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By Hilary White
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Cardinal Telephore Toppo RANCHI, July 26, 2006 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The Catholic bishops of India are speaking out against a harsh new anti-conversion law adopted by the state of Madhya Pradesh in central India. The new law requires potential converts to register with a district magistrate one month prior to the official date of conversion and religious officials to inform the authorities and provide the would-be convert’s name, address and expected date of conversion.
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  Failure to comply could result in fines of a thousand rupees for the convert and up to five thousand rupees and a year in prison for the religious official.
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  While freedom of expression and of religion is guaranteed by India’s Constitution, local laws enacted by Hindu legislatures have routinely flouted Indian citizens’ rights.Â
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  President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) Cardinal Telesphore P. Toppo, Archbishop of Ranchi, told AsiaNews, “India has a constitution that ensures and protects freedom of religion and conscience, and we Christians in our beloved motherland—India—have always been law-abiding citizens.”
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  The new law bans “conversions obtained through force or fraud.” It is routinely asserted by Hindu extremists that Christians use trickery and deceit to gain converts, even accusing Christian charitable organizations such as Mother Theresa’s Missionaries of Charity.
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“I can stress with authority that so far as the Roman Catholic Church [is] concerned, there has never been any case of forced conversion. The records will also prove this,” the Cardinal said in a statement in May.

Cardinal Toppo told AsiaNews this week, “As citizens of India, who respect the law and the constitution, we must however raise the issue [anti-conversion laws] before the Bishops’ Conference because it is important to understand that these are attempts to upset and trouble us Christians, not mention to get rid of our mission.”

Incidents of harassment and violence by fundamentalist Hindus against Christians have been increasing in India in recent years.
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  In June this year, two sisters from the Missionaries of Charity were detained by police when they went to visit patients in a state-run hospital in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh. They were accused of attempting to convert patients to Christianity. Local Christian leaders said the police were responding to the request of a fanatic Hindu group.
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  In May, Cardinal Toppo spoke out against India’s anti-conversion laws saying that he was in agreement with Pope Benedict XVI who believes that they are against the spirit of the Indian Constitution. Pope Benedict told India’s new ambassador to the Holy See, Amitava Tripathi, on May 18 that he was worried about “disturbing signs of religious intolerance” in India.
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  The Cardinal said that he was not worried, and that he and the Church in India are including the legislation’s framers in their prayers. “We pray that through our work and our ministry, God may touch their hearts and the truth may be revealed to them. Thus in our beloved India, a society of justice and peace may be established.”
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  Read related LifeSiteNews.com coverage:

India: Police Detain Mother Teresa Nuns On Charges Of Attempted Conversion
https://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2006/jun/06062904.html
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  Cardinal Varkey Says “Forced Conversion” Laws Really About Stopping All Conversions
https://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2006/jun/06062012.html

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