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Pope slams conversion laws

Vatican City, June 3 (AP): Pope John Paul II today decried new anti-conversion laws in some Indian states and urged the church in India to “courageously” proclaim the gospel.

“This is not an easy task, especially in areas where people experience animosity, discrimination and even violence because of their religious convictions or tribal affiliation,” the pontiff, who met a group of Indian bishops, said.

“These difficulties are exacerbated by the increased activity of a few Hindu fundamentalist groups which are creating suspicion of the church and other religions,” the Pope said.

“Unfortunately, in some regions the state authorities have yielded to the pressures of these extremists and have passed unjust conversion laws, prohibiting free exercise of the natural right to religious freedom, or withdrawing state support for those in the scheduled castes who have chosen Christianity,” John Paul said. He told the Indian churchmen that despite “the grave difficulties and suffering” caused by the crackdown, the church in India must continue with evangelisation.

He urged them to engage in dialogue with the leaders of other religions as well as with the local and national authorities so that India will continue to “promote and protect the basic human rights of all its citizens”, including religious freedom.

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