Christians threatened by new anti-Conversion law in India’s Gujarat state
Jesuit Father Cedric Prakash, a well-known human rights activist said under the new “draconian” law even “a blessing given in good faith to a person from different religion can be construed as an attempt to religious conversion.”
Catholic Church leaders in India have opposed an anti-conversion law passed by Gujarat state, saying it goes against the Indian Constitution which allows citizens to profess, practice and propagate a religion of their choice. Opponents want the western Indian state government to abrogate the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act 2021, which was passed on April 1.
Jesuit Father Cedric Prakash, a well-known human rights activist based in Ahmedabad, Gujarat’s commercial hub, said under the new “draconian” law even “a blessing given in good faith to a person from different religion can be construed as an attempt to religious conversion.” Gujarat had already enacted an anti-conversion in 2003; the new act is its amended form and includes stringent provisions for up to 10 years jail and a fine of up to 500,000 Indian rupees ($6750), Prakash told Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).
The nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP, Indian People’s Party) that now rules the state amended the law for the purpose of checking the “love jihad,” mostly to target Muslim youths who allegedly feign love to marry girls from other religions and convert them to Islam.
According to Prakash, the new law targets both Christians and Muslims. “Other religions in the country are considered part of Hinduism, India’s main religion.” The Hindu nationalists oppose Christianity and Islam because of their foreign origin and target their followers, accusing them of promoting religious conversion or eating beef, among other things.
The new law, Prakash charged, has given the Hindu nationalists more power to persecute a Christian merely on the basis of a false allegation of religious conversion—and the law has put the burden of proving the allegation on the accused rather than the accuser.