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The Rediff Special/ Father Donald D'Souza
'Conversion is no excuse for crime'
Father Donald D'Souza, secretary general, Catholic Bishops Conference of India, in an interview with Chindu Sreedharan.
How do view the recent spate of attacks against Christians?
We are not sure who exactly these people are. But we know surely that these are not sporadic attacks but systematically planned attacks.
What do you think is their agenda?
They want to destabilise the Christian community. Many Christian institutions are empowering the poor people of India. Maybe they fear that if the poor become aware of their rights they will become a threat to those dominating them. This could be one of the reasons.
The VHP alleges that you are converting people forcibly.
Conversion is not an issue. That's no excuse for crime. Besides, we live in a democratic country. The Constitution gives us the right to propagate our religion.
They say we are converting by fraud and inducement to the poor people. In our schools, seven million children study. I would like to ask them how many are getting converted, which of our schools are trying to convert. We give a secular education.
We are not doing anything more than what we did in the last 50 years. If we were converting we should have become at least one per cent more. How come then that in the last 50 years or so our numbers have reduced from 2.8 per cent to 2.3 per cent?
They are creating an enemy where there was none. And the softest target is the Christians. Because we do not hit back. Recently there was a bomb in a mosque in Guntur. Within 24 hours, 40 buses were damaged. See, immediate retaliation in some other communities. But we were never known to be violent. So they thought, let's try our luck with these people.
Attacking the Muslims did not get them more votes. Now they have started another one. Maybe [ with this] they want to keep the Hindus together to vote for a particular ideology. That may be the explanation: They want to create a perceived enemy, and a perceived threat so that the others [ Hindus] are kept together to vote.
The VHP claims that this is an international conspiracy to get rid of the government in New Delhi, which it supports. They say that you are playing into the hands of some vested foreign interests.
When people suggested that we appeal to the United Nations and Amnesty International, I always said: why should we appeal to anybody outside our own government. Ours is a democratic country. We want normalcy in the country.
Our faith may be Christian but we are Indians. It was reported recently that the Bajrang Dal wanted us to leave the country. Where do we go? We have been here for ages and we will be till the end of the world. We have appealed to the government to create normalcy and we are confident that it is capable of stopping these fundamentalist outfits. Our intelligence agencies are very strong and capable. If they want they can find out who these people are. Those people who have murdered, looted and burned Bibles have to be identified and arrested. The government has to do that.
Statistically, Christians get only four per cent of the foreign funds that come into the country. Ninety six per cent goes to other people. So it is a Canard that we get all the funds. And they very well know where the funds go.
Another allegation of the VHP is that thanks to Sonia Gandhi's "rise", the Christians feel that they can have the "best of times and get away with anything."
If at all we meet Sonia Gandhi, or have any connection with her, it is as the leader of the Opposition. Not because of her convictions.
What's your plan of action to counter such attacks?
We have to tell these outfits, listen, come to your senses. Find out what's happening. We have to help them to remove the misunderstanding. Tell them that we are like anybody else. Christians have become the heads of the army and the secret service. We should trust each other.
INTERVIEW: Vishnu Hari Dalmia, international president, VHP
PART 3: The truth that killed Vikay Ekka
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