By Saramma Emmanuel
Sagar: A Catholic diocese in a central Indian state has sought government help to reign in radical Hindu groups that indulge in malicious campaigns against the Church.
“Well orchestrated campaigns are going on against us since two months to portray all our works as means for religious conversion. This is totally false and aimed at creating distrust and discord against us among other religious communities,” Father Biju Thottungara, public relation officer of Sagar diocese in Madhya Pradesh state, told a press conference on November 14.
The priest accompanied by two other priests – Fathers Anto Kannanpuzha and Sabu Puthenpurackal — addressed the media at the diocesan social work center in Sagar, the headquarters of the Syro-Malabar diocese after radical Hindu group carried out series of malicious media campaigns against Christians.
“We are accused of converting Hindus and other low caste people to Christianity, this is not true,” Father Kannanpuzha told Matters India on Nov. 15.
“The Hindu radical groups,” he added, “make wild allegations which find place both in print and visual media outlets leading to confusion among people about our work.”
“We want to clear the air of confusion that we do not indulge in religious conversion,” Father Kannanpuzha explained.
Bishop Antony Chirayath of Sagar said, “We are continuously threatened and the community lives in fear.”
“We have been serving the poor and the downtrodden and help them come up in their lives through various social welfare schemes, but now efforts are on to defame the community to stop such works that are very beneficial for those living in the margins,” the prelate told Matters India on Nov 15.
Bishop Chirayath also sought help from the district and state authorities, including the governor and the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh and National Minority Commission, to protect Christians and their institutions from the onslaught of Hindu groups inimical to the Christians.
“The district officials, he said had given assurance to look into the matter,” he added.
Meanwhile, on Nov 10, Hindu crowed took out torchlight march in the heart of Sagar town demanding action against Christians who they alleged indulged in religious conversion. The protestors also issued a two-week ultimatum to the district authorities to act against the missionaries failing which face indefinite protest before a Catholic orphanage.
Joining the chorus of the anti-Christian campaign, local ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislator Pradeep Lariya said Christians were involved in religious conversion and demanded action against them.
Earlier in September, government officials evicted a Catholic priest working at a remote mission area in the diocese and closed the 20-year-old mission following a dispute over the land title under pressure from the Hindu groups opposed to the presence of Christians in the village.
The Christian missionaries have been contributing for the welfare of poor and impoverished villagers at Mohanpur village in district Guna and other areas.
The priests and nuns working in the diocese say with continues onslaught of right wing Hindu activists against Christians, it has become increasingly difficult for them to work in villages, as they have been viewed as offenders.
The head of the Syro-Malabar Church Cardinal George Alencherry has also appealed the believers to pray for the troubled diocese.