India’s Christian leaders offered a message of congratulations and hope to the country’s new president, Ram Nath Kovind. A member of the ruling BJP, many of India’s Christians fear that the more power the BJP consolidates in India’s government the more their Hindu nationalist agenda will be enacted. Recently, the BJP-led government attempted to enact a ban on cow slaughter across the country. The law was struck down by India’s Supreme Court, but not before several Muslims were lynched by Hindu radicals supposedly protecting cows. Since the rise of the BJP-led government in 2014, attacks on Christians and other religious minorities in India have dramatically increased. Will the election of a BJP president have the same effect?
07/24/2017 India (Angelus) – The bishops of India have offered their congratulations to the country’s newly elected president, Ram Nath Kovind, urging him to live out the oath he will take to serve the well-being of the people.
India’s presidency is largely a ceremonial role, while the prime minister is head of government and leader of the executive branch. In a July 20 statement the Indian bishops congratulated Kovind, assuring him “of our prayers for his good health and for wisdom and strength that he might guide our beloved country towards peace, development and justice for all peoples.”
“We pray that God may assist him, that, as per the Oath of Office, he will strive ‘to the best of his ability to preserve, protect and defend the constitution and the law, and that he will devote himself to the service and well-being of the people of the Republic of India.’”
The bishops closed their statement praying that under his leadership India would “march towards greater heights,” and again assured the president-elect of “our loyalty and support in the service of our country.” India’s presidential election was held July 17, with the final votes counted July 20. The term of the country’s former president, Pranab Mukherjee, is set to end July 24.
Kovind, part of India’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), was backed by the governing National Democratic Alliance coalition, and ran against opposition candidate Meira Kumar of the Indian National Congress. The president-elect is a Dalit and a lawyer, and has served in the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of parliament. Most recently he served in the largely ceremonial post of governor of Bihar state.
The election comes in wake of a recent uptick in the number of “mob lynchings” happening in India, in which members of the country’s Hindu majority carry out acts of violence against those, typically from minority religions such as Islam, accused of killing cows, a sacred animal in the Hindu religion. Attacks against minorities, particularly Christians and Muslims, are common in India. They include anything from jeering, violence, forced conversions, and the burning of property, and frequently go under-reported.