Indian Church Leaders Reject Hindu ‘Reconversion’ Claim
Some 184 Christians are said to have returned to the Hindu fold in a special campaign launched by the World Hindu Council
Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) activists protest against the appearance of Canadian Christian evangelist Peter Youngren in Allahabad October 22, 2013. Hindu nationalists have launched a ‘free conversion’ campaign in Jhabua district of the Central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, November 22, 2013. 6. (Photo: AFP)
Catholic Church leaders have dismissed a claim by a Hindu nationalist group that 184 Christians have been ‘converted’ to Hinduism in India’s central state of Madhya Pradesh as ‘false and misleading’.
A report by Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), or World Hindu Council, on a redeployment ceremony in Kalyanpura village in Jhabua district on November 7 said 184 Christians belonging to 38 families from 24 villages returned to the Hindu lap.
“[The] VHP’s claim is totally false. Christians of all denominations are properly documented and no one has abandoned the faith,” said Fr. Rockey Shah, Public Relations Officer for Jhabua Diocese.
The reconversion ceremony is part of propaganda aimed at defaming Christians, he told UCA News on November 9 and challenged its organizers to release details of those they claimed to have converted.
“How come so many churches are built?”
Alok Kumar, the central chairman of VHP, said a special campaign to make Jhabua district and its surrounding area “conversion-free” was launched on November 6 and will run until November 20.
He had also sought to find out from the state government how many Hindus had converted to Christianity under the provisions of the Madhya Pradesh Religious Freedom Act 2020, but the answer was “none”.
The VHP leader said this had raised suspicions about the Church’s activities in the district. “When no one has converted to Christianity, how come so many churches are built?” He asked.
Kumar further claimed that churches were built without valid permission from the state government, which was denied by Father Shah.
“All of our churches have valid permission and most of them were built even before the formation of the state. Some are up to 100 years old and even older,” the Catholic priest said.
Father Shah said that Hindu nationalists were deceiving the people on the issue of religious conversions of Christian missionaries. “We are not converting anyone illegally as claimed,” he said.
“Pretending to convert them back to Hinduism is misleading”
He said the Diocese of Jhabua was made up of second or third generation Christians. There were no new converts.
“Those targeting us should stop now,” the priest said.
Father Babu Joseph, a priest of the Divine Word based in Indore, told UCA News that the tribal people of India are animists with their own belief system. It is therefore misleading to claim to convert them back to Hinduism.
Christianity entered the region nearly a century ago and ushered in social and economic change among the tribal communities, the priest said.
“By organizing this kind of show to make the headlines, what do the disadvantaged sections gain? Are their social or economic conditions improving,” asked Father Joseph, a former spokesman for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India.
He wondered how long the government will allow organizations like the VHP to continue with their “disruptive agenda which has created deep fissures in Indian society”.
Christians make up about 4% of the one million inhabitants of Jhabua district, 93% of whom are Hindus. This figure is higher than the national average of 2.3% of Christians in India.