His Excellency Bishop Anthony Chirayath of Sagar, an Indian Catholic Bishop, has sought protection for the Christian community in the central Indian Madhya Pradesh state after Hindu nationalists protested and marched through the streets waving burning torches and denouncing missionaries in the state. The leaders of fundamentalist Dharam Jagaran Samanwaya Samiti (religious awakening co-ordination committee), organized the march, told the media that the church’s social services and work in education and healthcare are all a façade to convert gullible people to Christianity.

As reported by ucanindia.in, His Grace Bishop Anthony remarked that “We are under tremendous pressure.” He has already submitted a memorandum to district officials and the state chief minister and governor seeking their intervention for the protection of Christians. Sagar has some300,000 people but since its beginning in 1986, the diocese has only 1000 Catholics. His Excellency Bishop Anthony emphasized that “Our number has not grown in years, still we are accused of converting people.”

Christians form less than 1% of the 72 million population, in the predominantly-Hindu state. The protestors said they were working with the government for a national law against religious conversions and to check missionary activities. Missionaries in the diocese say the campaign by hardline Hindu activists has made their work increasingly difficult as villagers view them as offenders and lawbreakers.