Religious leaders in India are working on an action plan to check religious intolerance, hate and violence that has recently claimed several lives in the country. Some 40 Christian, Hindu and Muslim religious leaders met July 16 in New Delhi out of concern for the current situation that they said threatened not just secular ideals of the nation, but also the constitution and democracy. The meeting was convened by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India and sought help from the federal government to act and end the "atmosphere of fear that stalks the land today." "We feel that the traditional peace and harmony in the country is being shattered. It appears that people are just being killed with impunity and we are disturbed," Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, general secretary of bishops' conference told ucanews.com. He said that the leaders in the meeting were afraid the way hatred is being spread in the country. The meeting took place in the backdrop of recent incidents of lynching being from across the country by some Hindu extremist groups, who reportedly attacked people for so-called cow protection. Cows are considered revered animals by most Hindus. Local reports
say that in the first six months of this year, 20 attacks related to protecting cows or against cow slaughter were reported, which was more than 75 percent of the 2016 figures. Church leaders say Hindu extremist groups, working to create a Hindu-only nation, have become emboldened since the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2014 with a landslide majority. Many Hindu groups have interpreted this political success as a mandate to advance their cause. The meeting of leaders agreed on an action plan which stressed that the government, political parties, civil society activists, justice system and religious communities — should challenge the "ideology of hate," said a press statement. Religious leadership should act at the grassroots, remove mutual suspicion and should use media, including social media to challenge falsehood and hatred, it said. Leaders of religious communities must come together "at various levels so that tensions can be diffused and trust restored and strengthened." They also proposed to have national inter-faith and civil society conventions to discuss the situation. Bishop Mascarenhas said the meeting was just the beginning and they are going to carry out more meetings and "build a powerful spiritual movement that spreads peace, harmony, love and unity among all religions, peoples and cultures and all this is being done for the love of the country."