A delegation of Catholic bishops of Karnataka, led by Archbishop of Bangalore Reverend Peter Machado, met Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai on Wednesday to voice their opinion over a proposed law to ban forcible religious conversions in the state.
They also spoke about a host of other topics, including inclusion of representatives of Christian managements in committees formed to implement the new National Education Policy (NEP).
Addressing reporters in Bengaluru after the meeting, Machado said they had expressed displeasure over recent allegations against the community, terming it “malicious” and “untrue”. The Archbishop of Bangalore Archdiocese highlighted that hundreds of schools, colleges, and hospitals were operated under the aegis of each bishop. “There are about a lakh students but none have been advised to get converted to Christianity. Some minor events might have taken place which have been blown out of proportion now,” he added.
While speaking about the need for an anti-conversion Bill in the Assembly, Hosadurga BJP MLA Goolihatti Shekhar had recently claimed that religious conversions were “rampant” across the state. The MLA had also said that 15,000 to 20,000 people, including his own mother, were converted to Christianity in his constituency.
Responding to this, Home Minister Araga Jnanendra had said that the state government was considering bringing in a law to regulate religious conversion. “The issue (of religious conversions) has come to the government’s notice. Converting people from one religion to another by inducing them is a punishable offense. We will keep a strict vigil on such activities. There is a wide network working on religious conversions across the country,” Jnanendra had said in his reply in the Assembly.
When asked about the same, Machado said, “Someone is trying to malign us. While the issue is being debated in the Assembly, we have reminded people not to do such things. It is not right if someone approaches people, hands over the book and a cross, and converts them. We, too, have a conscience and moral responsibility. We are not forcing anyone.”
In a memorandum submitted to the CM, the bishops noted that such a law would lead to “unnecessary communal issues and unrest” with many more controversial statements and reactions made following the same.
The memorandum also noted the need to include representation from Christian managements in the NEP implementation committees. “Even though thousands of educational institutions are being managed by members from the community, we would like to bring to your notice that there is no Christian representation in various committees formed to implement NEP,” the letter read.
The bishops also urged Bommai to establish a Christian Development Board under the government to ensure their welfare and address demands made by the community on various fronts.