In the wake of the Karnataka government mulling a stringent anti-conversion law, the Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Bangalore (AOB), Peter Machado, on Friday, November 19, questioned the need for such an exercise. In a letter addressed to the Chief Minister, he said there was no need for a fresh legislation "when sufficient laws and court directives are in place to monitor any aberration of the existing lawsâ€ť. Machado, in a memorandum to CM Basavaraj Bommai, said, "The entire Christian community in Karnataka opposes the proposal of Anti-Conversion Bill in one voice and questions the need for such an exercise when sufficient laws and court directives are in place to monitor any aberration of the existing laws."
He said Article 25 of the Constitution "guarantees freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion, subject to public order, morality and health". Further, Article 26 says that all denominations of religions can manage their own affairs in matters of religion, and therefore, introducing laws such as the anti-conversion legislation would infringe on the rights of citizens, especially the minority communities, the archbishop said.
He pointed out that the Backward Classes and Minorities Welfare Department of Karnataka have issued an order to conduct a survey of both official and non-official Christian missionaries and the Christian institutions and establishments functioning in the state.
"When all the relevant data is already available (through the census) with the government, why do we need yet another futile exercise? Why is only the Christian community targeted and marked for this arbitrary, fallacious and illogical move? What is the motive that is driving them to do so?" Machado asked.
He also challenged the government to prove if people studying in Christian education institutions and getting treated in Christian hospitals have been influenced, compelled or coerced to change their religion.
The archbishop also expressed fear that the anti-conversion law can become a tool for the fringe elements to take the law into their own hands and vitiate the atmosphere with communal unrest in the otherwise peaceful state.
"We strongly appeal to the goodwill of the Chief Minister and the cabinet not to promote such an undesirable and discriminatory bill in the interest of the harmony, peace and in the society," he said.
The Archdiocese was supposed to organise a peace rally in the city but it was postponed due to the rains. However, over 100 Christian leaders met at the St Joseph's Indian High School Grounds on Friday, according to the Archdiocese of Bangalore.
The letter to the CM was written after Bommai had once again said on November 12 that the state will soon have an anti-conversion law like those enacted by other BJP-ruled state governments like Uttar Pradesh.