A delegation, headed by the Metropolitan Archbishop of Bengaluru and Karnataka Region Catholic Bishops’ Council President, Rev. Dr. Peter Machado, on Monday appealed to Karnataka’s Governor Thaawarchand Gehlot to refrain from giving assent to the Protection of Religious Freedom Bill.
He said that the entire Christian community in Karnataka opposes the Bill, also known as the anti-conversion bill, in one voice.
“It is indeed a matter of great concern that the anti-conversion bill would become a tool for the fringe elements to take law into their own hands, and vitiate the atmosphere with provocations, false accusations, communal unrest in the otherwise peaceful state of Karnataka, the Archbishop said.
A few stray and sporadic incidents of conversion should not portray the entire community in bad light, he added.
The government’s statistics prove beyond doubt that, since Independence, there has been hardly any growth in conversions, and it is all fabricated to suit the political agendas of some political parties, he said.
According to Census data, the percentage of Christian population in the country in 2001 was 2.34 per cent, and, as per the 2011 data, declined marginally to 2.30 per cent, he noted.
Also, in Karnataka, the situation is in no way different, he said, adding that as per the statistics, Christians in Karnataka, as per the 2001 census, comprised 1.91 per cent, while it significantly decreased to 1.87 per cent in 2011.
“If there were rampant conversions, as claimed by some, the Christian population, both in state and nation, would have seen a considerable increase in numbers. But the facts and figures indicate that a lot of hue and cry, over religious conversion, is unrealistically magnified and grossly exaggerated,” Machado maintained.
“Hence, we, the representatives of the Christian community in Karnataka, strongly appeal to Your Excellency to refrain from giving assent to such an undesirable and discriminatory Bill in the interest and welfare of the Christian minority community, and also to maintain peace, harmony and unity among all the religious communities in the state and in the country,” he said.
The community questions the need for such an exercise when sufficient laws and court directives are in place to monitor any aberration of the existing laws, he said.
With the state Backward Classes and Minorities Welfare Departments issuing an order to conduct a survey of both official and non-official Christian missionaries and institutions and establishments functioning in the state, Machado said: “When all the relevant data is already available (through the Census) with the government, why do we need yet another futile exercise? Why is only Christian minority community targeted and marked for this arbitrary, fallacious and illogical move? What is the motive that is driving them to do so?”
“It is a well-known fact that thousands of schools, colleges and hospitals are run and managed by Christian community across the state and country as well,” he said.
“May we reiterate the point that not a single incident of forced conversion has been reported so far. Then, where is the complaint coming from and what is the motive behind such false and fabricated news? Let the Government prove whether any one of them has ever been influenced, compelled or coerced to change his or her religion,” the Archbishop said.
Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai had announced that his government would implement the anti-conversion law through promulgating an ordinance. The bill has been passed in the Assembly and but is yet to be presented in the Legislative Council.