Madhya Pradesh church leaders against move to control their properties

February 25th, 2009 - 1:55 pm ICT by IANS  

Bhopal, Feb 25 (IANS) Madhya Pradesh church leaders Wednesday threatened to move court against the state minorities commission’s move to enact a law for maintenance and protection of properties owned by Christian institutions.
The commission Tuesday decided to appoint a retired high court judge to enact the law to constitute a body to manage church properties, including cemeteries, on the lines of the Muslim Wakf Board.

“It amounts to infringement of the rights of the Christian community, which will go to any extent - including challenging the decision in the high court,” Archbishop Leo Cornelio of Bhopal, who heads the Catholic Church in the state, told IANS.

The Waqf Board, set up in 1995, manages properties for religious and charitable purposes. It also supports Muslim schools, colleges, hospitals and charity institutions, using the money it generates from its properties and donations.

“The church opposes such a move for the Christian community because Church assets, unlike the Waqf properties, are purchased after paying money and not taken from the government on charity. The community will move the high court against any such decision,” said Father Anand Muttangal, spokesperson of Madhya Pradesh Catholic Churches.

The archbishop said that some vested interests were trying to encroach upon Christian properties by bringing in such a law and has requested Governor Balram Jakhar not to accept the recommendation.

Contending that all the church properties are under the purview of the state government’s Act of Firms and Societies, the archbishop said regular meetings are held, accounts audited as per law and documents duly submitted.

He said since the church manages its own properties legally following all government laws and regulations, it does not need additional institutional help to monitor the use of properties.

“The commission’s mandate is to protect the interests of religious minorities and to ensure their religious and civic freedom as guaranteed in the constitution but its latest recommendation shows beyond doubt that it is disloyal to minorities and loyal to the government,” the archbishop said.

Bishop Gerald Almeida of Jabalpur said: “The recommendations were politically motivated and made without consulting church leaders.”

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