Volume - 7 : Issue - 3

Published : Jul. - Sep. 2008

Group : Issues


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Karan Thapar interview's VINCENT CONCESSAO – Archibishop of Delhi and President “National United Christian Forum” on CNN.IBN channel on 28th September 2008, on the conversions' issue.

Gist of interview

KT :   What is the prevalent feeling amongst Christians in India – following the recent attacks against Churches and Christians?

VC :   There is a great sense of insecurity and that the government is not doing enough to prevent these atrocities and give adequate protection to Christians.

KT :   Is there a feeling of being not wanted, discriminated?

VC :   No the attacks are not from Indians per se – but engineered by organizations like the BAJRANG DAL & VHP. How else can you explain the large crowds assembled overnight to carry out the attacks. These organizations should be banned.

KT :   A senior member of the Orissa Government has stated that the Biju Patnaik government has done everything in its power to put an end to these attacks.

VC :   NOT AT ALL, not even the minimum has been done by the Chief Minister.

KT :   Are you accusing him of dereliction of duty?

VC :   YES! Even today churches are being burned in Kadhamal, thousands are hiding in jungles, without food and shelter, in pouring rain – unable to return to their homes and hearth. The Archbishop of Bangalore also met the Karnataka Chief Minister and appraised him of the atrocities in that state but I get the feeling that the BJP governments are colluding with the Bajrang Dal and VHP.

KT :   What was the outcome of your own meeting with Congress Party President SONIA GANDHI and Prime Minister MANMOHAN SINGH?

VC :   They were sympathetic and expressed concern but pointed out their limitation on account of the matter being a state subject.

KT :   But there was no response to your appeal to repeal the ban of conversion in Himachal Pradesh also.

VC :   Perhaps Sonia Gandhi doesn't react more strongly because of the fear that she may be accused of being pro-christian due to the fact that she herself is a Christian.

All I can say is these fringe groups like Bajrang Dal and VHP do not consist of Hindus; but propagators of HINDUTVA on the lines of terrorist fascist groups akin to Nazism of Hitler. True Hinduism does not propagate violence or attacks on any religion.

KT :   But according to the Bajrang Dal the church is responsible for inviting reprisals on account of its vilification  of Indian Gods. Is the church in no way connected to 'SATYA DARSHINI' – a publication that states 'BRAHMA, VISHNU & KRISHNA were victims of lust; VISHNU'S daughter URVASHI was a prostitute and KRISHNA represents forces of darkness.'

VC :   I condemn and disassociate the church from this publication. You cannot hold Christianity responsible for the work of one man.

KT :   But the author Rev. Paravastu Sooryanarayana (who runs the Carmel Church, in a slum adjoining Motinagar, Borabanda – Andhra Pradesh) and revised by Rev. Samson S. Malekar are both members of the Christian clergy. How can you deny association?

VC :   There are many groups, associations, churches of Christianity and I don't know this association.

KT :   Shouldn't the church take disciplinary action against them?

VC :   The group or association they belong to should take appropriate action.

KT :   This is not the first time, even in the past, organizations like SOUTHERN BAPTISTS, 2001 & BEYOND – have denigrated Hinduism and what they called HOPELESS DARKNESS OF HINDUISM – how are these publications permitted?

VC :   We have no control over all the groups claiming to be Christians. There may be a few misguided groups with narrow interpretations.
KT :   Finally, what is your response to the accusations that the church exploits illiteracy – encouraging conversions. Even as far back as 1956, NIYOGI COMMITTEE REPORT stated that the church used its good work in catholic schools to encourage conversions.

VC :   Unlike the fringe groups who serve with the ulterior motive of garnering votes we serve because of our commitment to serve and to Christ. If they come to us to and seek our assistance to convert – we are happy. It is not that we force them to convert. We believe forced conversion is invalid.

KT :   Do you agree that in the greater interest of peace and integrity the church should declare a moratorium of 10 / 15 years on conversion? I don't say that you give up your right to convert but at least refrain from doing so for sometime in the greater national interests.

VC :   No! Freedom of conversion is given to us by the constitution. How can you limit the freedom of people to choose their religion?