Monday, February 13, 2006

Hindus transform church into temple

Vijay Upadhyay / Etah

An 18-year-old church in village Bhojpur in Etah district was finally transformed into a temple by Hindu activists and 300 dalit Christians given "Yagyopaveet". According to sources in the Hindu Jagran Vibhag (HJV), despite regular re-conversions by Hindu organisations in rural India, the number of Christian convertees is growing, especially in the rural parts of western Uttar Pradesh.

Rajshwar Singh, provincial head, HJV, said his outfit had set up a team of 600 Hindu activists to investigate into the reasons for the growing number of dalit Christians in the region. This team recently submitted a report that pointed out the existence of a number of churches without a single Christian around.

Accordingly, he said, a campaign was designed by Hindu organisations to wipe out these churches neutralise their effect, some of which came up 15-20 years ago. He said the presence of these churches was having a serious impact on the dalit community, which was being mistakenly seen as dalits embracing Christianity.

The HJV arranged for a re-conversion function in Bhojpur village about 15 km from Etah, where a church was being operated by the New Apostle Church organisation of Canada. According to Mr Singh, Vijay Maseeh, the church priest, agreed to give away the possession of this church to the village when contacted.

Mr Singh said on Wednesday, a function was held in the church premises by the Vibhaag and 300 dalit Christians, frequenters to this church, were especially brought for reconversion along with Vijay Maseeh who gave the first offering in the yagna held inside the church. After the ceremony, the church was "purified" by Hindu priests, the cross removed from the apex of the building and replaced by the Hindu symbol of Om and idols of Durga were placed.

After the ceremony, the Vibhaag declared a grand temple shall soon replace this building that has been used as a church for a very long time.

Notably, Etah has been the centre of conversions and re-conversions scuffle between Christian and Hindu organisations.

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