Celebrations underway on Christmas Day 2018 at a church in Hyderabad, capital of Telangana state in southern India. (Photo: UCA News)
Christians in Telangana have thanked the chief minister of the southern Indian state for agreeing to build a church along with a temple and mosques inside the new secretariat complex.
“The government has decided to construct a church, a temple and two mosques which were damaged while demolishing the old secretariat buildings,” said a Sept. 5 press release from Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao's office.
"The government will bear the cost of the construction of the church, temple and mosques inside the complex, which will have all the facilities.”
The release also said that “there was a demand from the Christian community too, hence the government will construct the church."
Rao had earlier expressed regret over the damage to places of worship in the old secretariat during demolition work in July but said the new ones would be built in a more spacious area.
“FTC is very grateful to you for sanctioning the construction of a church in the proposed new secretariat along with a temple and two mosques as we learned from the Chief Minister’s Office,” said the Federation of Telugu Churches (FTC).
“We had appealed to you to get a church constructed in July, reminding you of the long pending demand for allotment of land in the secretariat for a church,” Father Anthoniraj Thumma, executive secretary of the FTC committee, said in the press note dated Sept. 7.
“Thank you very much for granting our request. This gesture is a lasting testimony of the secular credentials of your government and your personal secular convictions that you have credibly vindicated in the last six years.
“FTC is grateful to you for your efforts safeguarding secularism in our state and for treating all religions equally and now coming forward to construct their worship places in the new secretariat.
“We are also thankful to you for allotting land for Christian burial grounds in Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation area for the victims of Covid-19.”
The FTC said in a July 13 letter that building a church would send a good message proving the secular credentials of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) government.
A political party based in Telangana, TRS was founded on April 27, 2001, by K. Chandrashekar Rao, with a single agenda of creating a separate Telangana state with Hyderabad as its capital.
The FTC is the apex body of archbishops and bishops of mainline churches and heads of major Christian denominations in the states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.
The state-level interdenominational FTC official body consists of Catholic, Church of South India, Methodist, Lutheran, Baptist, Mennonite, Salvation Army and other denominations.
Christians are a minority in Telangana, forming an estimated 1.2 million of the population of 35 million people. Most Christians come from the underprivileged Dalit community, while Catholics constitute roughly half of all Christians in the state.