Press release by Archbishop Peter Machado rejecting the proposal to introduce 'Anti-Conversion Bill'
The discussion and debate in the State on the alleged ‘Religious Conversion’ is warming up even as the Government is considering promulgation of Anti-Conversion Bill. The Backward & Minority Welfare Department of Karnataka has also directed its Administration and the Police Intelligence to conduct a survey of the religious personnel and places of worship, institutions and establishments only of the Christian Community.
1. 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. The Indian Constitution Article 25 very clearly says: "All persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right to freely profess, practice, and propagate religion subject to public order, morality and health." Further, Article 26 says that all denominations can manage their own affairs in matters of religion.
And, therefore, introducing such laws would infringe the rights of the citizens, especially of the minority communities. Moreover, anti-conversion bill would become a tool for the fringe elements to take law into their own hands and vitiate the atmosphere with communal unrest in the otherwise peaceful State. Random and sporadic incidents should not be referred to the entire Christian Community in bad light.
2. The Backward Classes and Minorities Welfare Department of Govt. of Karnataka have issued an order to conduct a survey of both official and non-official Christian missionaries and the Institutions and establishments functioning in the State. We fail to understand the compelling need behind such a move. However, if the Government so desires to have a survey let it do it. But why only Christian community is targeted and marked for this arbitrary, fallacious and illogical move? When all the relevant data is already available with the Central and the State Governments, why do we need yet another futile exercise? What is the motive that is driving them to do so? The Government is in possession of the actual census figures of the community since independence. If the allegations of rampant conversion across the State is true, why then the number has not increased beyond 1.87% as per the last census figures.
3. Thousands of schools, colleges and hospitals are run and managed by Christian Community across the State. Lakhs of students are graduating from these institutions year after year. Thousands of patients irrespective of caste, creed and colour receive the best medical attention from our hospitals and care centers, let the Government prove that even one of them has ever been influenced, compelled or coerced to change his or her religion. Notwithstanding this, if the Government is still bent on introducing ‘Anti-Conversion’ Bill, we are afraid it will only fall into the hands of the undesirable elements and the fringe groups who will target the Christian community and attack our churches and institutions. It is sure to vitiate and bring in communal conflagration and disturb the peace in the society.
4. The Chief Minister in his response to the media in recent days validated and granted a tacit sanction to ‘moral policing’ as a natural sequence that should be seen through the prism of ‘action and reaction’. This has only extolled and emboldened the fringe elements and self-styled vigilantes. Since then, attacks and persecutions have increased in undesirable proportions on the religious minorities in the State. Add to this, another tool of ‘Anti-conversion’ law will only make all hell break loose. We are witnessing the distressing results of such laws elsewhere in the country.
In view of this and many more factors, we passionately appeal to our Hon’ble Chief Minister, through the columns of your esteemed daily, to withdraw the Orders issued by the Backward Class & Minority Welfare Department, and the proposal to introduce ‘Anti-Conversion’ Bill, and thereby preserve and contribute to the communal peace, tranquility and brotherhood, which is the hallmark of any progressive State.
Most Rev. Dr. Peter Machado
President-Karnataka Region Catholic Bishops’ Council