Jesuit Priest Doubts Modi’s Words on Religious Tolerance in India

ICC Note:

Following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech regarding the defense of religious freedom in India earlier this week, many have praised the Prime Minister’s statements. One Jesuit priest, however, is not convinced. Fr. Cedric Parkash will believe Prime Minister Modi’s words once they are put into action. Since the Prime Minister took power in May 2014, attacks on Christians in India have skyrocketed. Tuesday marked the first time the Prime Minster openly spoke out against religious intolerance since taking power. Were these statements just words or will they be followed by action?

2/20/2015 India (Asia News) – “Sooner or later Narendra Modi’s bluff will be called,” said Fr Cedric Prakash, SJ, director of the Prashant Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace in Gujarat, as he spoke to Asia News about the Indian prime minister’s recent statement in defense of religious freedom.

Modi’s words “surely look good on paper, but many are wondering if he will actually ‘walk his talk’,” noted the clergyman after the prime minister told a Syro-Malabar gathering in Delhi that his government would give “equal respect to all religions”.

“My government,” the prime minister said, “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.”

Many in India and around the world have praised Modi’s statement. The prime minister, head of the right-wing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), had been criticized for not speaking out against recent attacks on churches in Deli and for failing to respond to concerns raised by US President Barack Obama over rising religious intolerance in India.

However, Modi “was groomed and nurtured by the right-wing Hindu groups commonly referred to as Sangh Parivar,” Fr Prakash said. “He is an integral part of them, shares their ideology and world view. It is they who catapulted him to power.”

Sangh Parivar groups (which are close to the ruling BJP) believe in Hindutva, an ideology that advocates the creation the Hindu Rashtra, a country that is 100 per cent Hindu with no place for religious minorities.

In his youth, Modi was a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a paramilitary organization that is part of the Sangh Parivar.

“At no point in his speech did he condemn or take a position against attacks on Christians and other minorities in India,” said the Jesuit clergyman about Modi’s words. “If he was serious he would first repeal the draconian and unconstitutional anti-conversion law that he introduced in Gujarat in 2003.” At that time, Modi was chief minister in that state.

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