Pastor Alexander Fleming stands in solidarity with Muslim protesters during the multifaith prayer event for peace and unity on Feb. 6 in New Delhi. (Photo: Bijay Kumar Minj/UCA News)
As a protest against India’s new citizenship law completed more than 50 days in the national capital, people from all religions joined protesters to offer prayers for peace and unity.
The multifaith event in Shaheen Bagh, South Delhi District, aimed to end the atmosphere of fear and violence prevailing in the country and to send out a message of communal solidarity.
People from all India’s main religions — Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism and Christianity — participated in the prayers on Feb. 6.
“Some communal forces are trying to divide people in the name of religion, but all the religions in this world teach us love and peace. We are here to show our solidarity with the people, especially the Muslim community who have been protesting against the citizenship law,” Pastor Alexander Fleming of Gossner Evangelical Lutheran Church in Delhi told UCA News.
“I salute the Muslim women who have been here 24 hours a day for the last 53 days braving the cold for the injustice done to them. This event doesn’t belong to any political party. The act introduced by the government is against Muslims.
“No religion teaches hatred and violence. It is time to spread the message of love and stand with them during these difficult times. At least we can pray with them during this crisis.”
The ongoing protest in Shaheen Bagh is being led by Muslim women against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), a change to the 1955 citizenship law that has been criticized for being anti-Muslim.
A Catholic nun sings hymns at the prayer event on Feb. 6. (Photo: Bijay Kumar Minj/UCA News)
United we stand
Shaheen Bagh, near Jamia Millia Islamia University, has been a protest venue for opponents of the CAA and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) since Dec. 15. Protests have been held across India over the contentious law.
Muslim leader Sultan Sheikh, who was dressed as a Sikh at Shaheen Bagh, said: "Our prime minister talks about recognizing someone from their attire. I want him to recognize which religion I belong to. Don’t try to divide our country. We are united and will live together.”
Sant Yuvraj, a Hindu religious leader, said the event was held for the unity and solidarity of the country.
“All religions are united here. No one should consider Shaheen Bagh as a demonstration of Muslims,” he said.
“Sikh people are chanting gurbani (hymns from Guru Granth Sahib), Christians are reading the Bible, Muslims are reading aayats (verses from the Quran) and I am performing a havan (sacrifice ritual) as a Hindu sant (godman). Even this havan has been organized by all people irrespective of their religion.”
The new law 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, which makes religion the basis of citizenship, as yet another attempt by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janeta Party (BJP) government to marginalize them.
Muslims fear the CAA and NRC are intended to strip millions of Indian Muslims of their citizenship. People from other disadvantaged caste and gender groups as well as women are vulnerable to the NRC’s rules.
Since Dec. 11 when the law was passed, millions of citizens across India have rallied against the CAA despite prohibitory orders and a brutal police crackdown in which at least 31 people have been killed.