Christian Leaders in India have deplored a newly appointed federal minister’s description of religious conversion as “the exchange of sex for favours.”
Minister of State for Animal Husbandry Pratap Chandra Sarangi made the comment in an interview with English news portal The Print on June 3.
“Suppose somebody helped a girl in a medical or engineering college and wanted to enjoy the girl physically. That would be treated as a crime, an inhuman act,” said the first-time Odisha MP, a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“Similarly, if somebody wants to convert or exploit someone’s belief by giving some service or money, then that should also be treated as a crime — a crime against nature, against humanity.”
Sarangi was the Odisha chief of Bajrang Dal, a hard-line Hindu group, when Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two young sons were burned alive by extremists in 1999. He was accused of being linked to the gruesome murders but denied the allegations.
Odisha, formerly Orissa, is an eastern state where Christians have faced sustained persecution, particularly during riots in 2008.
Father Kulakanta Dandasena from Kandhamal condemned Sarangi’s statement and said it sent a bad message to the country and the international community, “which sees India as a secular country that respects all classes, creeds and religions.”
“We totally disagree with whatever the minister has said because it is vulgar and not true,” he said. “Christians are not involved in any kind of religious conversion and have always respected other faiths and beliefs. We have no differences.”