Law against forced conversion possible: Maharashtra bishop

Panaji: There can be a law to prevent forced conversions but there should not be a blanket law against conversions per se, because it would impede the freedom to choose religion, Bishop Fr. Alwyn Barreto from Maharashtra’s Sindhudurg diocese said Saturday.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a book release event, Barreto said: “There can be a law against (conversion by) force, but there cannot be a law against conversion, because my freedom is gone… Tomorrow I might have to become a Hindu, so I have to have the right to change.”

Support TwoCircles

Barreto, who hails from Goa, further batted against forced conversion saying compulsion should be eliminated from the concept of conversion, whether it is to Christianity, Islam or Hinduism and that people’s choice to join or leave Christianity should be respected.

“Some people want to become Hindus, they are welcome. People are leaving the Catholic church, we have no problem. They are coming back they are most welcome. But there should not be forced conversion,” Barretto said.

Barreto’s Sindhudurg diocese is spread over three districts in south-west Maharashtra namely Sindhudurg, Ratnagiri and Kolpahur, which collectively have a population of nearly 30,000 Catholics.

He also said that there were no ghar-wapsi (home coming) episodes in the Sindhudurg diocese apart from a few individuals who left the Church.

A nationwide controversy erupted recently after a few right-wing Hindu organisations, some of which owe allegiance to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), organised re-conversion programmes in some north Indian states to re-convert non-Hindus to Hinduism.