Christian Groups In India Protest Government Surveys

Mar 12, 2003 11:54 AM EST

AHMADABAD, India – Members of the All Indian Christian Council protested police questioning about their source of income, March 10. The AICC threatened to go to court lest the harassment by the Gujarat state’s government stopped.

Rev. Cedric Prakash, a spokesman for the United Christian Forum for Human Rights said that police in Gujurat has recently questioned members of at least 25 Christian organizations; these groups view the surveys as harassment.

"They are also asking questions like: For how long you have been Christians? Did you get converted by force, or were you lured," Prakash said.

However, the state government claimed that the surveys were not targeted specifically to Christians; instead, they were distributed by the federal Parliament to all non-governmental organizations.

The state home minister Amit Shah said police relieved no orders to specifically question Christians. "There is no malice or ill-will intended against anyone," Shah said.

According to officials, police were also questioning non-governmental organizations that have received money from abroad, especially after a massive earthquake that hit the Gujurat state in 2000. Nonetheless, the state government plans to introduce a law banning Christian proselytism and conversions by force.

The surveys come in the midst of severe hostility toward Christians in the state; Members of the World Hindu Council and Bajrang Dal, religious affiliates of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, have been accused of trashing churches and beating and killing missionaries to stop Christians from converting members of the lower castes. Such Hindi extremists accuse Christian organizations of receiving money from Western Countries to use it for conversions.

There are only 2.4 percent Christians in India. However, their influence stretches deeply because of their prominent role in education and health care. Most of the Hindi Brahman have attended a Christian school.

By Pauline J.