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Church in India to fight forced reconversions of tribals

A bishop in Orissa state in India has vowed to educate tribal people in order to equip them to assert their rights in the face of efforts of Hindu extremists to force them to re-embrace Hinduism.

"To fight against forced reconversions in Orissa, we must educate tribal people, in order to equip them to understand their rights and build individual awareness," said Bishp Lucas Kerketta of Sambalpur district in north-east India.

AsiaNews reports that last Sunday, 76 tribal Christians "re-embraced" Hinduism in a ceremony organised by the radical wing of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), the religious wing of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the former party of power in India. This was the first mass reconversion in Mayurbhanj. The VHP portrayed the event as "a return home for the tribal people".

Together with activists of the VHP and RSS, they have been carrying out for several years serious persecution against Christian missionaries and converted people. AsiaNews says Orissa's religious freedom law provides sanctions for missionaries accused of "instigating conversions" without official authorisation.

In recent years, there have been numerous incidents of violence against religious minorities in Orissa. The last took place on August 26, when a group of 300 Hindu fundamentalists attacked Our Lady of Charity Parish in Raikia, district of Kandhamal. The attckers entered the church, burned Bibles and destroyed the tabernacle and statues of saints.

Bishop of Orissa: the Church to take measures against forced reconversions of tribal people ( 21/9/04)

Repentance and forgiveness necessary in talks between government and separatists, Archbishop says ( 21/9/04)
Hindu radicals suspected in Indian priest's stabbing death (CathNews 31/8/04)
Catholics divided on Goa leader's move to change history texts (CathNews 27/7/04)
Hindu Nationalist Party woos voters in Catholic stronghold (CathNews 21/4/04)
Hindu leader points finger at Pope on conversions (CathNews 24/11/03)
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh
Catholic Bishops Conference of India

22 Sep 2004