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Monday, January 30, 2023

National campaign against Christian conversions intensifies, petition in Supreme Court

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A Christian from the Roman Catholic faith named Jerome Anto has joined the nationwide drive to prevent Christian conversions. His lawyer, Bharti Tyagi, has petitioned the Supreme Court for action against deceptive religious conversions performed by other Christian denominations.

The Petitioner is a politico-religious observer who opposes deceptive religious conversion carried out by several independent Christian denominations in India. He has admitted to being a victim of several conversion attempts by other Christian denominations to quit his Catholic devotion and accept their worship ideology. Protestants, Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Church of Christ are among the groups that have reached him. He accuses that these denominations claim that Roman Catholics are falsely worshiping Jesus, of being the Devil’s followers, and will go to hell, according to the petition.

The petition was submitted under Article 32 of the Constitution, trying to seek necessary guidance and tougher measures against bogus religious conversions conducted out through harassment, allurement, trickery, attracting through gifts and financial gains and thus violating Articles 14, 21, and 25 of the Constitution. According to the petitioner, incidences of conversion utilizing these deceptive techniques are recorded every week across the country, but the Centre has not adopted strong measures to halt this problem.

The petitioner has requested that an anti-conversion act be enacted in India, adding, “I have recognized that conversion is a form of cultural terrorism that preys on indigenous communities and their traditions”. It is also brought out by him in the appeal that, “All conceivable methods are employed both from inside and outside the nation to promote these kinds of conversions. The fact that FCRA of several Christian NGOs have been cancelled demonstrates that funds are being utilized for conversion under the guise of humanitarian assistance”.

The petitioner also claims that the process of conversion will harm India since Christianity is incompatible with Hinduism in all aspects, including cuisine, customs and traditions, festivals, religious practices, devotion, ayurveda, rituals, yoga, and so on. According to the appeal, because of the Centre’s inactivity, numerous Church Planters, NGOs, full time and part time paid missionaries and organizations are participating in alluring, deception, intimidating, harassment, enticing defenceless and vulnerable people mostly from among the Hindu faiths.

According to the complaint, a Houston-based Missionary proselytized over 3,20,000 individuals and converted over 19,600 in central India in 2010, and in October 2010, Joyce Meyer Ministries (an NGO based in Fenton, Missouri) initiated a one-week healthcare exposure in Kolkata, where over 2,200 individuals were handled and 1,300 people were converted. In addition, 25 child evangelists and 100 ‘church planters’ are educated monthly at Source Light Ministries (South African NGO). Church planting is a procedure that occurs when a new church is created.

“Many unethical exploitative conversion methods are routinely employed”, the petitioner explains.

The monetary enticement is one way, in which humanitarian help through financing academic, health and social support is provided on the premise provided the individual converts. If they are not converting, they continue to interact and harass the sponsored recipient as a price for service provided in exchange for conversion. The promotion of ‘bigotry,’ i.e., deliberately and actively promoting religious hate and aggression, is a third immoral, predatory strategy.

Exploitative forcible conversion rips the fabric of societies apart and has resulted in the extinction of civilizations. According to the petition, various evangelical parties are operating with the objective of ‘planting a church a day’ aiming at about 4,80,000 unreached communities, and there are currently more than 20 such organizations functioning in tribal-dominated Bastar district to educate the tribals.

“Most missionaries say that you cannot pray or serve two deities; you cannot be a Hindu and a Christian”, the petitioner wrote.

The missionaries emphasize that once a person converts to Christianity, he must stop participating in Hindu festivals and worships and abandon his previous customs. This causes conflict at the local and household levels. Through flyers distributed by evangelical organizations, Christian missionaries frequently disparage Hindu saints and Gods. The petitioner further claims that proof of deceptive religious conversion may be found on social media, especially on YouTube and Facebook, and that foreign-funded people and NGOs are given a clear route map and monthly targets for the number of religious conversions to be achieved.

