MUMBIA, India – A Catholic cardinal in India inaugurated a new parish in a state which last year passed a controversial anti-conversion law.

St Anthony’s parish had since 1963 been a mission substation in Saparom village. On April 8, Cardinal Telesphore Placidus Toppo raised its status to a parish in a ceremony involving thousands of people.

“It was a joy to see so many people, nearly 8,000 people – children, youth, adults, elderly, people of all ages and walks of life participating in the inauguration with joy and fervor in the inauguration. God dwells In a Holy House. Faith is growing. Nothing deters the people. Their love for Christ and Church increases,” the cardinal told Crux.

Toppo is the Archbishop of Ranchi, the capital of the Indian state of Jharkhand.

Jharkhand is located in the east of the country, and the majority of the population is Hindu, although there are many followers of tribal religions and Islam. Christians make up a little less than 5 percent of the population.

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Last year, the state legislature passed an anti-conversion law, in which anyone converting someone to a different religion through “force or allurement” could face three years in jail.

Jharkhand, like India’s national government, is ruled by the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has strong links to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a militant Hindu nationalist organization.

During the parish celebration, Toppo said in spite of the Church’s “tribulations,” the Christian community is continuing to slowly progress, especially by the Church apostolates in healthcare, education, and social welfare.

He told Crux this was especially true for the state’s tribal population, which make up over 25 percent of the population. The cardinal is himself a member of the tribal community.

“It was a significant moment in the life of the people,” said Claretian Father Maurice Kullu, the parish priest.

“Our parish is a mixed parish. Besides the locals and tribal population, we have many people from outside the state, who are working around this area. It is wonderful and fulfilling to see the faith being nourished and growing among the people,” Kullu said.