Protesters call on Maharashtra chief minister not to enact draconian anti-conversion law
Thousands of Christians protest on April 12 in India’s financial capital Mumbai against increasing violence against Christians and their places of worship. (Photo supplied)
After a massive protest march in the national capital New Delhi in February, thousands of Christians were joined by Hindus and Muslims on April 12 in India’s financial capital Mumbai to protest against increasing violence against Christians and their places of worship.
The protest rally of 7,000-8,000 people comprising a federation of 80 Christian NGOs under the banner of Samast Christi Samaj (All Christian Community) submitted a memorandum, listing 20 demands, to Eknath Shinde, chief minister of Maharashtra state, of which Mumbai is the capital.
“There are continued waves of hate speech and targeted violence against religious leaders, desecration of places of worship, disruption of prayer services and restrictions on religious gatherings, and false accusations of forced and fraudulent religious conversions,” the memorandum said.
“We want to end the escalation of violence and attacks against the peace-loving Christian community by those using the unfounded accusation of conversion as an excuse,” Dolphy D’Souza, Samast Christi Samaj spokesperson, told UCA News
Nearly 12 Indian states have enacted a sweeping anti-conversion law. Most of them are ruled by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The government of Eknath Shinde in Maharashtra has the BJP as a coalition partner.
D’Souza, also president of the Bombay Catholic Sabha (society), said, “Our other demand is that the government should not enact the anti-conversion law in Maharashtra. It will lead to vigilantes taking unnecessary advantage and attacking Christians.”
“We need to fight the poison of hate"
Tushar Gandhi, great grandson of India’s father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi, who attended the rally at Azad Maidan in Mumbai, said, “There was great influence by Christians on my great-grandfather.”
He said the attacks on Christians must stop.
“If you are being attacked today, then tomorrow the whole of humanity could also be attacked. We will not let the tree of hate blossom. We will fight it with love,” he said.
Gandhi said his great grandfather took inspiration from Jesus who sacrificed himself not only for Christians but for all humanity.
“We need to fight the poison of hate with the nectar of love,” he said.
According to the United Christian Forum (UCF), there were 598 attacks against Christians in 21 states last year, an 81 percent growth since 2020.
In January this year alone, the New Delhi-based UCF recorded 57 incidents of violence against Christians.
“This is a rally for peace by ending attacks against all minorities like Christians and Muslims under some pretext or other,” Irfan Ali Engineer, a Muslim leader, who attended the rally, said.
“Violence and attacks on Christians should stop or else we will protest in bigger numbers next time,” Joseph Dias, founder-president of the Catholic Secular Forum, said.
“[New] Delhi witnessed a massive demonstration on Feb.19 to protest against the widespread violence against churches and Christian institutions in many states in this secular country,” said John Dayal, spokesperson of the All India Catholic Union.
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