Church fights state control of property February 24, 2010Posted by Boris Paul in Uncategorized.
Tags: Church property, Government, Trust Law
Catholics in Madhya Pradesh state have launched a campaign to garner public support against a proposed legislation that aims to bring Church properties under government control.
The Church campaign began as the central Indian state, governed by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), began its assembly session on Feb. 22. Christian leaders fear the government may introduce the proposal — the Christian Property Regulation Bill – in the month-long assembly session.
“Earlier, they (the BJP) were after us, accusing us of converting the poor. Today they are after us for our land. And tomorrow they will come to take our schools and institutions. This should be checked,” said Bishop Anthony Chirayath of Sagar, while addressing the Church’s first public awareness meeting Feb. 22 in Sagar town.
Bishop Chirayath told the gathering of some 50 people, mostly lay leaders and Religious, that the proposed law unjustly tries to control Christians’ common properties all over the state. “We have to fight this injustice,” he said.
Proposed legislation ‘violates’ rights
He told UCA News on Feb. 23 that the new legislation “is unacceptable” to the Church as it violates “our rights as citizens to administer our own properties without outside intervention.”
The Church, he said plans to hold meetings to discuss the violations that the law may cause. It will also hold public meetings and seminars in an attempt to gather public opinion against the proposal, he said.
However, Anand Bernad, the Christian member of Madhya Pradesh’s minority commission, told UCA News he initiated the law to protect the interest of Christians in the state.
He said several Protestant groups sell off common properties without consulting their people, thus impoverishing communities.
According to him, the legislation will also protect the properties from land encroachers and help people use their income for their community’s welfare better.
Sagar diocesan spokesperson Father Thomas Lal Pathil said the law proposes the creation of a government controlled body to administer Church properties, such as land linked with churches and cemeteries.
“This draconian law might give undue advantage to the government to dictate when we should celebrate Mass,” Father Pathil said.
Father Anand Muttungal, spokesperson of the Church in Madhya Pradesh, told UCA News that awareness programs would be launched across all dioceses in the state to mobilize public opinion against the proposal.
He said the Church has also initiated dialogue with top BJP leaders to convey its fears.