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MUMBAI, India – Catholic and Church of North India leaders have met with Sikh leaders in the Indian state of Punjab to foster religious harmony in the wake of accusations of “misleading” missionary efforts by “fake” Christian pastors.
The meeting on Sept. 7 follows a violent act of vandalism at the Infant Jesus Catholic Church in the village of Patti, where a group of armed men destroyed a statue of Jesus and Mary before torching a car on the premises.
Punjab is the homeland of India’s Sikh religion, who make up over half the population. Christians make up just 1.3 percent of the people. Most Christians either belong to the Catholic Church or the Church of North India, a Protestant denomination that belongs to the Anglican Communion, the World Methodist Council and the World Communion of Reformed Churches.
Recently, a Christian group claiming an Anglican heritage has been aggressively proselytizing in the state.
The bishops urged the Jathedar, an ordained Sikh clergy leader, to collaborate with the mainline churches to expose the deep-rooted conspiracy aimed at disturbing harmony between the Sikhs and the Christians. They said some self-styled “custodians of Christian faith” were posing as office-bearers of the Anglican Church of India, which has no legal standing.
According to the Tribune News Service, Sikh religious leader Giani Harpreet Singh called on the mainstream Christian leaders to initiate legal proceedings against the “fake” Christian pastors who indulged in fraudulent practices to gain pastors.
“The Christian leaders will have to take a stern action against them. The Sikhs will cooperate with you,” he said.
Church of North India Bishop PK Samantaroy emphasized that mainline churches do not use fraudulent means of evangelization.
“If anyone pretends to possess miraculous powers to heal or address the problems, it will be nothing short of insulting the Almighty. We strongly condemn such elements openly and disown them. On the basis of evidence of their wrongdoings, they will be liable to face legal action,” he said during the meeting.
The apostolic administrator of the Catholic diocese of Jalandhar, Bishop Agnelo Gracias, also assured the Sikh leaders that force and allurement were not used to gain converts, and noted the good relations between Christians and Sikhs in India.
“We have a long tradition of living peacefully with all. We will not allow ‘small groups’ to disturb the harmony,” Gracias said.
Meanwhile, in light of the attack on the parish church, the Punjab and Haryana High Court on Sept. 6 told the civil authorities to protect church property in the state.