Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Indian bishop denies forced conversions

A Catholic bishop in Arunachal Pradesh denies claims that some groups are forcibly converting Buddhists in the northeastern Indian state.
On May 21, two Buddhist groups in the Changlang district of Arunachal Pradesh alleged groups associated with a faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland had engaged in forcible conversion practices.
A local community of Buddhist monks, the Indigenous Faith and Cultural Society of Arunachal Pradesh and Purbanchal Bhikkhu Sangha, wrote to the state’s chief secretary to take immediate and necessary steps to prevent such activities.
Bishop P.K. George of Miao, whose diocese covers the district, denied the allegations following a meeting of Baptists, Revivalists and Catholics at his residence.
However, the Salesian bishop also noted that “if there were such forceful conversions, the district’s deputy commissioner and superintendent of police will take care of them.”
Bishop George said he suspects the allegation was a ploy by two sub tribes in the state who may be jealous of the progress of Chakma tribal settlers from Bangladesh.
Local people refuse to accept the settlers.
Several Chakma tribal people have voluntarily accepted Christianity, the bishop said.
Meanwhile, the National Socialist Council of Nagaland information and publicity wing also denied the allegation. It said “vested interests” may have misused the group’s name.
The group described the allegations as a “smear campaign” to tarnish the group’s image as it is currently engaged in discussion for greater autonomy for Naga people.
It said it believes in the freedom of religion and has no links with those forcing others to convert.

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