of forced conversions were genuine, the priest demanded that the government show “even one of them has ever been influenced, compelled or coerced to change his or her religion.”
The anti-conversion bill would become an instrument for extremist groups to take law into their own hands and impair the environment with communal unrest in the usually calm State, Archbishop Machado stated, adding that isolated events “should not” be used to cast a negative light on the whole Christian community.
During a press conference in Bengaluru, the priest said he will see state Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai to inform him of the Christian community's concerns about the new law.
“We will appeal once again to the Karnataka government and I don’t mind meeting CM Bommai again, along with other leaders,” he said.