Christian Living

Spiritual Life

Call for Urgent Worldwide Prayer and Action

In a calculated move that has surprised the people of India and caused deep concern among the Christian leadership, the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu Miss Jayalalitha, who has been supporting the extremist Hindu groups of the Sangh Parivar, passed a draconian anti-conversion law last week. Tamil Nadu is the southernmost state in India.

The intended targets of this law that puts severe curbs on the peoples right to religion as enshrined in the Indian Constitution are primarily the Christian and Dalit communities. Dalits are among the lowest caste Indians. This law requires all conversions to be reported to a magistrate.

It also announces a stiff penalty for anybody engaged in converting a person through force, fraud and allurement. The law does not define the words "force, fraud and allurement." It is common knowledge that such ambiguous terminology has been used to harass and intimidate Christians in the states of Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, and Arunachal Pradesh. Even Christian education and spiritual blessings and rewards have been treated as 'allurement' and divine displeasure (judgment) has been interpreted as 'force'.

What is interesting about the law is the stiff punishment and penalty it reserves for conversions among the Dalits and marginalized women.

The mass desertion of Hinduism by Dalits has become a phenomenon today. Dalits have found the courage to reject the Brahminical system that has totally dehumanized them through the centuries. Even today the Brahminical domination of Hinduism is total and the wholesale victimization of Dalits goes on daily in many different parts of India. In recent months there was the story of Dalits in Tamil Nadu being forced to eat human excrement.

It is common knowledge that more and more Dalits are freely and voluntarily turning to Christ. Tamil Nadu is no exception. Instead of asking the question why the Dalits are deserting Hinduism, the Sangh Parivar and it's friends have launched severe persecution of Indian Christians during the last few years. This has included a national hate campaign against Christians and the bringing of legislation that curbs and restricts religious freedom.

The blatant introduction of the law in Tamil Nadu bodes ill for the Christian community, the minorities and Dalits in India, considering the fact that Tamil Nadu is considered to have a large and strong Christian community with a Christian tradition that goes back 2000 years. If the law is not repealed in Dravidian (non- Brahminical) society and where Christianity has had a strong base, then there is very little hope for states where Christians are a miniscule minority. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad has already welcomed the law and is demanding the same for all states. Just remember that Tamil Nadu is the state where the anti-Brahminical movement has been able to exercise political power for many years and yet today we have a draconian law that is directed against the Church and Dalits. Tamil Nadu church leaders have stated that this is a do or die battle for them and the Church in India. It is imperative that this ordinance is repealed.

All India Christian Council's Response and Prayer Requests:

1. A nationwide non-violent protest and agitation has been called for by the Christian Council on Oct. 19. Christians, Dalits and members of other minorities as well as political leaders from parties that support freedom of religion will participate in the nationwide protest. A major protest rally will be held in Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu. Protest rallies will also take place in the capital cities of many states.

2. The Christian Council has also decided to challenge the law in the High Court of Chennai. Dalits, Christians and other minority groups will be the petitioners who challenge this unconstitutional law.

3. The Christian Council's overseas friends are being encouraged to put international pressure on the Indian and Tamil Nadu government to stop the steady erosion of the fundamental rights of the minorities. The Gujarat carnage was directed largely against the Muslims. The Tamil Nadu law is directed against Christians and is far more destructive than physical violence.

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