The Mill Hill Missioinaries are present in the Indian state of Chhattisgarh at Baswar and Vishunpur in the diocese of Ambikapur
“Tribals, even in their ancestral religion, are very close to Christianity. Also in the tribal religion they had faith in one God Almighty, the Father. They also called him God and Father, as it is in Christianity. They had some belief in spirits and this was substituted by faith in angels. There are many affinities with Christianity. Therefore, for our ancestors it was not difficult to come to the Catholic faith. They felt quite at home with this faith”. Rt. Rev. Paul Toppo, Diocese of Raigar, India Chhattisgarh, India’s tenth largest state is located in the central western part of the country. Largely unexplored, almost 50 per cent of Chhattisgarh is covered with forest. Where developed the state harbours large mineral deposits of tin, iron ore and coal and where populated these are mainly tribal, a rich culture with unique traditions of dance, song and art.
Christianity arrived in the area in the 19th century through the evangelisation of Belgian and French missionaries. Sadly, the challenges to faith have increased rather than decreased through time. Chhattisgarh is one of the few Indian states to enforce an anti-conversion law requiring that anyone who wants to convert to another religion first obtain the approval of state officials. The law was put in place to protect those who may be forced or lured into conversion. But in reality the law serves hard line Hindu nationals in forcing their agenda of a Hindu India. The Catholic Church’s mission of service has become an easy target – often too from the government. The state government, ruled by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, is targeting Catholic churches, educational institutions, hospitals and social work centres that help tribal people making it difficult for the local Church to serve the population.