End fraudulent conversions of Dalits and Tribals
by R L Francis on 15 Sep 2008 5 Comments

The tragic turn of events in Kandhamal in Orissa once again highlights the urgent need for church authorities to immediately halt the fraudulent conversions of India’s Tribal and Dalit populace, which are causing so much heart-burning and cultural anxiety.
[The Constitutional term for the latter group is Scheduled Caste, but missionaries have coined and propagated the term ‘Dalit’ – Editor] 
As the menace of conversions is perpetuated with the receipt of foreign funds, the Poor Christian Liberation Movement (PCLM) has steadfastly demanded that the church utilize all foreign funds exclusively for the welfare and uplift of poor Christians who are suffering from terrible discrimination within the community. Indeed, this is the reason why PCLM has been petitioning the Government of India not to appoint Bishops, priests and nuns to official Commissions and Committees, and instead appoint ordinary Christians.
The church annually receives so much money that we want the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) and the National Christian Council of India (NCCI) to set up a Rs. 1000 crore “Dalit Christian Development Fund” to ensure the integrated social and economic development of this huge populace that was lured to Christianity on the promise of a better life.
Considering the confusion created by propagation activities in remote areas, the PCLM demands that church authorities defer mass conversion programmes for at least a century. It is our view that evangelism cannot be a measurement of a society’s socio-economic development. Rather, the evangelism programme funds should be utilized for the welfare of Dalits and Tribals who have already been converted to Christianity, and whose lot has not been improved by the church.
There should be reservation of seats for Dalit and Tribal Christians, as well as other Dalits, in Church-run schools, colleges, technical institutions and other vocational organizations. As of now, the reality is that a handful of priests and bishops are monopolizing Church funds and property in the country. This has led to sharp deterioration of the conditions of   neo-converted Christians who are living in a pitiable condition, deprived of basic necessities.
Instead of worrying about their living conditions, the church leadership is interested only in increasing the numbers of its flock. Even worse, a large chunk of foreign funds are being utilized for purchasing land and for the luxurious lifestyles of a few Christian leaders in India. Bishops are monopolizing the Church estates and treating it as their own property and are indulging in its sale-purchase without the consent of the community.
The children of poor Dalit and Tribal Christians do not even complete their primary education. None of the 40,000 educational institutions run by the church give admission to the children of Dalit Christians. This is the reason that in the last two decades many poor Christians have gone back to Hinduism due to maltreatment by the church.
For this reason, some of us feel that the Government of India and the Supreme Court should redefine minority educational institutions and de-classify those Christian minority institutions which do not admit Christian children. They should also be taxed as commercial ventures.
There is no case for caste-based reservations for the Christian community in India, as this would institutionalize the discrimination against the poor Christians and blight their future forever. The teachings of Jesus Christ do not permit discrimination amongst his followers. All Christians are born in the image of God. Hence, if the Church in India pursues reservation for Christians on the basis of caste, it must pay compensation to poor Christians converted to Christianity in the past, for discrimination and oppression and false promises.
The Government of India should also introduce special laws to protect Church property and land that is currently being misused and sold by vested interests.
We also feel that the Vatican must stop appointing bishops and must follow the system in China. The Dalit and Tribal Christians must be appointed to important positions in the institutions of the Catholic Church. As the Church is the largest employer after the Government of India, poor Christians should be given 50% job reservations in Christian educational and medical institutions.
Above all, the church should not criticize other religions, as this creates unnecessary ill-will. The time has come when pluralistic societies must be accepted. Hence the focus on fraudulent conversion and increasing the number of “rice Christians” does not serve the faith. The Church should instead promote multi-culturalism and inter-faith dialogue.
The author is convener, Poor Christian Liberation Movement (PCLM)

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