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ICC Note:

After months of being called upon to speak out against growing religious intolerance in India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi finally broke his silence today. Modi vowed that he would protect religious freedom in India and would not allow any religious group to incite hatred along religious lines. Many Christians in India have been waiting for this moment for months. Will this mark a turn in the status of Christians under the new BJP government? 

2/17/2015 India (Financial Express) – With attacks on Christians churches continuing and extreme rights groups continuing their ‘ghar wapsi’ agenda, PM Narendra Modi broke his months long silence and said he will not allow any religious group belonging to majority or minority to incite hatred against others overtly or covertly.

Narendra Modi said his government will strongly act against any religious violence.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has been accused by opposition and Christian groups of turning a blind eye to a string of recent attacks on five churches and a Christian school in Delhi, said his government “gives equal respect to all religions”.

“My government will ensure that there is complete freedom of faith and that everyone has the undeniable right to retain or adopt the religion of his or her choice without coercion or undue influence.

“My government will not allow any religious group, belonging to the majority or the minority, to incite hatred against others, overtly or covertly. Mine will be a government that gives equal respect to all religions,” he said at a function here.

He was addressing the national celebration function of the elevation to Sainthood of Kuriakose Elias Chavara and Mother Euphrasia at Vigyan Bhawan.

In a stern warning to fringe elements, he said, “We cannot accept violence against any religion on any pretext and I strongly condemn such violence. My government will act strongly in this regard.”

Noting that the world is increasingly witnessing division and hostility on religious lines and the issue has become a matter of global concern, the Prime Minister said the ancient Indian plea of mutual respect for all faiths is now beginning to manifest in global discourse.

Observing that the world is at crossroads, he said if not crossed properly it “can throw us back to the dark days of bigotry, fanaticism and bloodshed”. He further said that this harmonious convergence among religions could not be achieved even when the world entered the third millennium.

Invoking Buddha and Mahatma Gandhi, Narendra Modi said that equal respect for all religions must be in the DNA of every Indian.

Seeking harmony, the Prime Minister appealed to all religious groups to act with restraint, mutual respect and tolerance in the true spirit of the ancient nation which is manifest in the Constitution and in line with the Hague Declaration.

Narendra Modi’s remarks have come after US President Barack Obama said the “acts of intolerance” experienced by religious faiths of all types in India in the past few years would have shocked Mahatma Gandhi.

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