600 Dalit Christians "Return" to Hinduism

BIJEPUR, India, MAY 4, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Some 600 Christian Dalit tribals converted to Hinduism in the state of Orissa, urged on by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the religious wing of the Bharatiya Janata Party.

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The BJP promotes a nationalist and mono-religious ideology and is backed by fundamentalist movements opposed to the Catholic Church’s social service and development programs.

In recent years, episodes of violence have been witnessed against religious minorities, particularly aimed at «returning» Christian converts to Hinduism.

Monday, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad organized a ceremony overseen by Hindu religious men, in a school in Bijepur, in which 120 Christian Dalit families «embraced» Hinduism once again, AsiaNews reported. Groups of armed policeman and five public security officers stood by.

Bishop Lucas Kerketta of Sambalpur, a diocese in the northeastern state of Orissa, pointed the finger at Hindu extremists, accusing them of taking advantage of the poverty and desperation of Dalit Christians.

«These people are poor and uneducated and work for the most part as farmhands,» he said. «Every day, the VHP tries to entice them with offers if money and clothes.

«When this tactic doesn’t work, they get heavy-handed and use intimidation and violence, threatening people with job loss if they continue to practice Christianity.»

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