Says some high caste Hindus fear losing cheap labor of converted lower caste “untouchables”
By Steve Jalsevac, LifeSiteNews.com, June 20, 2006
COCHIN, Kerala, India, June 20, 2006 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The following is the second part of the LifeSiteNews.com May 31 interview with Syro Malabar Cardinal Varkey Vitheryathil. In this part we discussed the issue of “forced conversion” laws in place in some Indian states.
LifeSiteNews: In Kerala these past few weeks we have noticed quite a few articles about the “forced conversion” laws. Newspaper editorials are critical of Pope Benedict’s statement about the laws and one editorial referred to that statement as “Papal Bull”.
Cardinal Varkey: There is a growing Hindu fundamentalism. Before, when we were under Nehru, we were safe. The fundamentalists would not get even two seats in parliament. This fundamentalism was being spread through the villages, we didn’t even know it. They propagated hatred for missionaries, hatred for Christianity. They captured power in India as the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party – which bills itself as India’s largest political party). They expected to continue but they neglected the religious. Many of them are high caste Hindus. They are often only interested in the development of the upper class – Brahmins; but they are only a small number. The people recently voted against them [BJP] and elected Sonia Ghandi.
LifeSiteNews: Do you think this trend will stop, the passing of these laws against supposed forced conversion?
Cardinal Varkey: It was during their time [BJP] it happened. Now it is in states controlled by them. The states are also independent. They make laws in the different states controlled by the BJP. It is their concern about mass conversion. They are afraid of these missionaries getting money from say America or Canada and then buying people to the Christian faith. The Catholic Church never does this but we are all dumped with all the Christian missionaries. Some missionaries do it.
LifeSiteNews: But you are concerned about this trend of these bills?
Cardinal Varkey: Yes, we don’t approve of these anti-conversion bills which the Pope mentioned. The bills themselves are not against the constitution but the purpose is to catch Christians. The bills themselves are ok. Even if a Hindu makes a conversion by using money he will be put in jail. But in the particular state where the bill has been passed they can harass missionaries, saying you can arrest him and all that. This will cause harassment to the Christian missionaries.
The interpretation of the bill is directed against conversion. The fundamentalist Hindus don’t like anybody being converted now. It is directed against not only forced conversion but any conversion. Even without these bills forced conversion is always wrong. But, the fact is that a few of the Christian sects who come here, not the Catholic Church, these sects speak very abusively about the Hindu religion and so the fundamentalists are very angry at those people. They give religion without any faith and put water and baptize them and so make 10,000 conversions here and so on. So the Hindus are naturally upset by that and they won’t get workers also.
If you get more Christianity, that is another big problem for them, because all the low caste people, they have no religion, only these, what you call superstitious practices. They don’t have the high type of Hinduism, so these are the people they exploit. They are given a little bit of salary to make them work for 24 hours. That’s not possible in Kerala, but in North India they may get only 5 rupees (10 cents U.S.) a day, working from morning to night. When they become Christians they are told by the fundamentalists that their untouchability is still there even though there is a law that there is no untouchability. However, it is still a practice. It’s an old Hindu tradition.
Now then these lower caste people, when they become Christians, they become aware of their rights and they refuse to go for work, so they cannot exploit them. So these are all angering the high caste, fundamentalist Hindus.
LifeSiteNews: So do you perceive any serious problems in the future or not?
Cardinal Varkey: There are no serious problems. The present government has respect for the Pope. In India we have more freedom than many countries. They talk about freedom in Islamic countries but there there is no freedom. You say the mass and immediately you are arrested. Here, there is no problem except for this fundamentalism that has now started. They tried, this BJP tried, now three or four times to get this one member in the Kerala State Assembly. They are trying their best. Kerala people are educated Hindus so they won’t go for it. In this state alone they could not get even one member elected in the 141 seats. There is only UDF and LDF.