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Christian leaders call on community to resist attacks

Open letter makes veiled criticism of a perceived lack of action by Indian churches against religious violence

Ritu Sharma, New Delhi

Ritu Sharma, New Delhi

Published: August 08, 2017 10:11 AM GMT
Christian leaders call on community to resist attacks

Christians protest in front of the Sacred Heart Cathedral in New Delhi against anti-Christian violence in this file picture.  An open letter from Christian intellectuals has asked community leaders to unite to fight violence against religious minorities. (ucanews.com photo)

 

Christian intellectuals in India have called on the community to safeguard pluralism and fight fringe elements targeting Christian, Muslim and other minorities.

In an open letter to Catholic and Protestant leaders, 101 Christian theologians, academics and members of different organisations expressed concern over Hindu nationalism "What used to be fringe, has now become mainstream," the non-denominational letter said.

It comes against a backdrop of increased attacks on Muslims, including several cases of lynching, by Hindu mobs in the name of protecting cows, which are revered by Hindus.

The letter made a veiled reference to a perceived lack of coordinated action among Christian churches against religious violence.

The Christian community itself has experienced increased violence since the pro-Hindu Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in 2014. In the past three years there have been more than 600 incidents of violence against Christians.

The letter to Christian leaders stated that it was time to take bold initiatives, and join with civil groups, to prevent further erosion of human and constitutional values. 

"In unison with members of all faiths, ideologies, we should marshal India’s tremendous spiritual resources in consolidating peace, resolving conflicts and infusing a sense of values in the body politic," it added.

Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, general secretary of the Indian bishops’ conference reacted to the letter saying: "Our doors are open to everybody. These leaders [who signed the letter] are most welcome to come and discuss."  He told ucanews.com that the church stands by its principles and are "against ideologies of polarization, hatred and violence."

"We will continue dialogue with everyone for the good of the country and the church," he added.

However, senior officials of the National Council of Churches in India, a forum of Protestant and Orthodox churches, were not available for comment.

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Archbishop Kuriakose Bharanikulangara of Faridabad, based in the national capital New Delhi, said he was aware of such a letter being circulated.

A.C. Michael, former member of the Delhi Minorities Commission and a signatory of the letter, told ucanews.com that although it is addressed to church leaders, the letter is also a call to each and every Christian to unite and stand for justice.

Father Ajay Singh, a human rights activist in the eastern Indian state of Odisha and a signatory, told ucanews.com that the objective of the letter is to produce a coordinated effort by the Christian community.

The priest complained that elements of the ruling BJP were supporting the idea of a Hindu dominated India. "We have to stand united to face the challenge," he said.

 

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