Po­lice, Hindu hard­lin­ers halt church wed­ding in In­dia

Pakistan Observer - - INTERNATIONAL -

NEW DELHI,—A group of hard­line Hindu ac­tivists and po­lice stormed a church in cen­tral In­dia and stopped a wed­ding mid­way af­ter ac­cus­ing the pas­tor of force­fully con­vert­ing the bride to Chris­tian­ity, an of­fi­cial said Thurs­day. It comes as In­dia’s Chris­tian mi­nor­ity has sounded the alarm over a re­cent rise in at­tacks on churches and mem­bers of the faith, fu­elling ten­sions over re­li­gious free­dom in the di­verse, sec­u­lar coun­try.

As the wed­ding got un­der­way at the Church of God in In­dia in Mad­hya Pradesh state, men be­long­ing to the fringe Hindu out­fit Ba­jrang Dal barged in ac­com­pa­nied by po­lice, who ar­rested ten peo­ple, a church spokesman said.

Right-wing Hindu groups ac­cuse churches and mis­sion­ar­ies of tar­get­ing tribal peo­ple and other poor groups with the aim of con­vert­ing them to Chris­tian­ity, claims de­nied by the clergy.

“They said it is a mat­ter of force­ful con­ver­sion and ar­rested the bride, the groom, their par­ents as well pas­tors of two churches who were present there,” Mariyosh Joseph, a spokesman for the church in Satna district told AFP.

“How can you storm into a re­li­gious place and stop a cer­e­mony like this? You will never see such a thing hap­pen­ing at a tem­ple or a mosque,” he said.

The area po­lice su­per­in­ten­dent said the wed­ding was stopped be­cause the girl was a Hindu and not yet 18, the le­gal age for women to marry in In­dia.

“The girl is a Hindu and she is 17. We acted on a com­plaint made by the bride’s un­cle. The mat­ter is un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” Mithilesh Shukla told AFP.

The In­dian Ex­press daily said the cou­ple had con­verted to Chris­tian­ity four years ago, but district au­thor­i­ties were not in­formed—a crime un­der state laws.

The church in­sisted the cou­ple were Chris­tians and ac­cused the po­lice of “hid­ing be­hind ex­cuses” to jus­tify their con­duct.

It fol­lows a se­ries of at­tacks on Chris­tian re­li­gious sites. In March, three men were ar­rested in neigh­bour­ing Ch­hat­tis­garh state af­ter they van­dalised a church dur­ing Sun­day mass.

Last year, van­dals wrapped a dog chain around the neck of a statue of the Vir­gin Mary in the north­ern tourist city of Agra.

Priests and other Chris­tian lead­ers have blamed the at­tacks on re­li­gious hard­lin­ers, who they say have be­come em­bold­ened since Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi’s right-wing gov­ern­ment swept to power in 2014.

A se­ries of mass con­ver­sions of Mus­lims and Chris­tians to Hin­duism, al­legedly in­flu­enced by Hindu hard­lin­ers some­times promis­ing fi­nan­cial in­cen­tives, have also raised con­cern.

Around 80 per­cent of In­dia’s 1.2 bil­lion pop­u­la­tion is Hindu, but it is also home to large num­bers of Mus­lims, Chris­tians and Bud­dhists.—APP

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