Indian archbishop seeks politician's apology for insulting Christians

BJP senior leader in Karnataka says Christians were not given election tickets because they are dishonest and unpatriotic
Indian archbishop seeks politician's apology for insulting Christians

Catholics protest in Bengaluru on April 13 about a pro-Hindu politician’s statement that India's Christians are unpatriotic and dishonest. (Photo by Harry D’Souza)

ucanews.com reporter, New Delhi
India
April 26, 2019
Archbishop Peter Machado of Bangalore has sought an apology from a pro-Hindu politician for describing Christians as dishonest and unpatriotic.

Archbishop Machado, who heads the bishops’ council in Karnataka state, said K.S. Eshwarappa, a senior leader of the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), should publicly apologize for his statement.

The politician’s “uncalled-for remarks” are “condemnable and highly deplorable,” he said in an April 24 statement.

Eshwarappa, a former deputy chief minister of Karnataka, reportedly told media during his election campaign on April 9 that his party intentionally avoided having Christians as BJP candidates.

“The Christians, like the Muslims, were not given party tickets [in the state] because Christians are not loyal to the country and not honest too,” Eshwarappa reportedly said.

Archbishop Machado said he delayed making a public statement about the politician’s remarks to avoid being misinterpreted and people giving a “political coloring to it.”

India’s seven-phase parliamentary election began on April 11. Polling in Karnataka was scheduled for the second and third phases and concluded on April 23.

The BJP leader’s statement “has done great harm to Christians and discredited their community’s credibility,” the archbishop said.

The politician should “withdraw his statement and tender an unconditional apology to the Christian community,” he added.

The prelate, also president of the ecumenical All Karnataka United Christian Forum for Human Rights, said Eshwarappa’s statement has tarnished Christians across the country.

The BJP has fielded candidates in all 543 parliamentary seats, but only four Christians and six Muslims are standing under the BJP banner.

Alphonse Kannamthanam and P.C. Thomas are Catholics standing for election in Kerala, a Christian stronghold in southern India. The other two BJP Christian candidates are based in Christian-dominated Meghalaya and Manipur in the northeast.

Of the six Muslim BJP candidates, three are standing in Muslim-dominated Kashmir, while the other three are also in Muslim-majority areas.

Although the BJP ignores Christians in mainstream politics, they “render selfless services in various fields, offering genuine care and concern for all” through their institutions of health and education, Archbishop Machado said.

“Also, it is a well-known reality that many Christians have laid down their lives for the country and at present thousands of Christians serve” the defense forces “with utmost devotion and dedication,” he added.

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The archbishop said Christians are proud Indian citizens and cherish a patriotic spirit that they promote at all levels.

Hundreds of Christians gathered in Bengaluru on April 13 to protest about the BJP leader’s controversial statement.

“No one can point a finger at Christians when it comes to honesty, integrity and patriotism,” said Harry D’Souza, president of Karnataka Christian Social Welfare Association.

D’Souza told ucanews.com on April 25 that the association will file a defamation suit against the politician if he fails to apologize.

Christians number only about one million or 1.8 percent of Karnataka’s 61 million people, of whom 84 percent are Hindus. The state’s Christian presence is less than the national average of 2.3 percent.

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