The Catholic Church in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand has dismissed reports of a government school being used for mass conversion activities as “false, malafide and intended to sow hatred and division in society.”
The reports appeared in local print and electronic media last week, raising suspicions against the minority Christian community.
“There is no doubt that a group of people along with certain sections of media are running a campaign to tarnish the image of the Catholic Church in Jharkhand, which is unacceptable and condemnable,” Auxiliary Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas of Ranchi told.
He said that in the latest case from Sarangloya village in Khunti Diocese, the Church has documents to prove its case but the media did not even bother to contact church officials.
After news reports appeared, Bishop Mascarenhas and Bishop Binay Kandulna of Khunti, under whose ecclesiastical jurisdiction the village falls, visited the school accused of hosting conversions and met local people to ascertain facts.
The Roman Catholic Mission School was founded in 1936 by a few Catholics and later named St. Joseph’s School. Classes were held inside a small church building until 1962, when 24 local Catholic families came together and bought 35 acres of land after the British-era zamindari system run by landed aristocracy came to an end. The present school building was built on this land after the families requested the Church to teach their children.
“The families are the sole owners of the land and only they decide what they wish to have on their land. In the course of time they handed over this school under the care of fathers,” a Catholic Church press release said.
Jharkhand has 1.4 million Christians out of a total population of 33 million, mostly tribal people.