According to the petitioner, Hindus make up 79% of the country, falling from 86% in 2001, while Christians are the dominant in Mizoram (88%), Nagaland (88%), Meghalaya (75%), Manipur (42%), Arunachal Pradesh (31%), Goa, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and West Bengal. While Muslims constitute a dominance in Lakshadweep (97%), Kashmir (96%), and Ladakh (46%), Assam (35%), Bengal (28%), Kerala (27%), Uttar Pradesh (20%), and Bihar (18%) also have a considerable Muslim population.

“Society groups were horrified in December 2021 when eight youngsters from Saint Joseph School, a Missionary School in the Vidisha district of Madhya Pradesh, were forcibly converted to Christianity,” the petitioner claims. Just at the moment, the Ahirwar Sarnaj Sangh filed a complaint with the Vidisha District Magistrate. Footage of youngsters being converted by pouring water upon them during a prayer service got a lot of attention. According to social organizations, the school is being exploited as a cover to conduct a conversion hustle. The petitioner also mentioned claimed incidences at Raisen (M.P.), Gandhinagar (Gujarat), Sagar (M.P.), and other places. The complaint mentions events such as teachers tearing off Rakhis from children’s wrists, penalizing girl students for having henna (mehndi) on their palms, serving beef at  Ashram to pupils, and so on.

According to the petitioner, practices adopted by Christian organizations to convert are

  • Establishing care homes,
  • lending money as loans,
  • operating Missionaries Institutions,
  • healthcare facilities and other various charities works,
  • organizing International and National seminars under the guise of environmental safeguard for humanitarian causes,
  • using social, electronic, or print media,
  • Through adoption of Hindu cultural practices that mislead Hindus for the Bible and Yeshu, like Isa Bhagwat, Isa bhajan, etc.

The petitioner also claims that the Christians’ Missionaries primary focus for conversions is on poor uneducated tribal people living in distant or forest regions of the eastern states, Chhattisgarh, and Madhya Pradesh by offering healthcare facilities, lending loans, meals, and so on, and that stats suggest an enormous rise in the Christian population in a lot of these states.

The petitioner also cited instances like Gujarat Urja Vikas Nigam Ltd v Essar Power [(2016) 9 SCC 103], BCCI v. Bihar Cricket Association [(2016) 8 SCC 535], AP Pollution Control Board [(2001)2 SCC 62], and others. In his petition, he claims that the improper religious conversion is a flagrant violation of Articles 14, 15, 21, 25, and 29 of the Constitution. The petitioner has asked the Supreme Court to order the Centre-States to adopt rigorous measures to regulate bogus religious conversions and religious conversions using pressure, threats, and deception through materialistic and financial rewards.

The Supreme Court had urged the Attorney General to assist the Court in the subject at the last session of the group of cases standing before the Apex Court against deceptive religious conversions. During a previous trial, the Court stated that the goal of philanthropy should never be conversion.

When we spoke to Jerome Anto, he mentioned that India is home to indigenous people. Throughout the world, missionaries have a horrible track history of degrading indigenous people and finally eradicating their traditions and practices by branding them as evil. He stated that India is the only surviving culture and that India is a signatory to the 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

He claims that the Declaration safeguards indigenous peoples’ rights to their common biocultural inheritance in its entirety, comprising historic wisdom and sources, territories, cultural and spiritual values, and customary laws. It is obligated by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. However, the fact that the Abrahamic religions (both Christianity and Islam) are predatory and opportunistic missionary religions by design will harm India. According to him, the Indian government has a duty to safeguard its indigenous people. He swore to battle for this issue, which is why he has knocked on the Supreme Court’s doors. He is hopeful that he will receive a fair decision on his petition.

The next round of outstanding cases will be heard on February 7. Cause Diary No. 1307-2023, Jerome Anto v. Union of India and Others.

Sonakshi Datta
Sonakshi Datta
Journalist who wants to cover the truth which others look the other way from.

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