Christian Leaders Express Outrage over Modi’s “Ignorance” of Attacks on Christians in India
By ICC’s India Correspondent
5/15/2014 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – Christian leaders across India have expressed dismay over recent remarks made by Narendra Modi which they believe reveal his “ignorance” of attacks on Christians and churches. In a recent television interview, Modi, the Chief Minister of Gujarat and the Bharathiya Janatha Party (BJP) Prime Ministerial nominee, responded to a question regarding the protection of Christians and their place of worship from attack by saying, “I have never heard of such incidents (attacks) taking place.”
Leaders in the Christian community were utterly shocked by the remark made by Modi, especially because poll predictions show him as the likely future Prime Minister of India. Pericho Prabhu, a leading Christian activist from Karnataka state, said, “This is an utter lie, and what can we expect from a man who claims to be a Hindu Nationalist in front of television cameras; it is a danger for a country to have a person of this stature, as a choice for the Prime Minister.”
With attacks on Christians and their places of worship increasing every year across India, Modi’s “ignorance” not only frightens Christians, but also makes them skeptical of their fate under Modi’s rule as a Prime Minister.
In 2002, Gujarat state, which was led by Modi at the time, witnessed six weeks of religiously motivated riots, among the worst in the country’s history. The riots left more than 1,800 people dead, mostly Muslims. To date, Modi has refused to apologize for his inaction in stopping the massacres, most likely because the victims were not Hindus. With this combination of development mantra and virulent religion-based nationalism, Modi has become the Hindu right wing’s most recognizable campaigner in the current national elections.
“Modi is feigning ignorance, it does not work for him,” said Dr. John Dayal, Secretary General, All India Christian Council (AICC), and a member of National Integration Council (NIC), Government of India. “It was in Gujarat region that more than two dozen Churches were destroyed in the Christmas season of 1998. Surely he [Modi] knows what happened in Kandhamal, Orissa and Mangalore, Karnataka and other places in 2007 and 2008 when more than 300 churches and more than 6,000 Christian homes were destroyed by the Hindu radical-led mobs. More than 120 Christian tribal and Dalits were killed.”
Taking Modi’s recent comment in context with recorded attacks on Christians of which he is likely aware, it is quite obvious Modi cares little for Christians and other religious minorities in India. A Modi-led government will be a Hindu nationalist government. Radical Hindu nationalist groups, like the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), have already declared their violent agenda for religious minorities in India, especially for Christians. Christians in India can expect a national law banning forced conversions which will be used by radicals to attack Christian pastors and stifle the growth of the Christianity. They can also expect that the Christian Dalits will never get equal rights.
Rev. Fr. Jaswanth Rana, the vice Chairman, Philadelphia Fellowship of Churches, Rajasthan, said, “Narendra Modi is a Hindu fanatic influenced by RSS, Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) and other radical Hindu nationalist organizations. Even though Modi speaks of development and peace, we know that he is obliged to Hindu radical groups and their ideologies. Modi should not become Prime Minister. There will be riots across the country if he is elected. Radical Hindu organizations like VHP, RSS, and Bajrangdal will take full advantage of the situation and will be very aggressive against minorities.”
In press statement, Dr. Richard Howell, General Secretary of the Evangelical Fellowship of India said, “What Modi said was an utter lie. The onslaught against Christians by Right-wing groups has always been cause for concern. The Bajrang Dal and the youth wing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad has been attacking members of the Christian community and vandalizing churches across India.”
Narendra Modi’s on-going elections campaign claims he will bring economic and social development, including peace and tranquility, in India if he is voted to be a Prime Minister. Minorities, including Christians, are concerned that Modi’s claims of development do not include their interest in the safety of minorities. Modi’s admitted “ignorance” to the plight of the Christian community has only heightened this concern.