Over one hundred Christian leaders in India have signed onto an open letter condemning growing religious intolerance and violence spreading across the country. The letter notes the government’s inability or unwillingness to confront the radical Hindu nationalists who are often the perpetrators of attacks and spreading religious intolerance. Calling for change, the Christian leaders have demanded the government of India take steps to protect the secular and diverse religious heritage of India.
08/09/2017 India (Radio Vatican) – Over a hundred prominent Indian Christians have written an open letter to the heads of all churches and Christian communities, spurring them to action in support of civil society in its struggle to safeguard India’s secular credentials and cultural and religious diversity. In the letter released on Aug. 4, the 101 signatories noted a dangerous shift in the country “from a pluralist, secular, democracy to a Hindu Rashtra”.
Noting that there is “a systematic design to undermine the constitution,” the writers said that “official machinery often seems to be working in tandem with the vigilantes” in carrying out street lynching of innocent victims, on the basis of religion and caste. And amidst all this, the “media seems mute, silent in self-censorship, coerced by the State, or leashed by its corporate owners,” they wrote.
The open letter comes in the backdrop of several people falling victim to recent incidents of mob lynching and vigilantism over consumption of beef or trading in cows and beef. In the latest incident a Christian pastor was shot dead in northern Punjab state July 15 and police have not identified culprits.
Among the signatories to the open letter are rights activist Jesuit Father Cedric Prakash, rights activist and journalist John Dayal, rights activist Father Ajay Kumar Singh, several lawyers, priests, nuns and lay people working in the field of education, law and social activism.
The open letter accused the government of “double talk” saying while it supports the global fight against terrorism, at home it is not concerned with violent nationalism of the mob wreaking terror on the weak and the marginalized. The prominent Christians observed that between 2014 and 2016, under the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led government, over 600 episodes of violent acts have taken place against their communities. Violence against low-caste Dalits and Muslims have surged according to the National Crime Records Bureau.