Bijay Kumar Minj, New Delhi
Updated: February 27, 2020 06:24 AM GMT
A firefighter vehicle is parked near burnt-out premises following clashes between people supporting and opposing a contentious amendment to India's citizenship law in New Delhi on Feb. 26. (Photo: Sajjad Hussain/AFP)
Christian leaders from different denominations in New Delhi have condemned the communal violence in the Indian capital and asked churches to open their doors to victims of the riots.
The violence that started on Feb. 23 in several areas of northeast Delhi has left 27 people dead and over 200 injured in the deadliest episode of unrest in the capital in three decades.
“At this trying moment when communal riots have suddenly gripped Delhi, let us come forward with our prayers and every possible effort to bring relief to the affected people in terms of shelter, food and clothing,” an appeal letter from Archbishop Anil Joseph Thomas Couto of Delhi said.
In his letter addressed to the parish priests, Archbishop Couto said churches should open their premises "for this noble cause in the Lenten season. Please convey this to our people and organize them for action.”
The three days of violence, which erupted on Feb. 23, are the worst unrest since the 1992 nationwide riots following the demolition of the Babri mosque in Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh, and possibly since the anti-Sikh riots of 1984 after the assassination of then prime minister Indira Gandhi, media reports said.The clashes broke out after groups favoring the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) clashed with groups protesting against it.
The CAA, passed on Dec. 11 last year, aims to grant Indian citizenship to persecuted minorities from Muslim-majority Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan while blocking naturalization for Muslims.
Muslims see their exclusion from the law that makes religion the basis of citizenship as yet another attempt by the Narendra Modi government to marginalize them.
Coupled with the proposed nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC), the community fears the moves are intended to strip millions of Indian Muslims of citizenship. People from other disadvantaged caste and gender identities as well as women are vulnerable to the NRC.
The communal riots in the last three days have seen hundreds of vehicles, shops and homes burned. The streets of Chand Bagh and Bhajanpura were deserted on Feb. 26, with people peeping from the windows of their homes and a heavy deployment of police and paramilitary forces.
“We appeal to members of the different Christian traditions to facilitate each other, and all others of different faith traditions and ideological persuasions in their neighborhoods, to rise from the ashes,” said the statement, which was signed by Rev. Asir Ebenezer, general secretary.
The statement condemned "the dastardly attack on the vulnerable and the weak in different locations of Delhi, the explicit or implicit complicity and tacit approval of those in power and authority.”
The NCCI also appealed to churches and Christian organizations in affected areas to respond appropriately to those in need.
The Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI), the national alliance of evangelical Christians, condemned the “reprehensible violence and killing as the work of vested political interests and forces of hate."
The EFI statement signed by its general secretary Rev. Vijayesh Lal appealed to the people of Delhi to “maintain peace and not to give in to vicious vitriol fed by rumors and spread through social media. We must not let hate win.”
It also asked its congregations in Delhi area to open "their hearts and facilities for the afflicted and to come to the aid of the helpless and distraught. This would be our act of service unto our Lord, this Lenten season.”
….as we enter the last months of 2021, we are asking readers like you to help us keep UCA News free.
For the last 40 years, UCA News has remained the most trusted and independent Catholic news and information service from Asia. Every week, we publish nearly 100 news reports, feature stories, commentaries, podcasts and video broadcasts that are exclusive and in-depth, and developed from a view of the world and the Church through informed Catholic eyes.
Our journalistic standards are as high as any in the quality press; our focus is particularly on a fast-growing part of the world - Asia - where, in some countries the Church is growing faster than pastoral resources can respond to – South Korea, Vietnam and India to name just three.
And UCA News has the advantage of having in its ranks local reporters who cover 23 countries in south, southeast, and east Asia. We report the stories of local people and their experiences in a way that Western news outlets simply don’t have the resources to reach. And we report on the emerging life of new Churches in old lands where being a Catholic can at times be very dangerous.
With dwindling support from funding partners in Europe and the USA, we need to call on the support of those who benefit from our work.