Mother Teresa 'conquered India's heart'

Home Minister Rajnath Singh honors her as 'mother to all Indians'
Mother Teresa 'conquered India's heart'

Cardinal Geroge Alencherry, head of the Syro-Malabar Church, greets India's Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Oct. 19 in New Delhi at an event to mark the canonization of Mother Teresa of Kolkata. (Photo by John Mathew) reporter, New Delhi
October 21, 2016
A top functionary of India's Hindu nationalist government has paid tribute to St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta and promised to protect Christians from religiously motivated violence.

"She was mother to all Indians," said Home Minister Rajnath Singh, speaking at an Oct. 19 function in New Delhi that church officials organized to celebrate the nun's canonization last month.

Two people from Macedonia are famous in India — the first is Alexander the Great, who came to conquer India "but Mother Teresa came and conquered India's heart," Singh said to an applause from the 1,000 strong audience.

"India is no place for religious discrimination," he told the gathering that included India's four serving cardinals, Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio and some 60 bishops and invited guests.

"On behalf of the nation, I honor Mother Teresa," he said. 


Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, president of the Indian bishops' conference greets India's Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Oct. 19 in New Delhi at an event to mark the canonization of Mother Teresa of Calcutta. (Photo by John Mathew)


Singh's words were significant because some hard-line elements of his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have consistency accused the nun of using her social work as a facade to convert Hindus to Christianity. 

Church officials have complained that religious violence against Christians has increased, especially in northern India where they make up less than one percent of the population, since the BJP came to power two years ago.

Singh linked the anti-Christian violence to local politics and noted there were several incidents of violence against Christians just before the 2014 state election, suggesting they were engineered by rivals to discredit his party.

"There were no incidents of violence after the elections. Now, we will make sure that there will be no violence against you before, during and after elections," Singh said.

Singh added that India "is a university of tolerance. Without tolerance, the co-existence [of diverse faiths and cultures] is not possible. Without tolerance there can be no peace," Singh said.

Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, president of the Indian bishops' conference, told the gathering that the celebration in the nation's capital is significant.

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However, Father Theodore Mascarenhas, secretary general of the bishops' conference, said that Christians still fear extremist elements in Hindu groups.

In the first half of 2016, there were at least 134 incidents of violence against Christians, compared to 147 incidents in all of 2014 and 177 in 2015, according to data released by the Evangelical Fellowship of India's Religious Liberty Commission.

Christians are a small minority forming 2.4 percent of the 1.2 billion Indians, more than 80 percent of who are Hindus. Muslims form 14 percent of the population.

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