A National Anti-Conversion Law unfeasible says the Law Ministry

Ravi Shankar Prasad

Image Courtesy: Press Information Bureau

Newspapers reported a couple of days ago that a national anti-conversion law is unconstitutional according to the Law Ministry. The Ministry note was in response to queries from the Home Ministry. Some in the Sangh Parivar are clamoring for a national anti-conversion law.

Newspapers also reported that the issue of a ‘forced reconversion’ program came up in the national executive of the BJP. It appears that the Prime Minister and others do not support the ‘ghar-vapsi’ program.

The BJP knew that its global image took a beating because of the ‘ghar-vapsi’ and the anti-Christian attacks.

History has come full circle.

More than anyone else it is Hindu extremists and Hindutva elements that will damage the name of Hinduism.

With a national majority government comes huge responsibility. Any statements and action by Hindutva elements will reflect on Hinduism and on the Government in the modern world of digital media and instant information.

Major industry leaders like Mr. Kirloskar and Mr. Godrej said that attacks against Christians are likely to dampen investment sentiment if the extremist groups are not stopped in their hate and violence campaign.

The Prime Minister’s straightforward statement on religious freedom made in India and also made in France is welcome. He was categorical that the right to choose faith freely would be maintained as per the Constitution.

The Law Ministry has pointed out that any forced or fraudulent conversion problem is a local State law-and-order issue.

We have consistently pointed out that there are enough teeth in the Indian Penal Code to punish those engaging in forced and false conversions.

There is no need for anti-conversion laws. We wish that the demonization of Indian Christians through anti-conversion propaganda and campaigns would stop. If not, the attacks against Christians by the fringe groups will continue and horrible acts could happen.

The killing of Graham Staines and his sons was the result of the high decibel hate campaign against Christians.

Equally, we have pointed out that some of the mission language and propaganda coming out from the West has hurt the Church in India.

The Christian culture wars in the West is also not helpful for Jesus’ testimony around the world?

Graham Stains

Graham Staines and family.  Photo Courtesy: Wikipedia 

How can there be such an entity as a political Christian nation?

Jesus’ Kingdom is separate from the kingdoms of this world. How can any political State or political party claim to be representing Jesus’ Kingdom?

The Bible indicates that Christians often will be the minority. We are described as pilgrims even though we are called to impact the world as salt and light.

Jesus asks us to witness for Him. He calls us to share the Good news of the Kingdom. He calls us to do good works and transform the lives of communities and glorify Him. He calls us to reach out to the poor, the marginalized, the sinners and the downtrodden.

But we cannot manufacture the act of regeneration. It is the work of the Holy Spirit. Coming to know Jesus is the work of God.

Christians have done themselves a disservice in how they have articulated the nature of Christian regeneration in the modern world.

Mahatma Gandhi had said to Stanley Jones that even a Saul became Paul through divine revelation… and that he would be open to such a divine encounter!

Gandhi, we know, was not in favor of the kind of proselytization that may have gone on in the British era.

Some in the Sangh Parivar still view present-day Indian Christianity through the prism of British rule.

State patronage to Christianity is long gone. Their fears are unfounded. There isn’t a hidden agenda anywhere to conquer India religiously or politically.

If anything, some Hindu commentators have remarked that there is some State patronage towards Hinduism. If it is there, we can understand this in a majority Hindu nation. Others believe that the Presidential ordinance of 1950 where only Dalit Hindus were eligible for reservation benefits was an act of State patronage for Hinduism.

It is time for the Sangh Parivar to revisit their prejudices and views on Indian Christianity. It is time for them to initiate conversations with Indian Christians.

It is within our long Indian culture to have religious freedom as enshrined in the Constitution. India is a free nation and a democracy.

The Law Ministry’s view is a positive development.

We hope that some States would revisit their anti-conversion laws and remove State interference in personal freedoms. The revoking of the anti-conversion law in Tamil Nadu State some years ago was positive for the image of India. It did not result in forced and fraudulent conversions.

The hope is that the politicization of the issue of conversion will cease. The Law Ministry has taken the first step.

+Joseph D’Souza
Bishop Moderator,
The Good Shepherd Church & Associated Ministries India.
(for feedback or comments please write to joseph.dsouza@gsoim.org)