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The Rediff Interview/Rev Fr Oneil D\'Souza

'We are against forcible conversions'

September 17, 2008

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The peaceful co-existence between Hindus and Christians in Mangalore has been rocked for the first time ever. Incidents of churches being attacked and damage to public property have left ghastly images in the minds of the people.

Rev Fr Oneil D'Souza, speaking to special correspondent Vicky Nanjappa on behalf of Bishop Rev Dr Aloysius D'Souza, says incidents of the past three days have saddened them. Attacks on the churches have left a scar in their minds and the arrest of innocent Christians the day after the violence has only made matters worse.

Why did the protest by Christians turn violent the day after the attack on churches?

The agitation was spontaneous. A peaceful protest was being observed against the incidents that occurred on Sunday. However, some people could not control their emotions.

It is said that several innocent Christians had been arrested. Is that true?

Yes, that is true. Some people were inside the church and were not even part of the protest. Even women, who were inside saying their prayers, have been picked up. We just want those innocent persons to be released.

Churches were attacked on Sunday. How has the reaction of the Christian community been?

We are obviously saddened by what has happened. However, we want peace and do not want to further this madness. All we demand is that those who have attacked churches be brought to book. We also hope that Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa acts on this issue and solves it amicably.

There have been allegations that an organisation called New Life is into forcible conversions. What is the Church doing about this?

New Life does not come under the Church and we do not have any control over them.

What do you have to say about the conversions that have been taking place?

We have 150 institutions under us and not one is involved in conversions. If anyone is saying that we are indulging in conversions, then come before us and prove it. Each one has a right to follow a religion, but we are against forcible conversions.

How do you think that this issue should be solved?

No one has the right to take law into his hands. We are all governed by the law and I feel that everyone should sit across the table, discuss the issue and let the law take its own course.


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