Northeast Christian leaders oppose Karnataka govt's move to introduce Anti-Conversion Law
“If after mature thought, one plans to change his religion, let him have that freedom. Does not the Constitution allow that?” said John Moolachira, Archbishop and President of North East Bishop Council.
The Bishops in Northeast India have extended solidarity to the Karnataka Region Catholic Bishops Council opposing the government move to introduce a bill to ban “forcible” religious conversion in the state.
“We stand with the Christians of Karnataka. Their concerns are our concerns. The Anti-Conversion Bill, which the state proposes, is discriminatory against Christians and even against Hindu as the state believes that people will sell their souls for alleged allurements,” said John Moolachira, Archbishop and President of North East Bishop Council.
Stating the move has malicious intent, the Archbishop said, “We do not object to the government’s move to find the details of institutions of different religions but let it be of every religion and not of Christians alone.”
“If after mature thought, one plans to change his religion, let him have that freedom. Does not the Constitution allow that?” he said, reiterating that the Right to Religion in the Indian Constitution. The North East Bishop Council also found several allies in the Arunachal Pradesh Catholic Association, United Christian Forum of North East India and other Christian bodies.
Rejecting the proposal to introduce the Anti-Conversion Bill, Allen Brooks, spokesperson for United Christian Forum of North East India, said, “What is happening in the country challenges the whole Constitution. I am Indian not because of my religion, but because of my birth and my Constitution. What is happening in Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh these days is a way to dilute the constitutional rights of everyone in the country.”
Brooks also questioned the timing of such issues being raked up before the elections, terming it to be vote bank politics aimed at dividing the people.
It may be mentioned that opposition to the introduction of the said Bill in Karnataka comes weeks after Chief Minister Bommai and other state leaders announced they were considering enactment of an Anti-Conversion Law in Karnataka over alleged rampant illegal Christian conversions in the state. The government had also ordered an official investigation into all Christian missionaries, and the source of their funding.
Following the announcement by the Karnataka government, the Karnataka Region Catholic Bishops Council opposed the move drawing the attention of various other associations and forums from across the country.
It has to be recalled that various state governments have introduced Anti-Conversion Bills in the past to regulate religious conversions. The laws are currently in force in eight states namely Arunachal Pradesh, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, and Uttarakhand.
While many view the legislation of these laws to be against the provisions of Article 25-28 under Part III of the Indian Constitution which deals with secularism, giving citizens the right to follow religious beliefs given the diverse character of the nation, there are many who support the law.
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