Minority Commission idea Law -Opposed by Church

Christians oppose MP move on property

Catholics in Madhya Pradesh have launched a campaign to garner public support against a proposed legislation that aims to bring Church property under government control.
The Madhya Pradesh Minorities Commission has recommended that a law be enacted to set up a board to manage Church property, including cemeteries, similar to the Wakf Board that controls Muslim properties for religious and charitable purposes.
The Christian Property Regulation Bill, which official sources indicated may be presented in the state assembly soon, has drawn strong criticism from Christian leaders, who suspect that the Commission was acting on behalf of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled state government.
“Earlier, they (the BJP) were accusing us of converting the poor. Today, they are after our land, our schools and institutions. This should be checked,” Bishop Anthony Chirayath of Sagar said.
The Church, Chirayath said, plans to hold public meetings and seminars to mobilise opinion against the proposal. One such meeting was held at Sagar town recently.
According to the All India Christian Council, Christians constitute less than half a percent of Madhya Pradesh’s 60mn population.
Archbishop of Bhopal Leo Cornelio, who heads the Catholic Church in the central state, said: “We oppose such a move because Church assets, unlike the Waqf properties, are purchased after paying money and not taken from the government on charity.
“Also, the Church manages its own properties legally as per the state’s Act of Firms and Societies, holds regular meetings and gets accounts audited.
“It is clear that the Commission is working against the interest of the Christian minority,” Cornelio said.
Sagar diocesan spokesperson Father Thomas Lal Pathil said: “This draconian law might give undue advantage to the government to dictate (their terms).”
Father Anand Muttungal, spokesperson of the Church in Madhya Pradesh, said that awareness programmes would be launched across all dioceses in the state to mobilise public opinion against the proposal.
Christian organisations have also announced a boycott of Commission member Anand Bernard who moved the proposal. Bernand is a Christian member of the minorities commission.
Unfazed, Bernard said only a few vested interests were resisting his recommendation which is essentially aimed at bringing about transparency in the Christian organisations’ property management.


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