"We affirm the official teaching of the Catholic Church on this matter," Archbishop Vincent Concessao he said in a letter reported by SAR News, "which says that, in spreading religious belief and in introducing religious practices, everybody must at all times avoid any action which seems to suggest coercion or dishonest or unworthy persuasion especially when dealing with the uneducated and the poor."
"Such a manner of acting must be considered an abuse of one’s own right and an infringement of the rights of others," he added. "[If] anybody indulges in such practices, I assume the law of the land has provisions to deal with such a person."
The archbishop was responding to an Aug. 20 letter from Tarlochan Singh, vice chairman of the National Commission for Minorities, who expressed concern at the alleged conversions of Sikhs to Christianity by evangelicals in Punjab, Jharkhand and Chattisgarh.
The Delhi archbishop said the Church does not receive any one into its fold unless a person knows the Christian faith and freely commits himself to it without any pressure. "If there is force then there’s no conversion," he said.
Archbishop Concessao defended the decision of an individual to freely change his religion and said: "If the message of Christianity or the experience of Christianity inspires a person, and he or she decides to accept it, we believe that this cannot happen without the intervention of the grace of God."
He also called on Singh to join the Church’s struggle against hunger, illiteracy, social injustice, communalism and violation of human rights.