MUMBAI, India – Accusations that a group of Pentecostal Christians in India were engaged in proselytism are “fabricated and baseless,” according to a Catholic archbishop.
The incident took place on Jan. 26, when a group of Hindu extremists barged into the meeting in Indore, a city in the state of Madhya Pradesh.
The meeting was taking place at Satprakashan Sanchar Kendra (Center for the Light of Truth), a media center owned by the Society of the Divine Word, a Catholic religious order that lets other Christian groups use the premises.
There were about 90 Pentecostal Christians at the prayer meeting, when a group of Hindus meeting at a neighboring school heard the sounds coming from the center. Soon a mob barged into the facility.
“There was a lot of slogan shouting about conversion activities,” said Archbishop Leo Cornelio of Bhopal.
“These goons could have enquired about the noise. If they were disturbed by the noise of praise and worship, why did they come as a mob, and terrorize the innocent vulnerable Christian people, who were praying at the center? No one can barge into a private property just because they belong to the majority community,” Cornelio said.
“These conversion allegations are completely fabricated and baseless. This is a private property, neither a school nor an institution,” he added.
Hindu nationalists often accuse Christians of using force and surreptitious tactics in pursuing conversions, often storming into villages and leading “reconversion” ceremonies in which Christians are compelled to perform Hindu rituals.
These pressures on Christians, which also affect Muslims and other religious minorities, are part of what observers describe as a broad program for the “saffronization” of India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, meaning an attempt to impose Hindu values and identity while squeezing out rival faiths.
Father Babu Joseph, the director of the Satprakashan Sanchar Kendra, said he was not at the premises when the incident happened, since the clergy had the day off for India’s Republic Day national holiday.
“As soon as we received the news of the commotion we contacted the police, and they sent the force immediately,” the priest said.
“Fortunately, the troublemakers didn’t cause any damage, except for pulling down a few photographs from the wall,” Joseph added.
Cornelio said the archdiocese informed the police about the incident and asked them to investigate the matter.
“No one has the right to barge into the private property. This is a private property. People are taking the law into their own hands, which is detrimental to our democracy, especially the ‘pseudo-nationalists.’ These pseudo-nationalists indulge in slogan shouting – propaganda – causing a law-and-order situation,” the archbishop told Crux.
“We the Christian community – just a miniscule minority – are contributing a large percentage in the development of the nation through our educational apostolate, healthcare and our social apostolate through the uplifting of the poor, the marginalized, the Dalits and Tribals, and women and girls. Why are these people targeting us?”