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ICC Note:

Following the victory of Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in India’s national elections, Catholic bishops have voiced hope for the future of Christianity in India. Many Christians fear the rise of Modi and his BJP because of their history of sectarian violence. IT remains to be seen whether or not Modi and BJP have shed this past and will create an inclusive India for all, including Christians. 

5/21/2014 India (NCR) – Catholic bishops in India have said they have nothing to fear from the country’s new government, following the landside success of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies.

“It is true that sometimes small groups of fanatics can give us concern, but the Church will continue in its mission to pray for the new government and contribute to the common good of the nation, supporting democracy, respect for pluralism, the rights of all and a secular concept in the political agenda,” Archbishop Albert D’Souza of Agra, in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, told Fides news agency.

He said the elections were “a great test of democracy,” and their result “highlights a strong government that will lead India into a new phase of economic development and progress, observing and ensuring democratic and constitutional values.”

Bishop Anthony Chirayath of Sagar, in central Madhya Pradesh state, was also confident: “I believe that the Catholic Church will have nothing to fear from the new government.”

In the national elections concluding May 12, the National Democratic Alliance, led by the BJP, won more than 330 seats of the 543 in India’s lower house of parliament, a decisive victory over the ruling Indian National Congress party. More than 500 million ballots were cast, with voter turnout estimated at 66%, Reuters reported.

Key issues in the elections included corruption, economic issues, women’s safety and national security.

Narendra Modi, the BJP candidate for prime minister, has been associated with economic prosperity, but he is also accused of failing to stop anti-Muslim rioting in Gujarat, where he is chief minister.

In the late 2000s, BJP members and party leaders in northeastern Orissa state also faced accusations of enabling the persecution of Christians.

Bishop Chirayath said that India has a heritage of ancient cultures, traditions and religions that “no government can damage.”

“Christians are part of all this and are proud. It is true that small extremist groups sometimes use violence against Christians, but are deviations which do not alter the reality of a nation that is democratic and tolerant and has a long tradition of harmony between different, ethnic, cultural and religious components.”

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