Survey of Karnataka’s Christian missionaries and places of worship, a dangerous exercise: Archbishop

When conversion bogey, anti-religious feelings are being whipped up, it is dangerous to make such surveys, says Archbishop of Bengaluru Archdiocese Peter Machado


The Archbishop of Bengaluru has reacted strongly to the reports of Karnataka’s Backward & Minority Welfare Department’s survey of “Christian missionaries and places of worship”. The Church leader has stated that such a decision can lead to targeting of Christians, especially their religious places and leaders, as incidents have already been reported from North Karnataka.

On Friday, Archbishop of Bengaluru Archdiocese Peter Machado wrote, “We are sad that the Hon’ble Chief Minister, Shri Basavaraj Bommai, whom we regard highly as a broad-minded and enlightened person, succumbs to pressures from fundamentalist groups, who wish to indulge in disturbing the peace, harmony and peaceful co-existence in society.” 

The Archbishop said that the proposed survey of the Christian missionaries and places of worship was a “futile and unnecessary” exercise “no good will come out of it”. He reminded the authorities that “in the background of the conversion bogey and anti-religious feelings that are being whipped up, it is dangerous to make such surveys. With this our community places of worship as also pastors and sisters will be identified and may be unfairly targeted. We are already hearing of such sporadic incidents in the north and in Karnataka already.”

He asked why was the government interested in surveying the religious personnel and places of worship only of the Christian Community? He stated that the government can instead count the educational institutions and health centres run by the Christian missionaries and “that will give a fair idea of the service that is rendered by the Christian Community to nation building.” He also raised crucial questions on the allegations of conversions, asking, “How many people are converted in these places and institutions? If, as alleged by some, Christians are converting indiscriminately, why is the percentage of Christian population reducing regularly when compared to the others?”

The Archbishop shared that Christians are “always against forceful, fraudulent and incentivised conversions and we repeat that we are lawfully abiding by the prescriptions of the Constitution of India, which for us is supreme and sacred. Does not the Constitution in Article 25 (also 26, 29 & 30) ensure the freedom of every citizen to profess, practice and propagate his/her religion without fear or force? Why do we need any anti-conversion laws when there are enough safeguards enshrined in the Constitution and the legal system of the country to punish the guilty? Further laws will only be tools in the hands of a few to hound and persecute the innocent. Just a few days back the Madras Court declared that merely going to church and displaying Christian symbols does not mean that a person has converted. The Christian Community is patriotic, law abiding and would like to be foremost in the service of the poor and downtrodden in the country.”

The full text of the Archbishop of Bangalore’s statement may be read here: 

What is this survey about?

According to multiple news reports, the  legislative committee on Backward Classes and Minorities Welfare in Karnataka has reportedly “ordered a survey of authorised and unauthorised churches, their priests and registering cases wherever complaints arose regarding forcible religious conversion.” Hosadurga BJP MLA, Gulihatti Shekhar, a member of the committee, told the media on Friday that the district authorities have already been asked “to furnish a detailed report on the number of authorised and unauthorised churches and Christian priests.” The committee is chaired by Dinakar Keshav Shetty.

The district authorities, especially in Yadgir, Chidradurga and Vijayapura have been asked to conduct the survey and it has been alleged that “religious conversions are rampant” here. According to Gulihatti Shekhar, “We have also instructed police to accompany the officials during the survey as the officials were attacked on many occasions,” and police have been told “register a case on receiving complaints and conduct a fair inquiry.” 

Shekhar told the media that the last meeting of the committee also discussed denying “double benefit” to those belonging to the scheduled castes who have converted to Christianity. He said, “You cannot avail the benefit of SC and also a minority. You can have only one. Due to these practices, the actual scheduled caste people are not getting the benefits.” He claimed that “religious conversion was rampant among the socially weaker sections, especially Bovi and Lamani communities”.


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