Christians in Northern India threatened with fines and imprisonment for converting local Hindus. Governor of Rajasthan vows to fight punitive religious legislation.
As reported by Religious Intelligence
By: George Conger.
THE CHURCH of North India has welcomed assurances from the governor of Rajasthan that he would block an anti-conversion bill passed by the state legislature.
Speaking at All Saints Cathedral in Ajmer, Gov Shailendra Kumar Singh said India’s secular government respected “all religions equally.” Last month the Hindu nationalist BJP party, which controls the Rajasthan state assembly, passed a bill over the protests of the opposition Congress Party prohibiting conversions to Christianity by “use of force, allurement or fraudulent means.
Those found guilty of procuring “fraudulent” conversions would be jailed for up to five years and face a fine of £600.
“Some religious and other institutions, bodies and individuals are found to the involved in unlawful conversion from one religion to another by allurement or by fraudulent means or forcibly which at times has caused annoyance in the community belonging to the other religion,” stated the bill. “In order to curb such illegal activities and to maintain harmony amongst persons of various religions, it has been considered expedient to enact a special law for the purpose.
However social harmony between faiths “could be brought only through our good behavior and not by bills and legislation,” Gov. Singh told the Easter congregation.
Drawing from the Bhagavad Gita, Gov Singh noted that the Hindu god Krishna had told Prince Arjuna that all are equal in society, and that one’s true “dharma,” or right way of living, is to fulfill one’s responsibilities.
The free practice of one’s faith “brings mutual confidence,” he noted, and would “create an atmosphere of love and brotherhood.”
The Bishop in Rajasthan, the Rt Rev Collin Theodore said the Governor’s words “came as a reassurance” as Christian leaders in the northwestern Indian state fear the new law would be used to persecute missionaries.