One of India’s top Christian officials has spoken out against the rising anti-Christian violence in his home country. Attacks on Christians and their places of worship have dramatically increased in the past couple of years. In just the first six months of 2017, Christians had already endured over 410 attacks on their community. Much of the increased violence is perpetrated by Hindu radicals. Many Christians claim that the current BJP-led government is giving these groups a free hand, which has also contributed to rise in attacks.
12/29/2017 India (World Watch Monitor) – The President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, has expressed a lack of trust in the government headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as the leader of the ruling BJP – known for pursuing a Hindu nationalistic agenda.
“The country is being divided on the basis of religious belief. It is bad in a democratic country. I want my country to be united in a secular fabric. But now, this country is being polarized due to religious affiliations. We should fight against it,” Cardinal Cleemis was quoted as saying by the Indian Express.
Cardinal Cleemis shared with media in New Delhi on 21 December his concern over a sudden spurt in anti-Christian violence after his visit to Satna in central Madhya Pradesh state, which made headlines when a team of carol singers were assaulted and then detained by police.
The 30-member Catholic carol team, of seminarians and two priests, was accused of attempting to forcibly convert Hindus in remote Bhoomkhar village, about 15km from Satna, on the night of 14 December. Following an allegation by a Hindu fundamentalist outfit called Bajrang Dal, the police detained the entire team, while the car of eight priests who came to help was torched outside the police station.
“I agree such incidents can happen in a big country… But how do you evaluate the strength and stand of the government? It is the subsequent action and the legal protection that matter,” the report quoted Cardinal Cleemis as saying.
Though India’s interior minister Rajnath Singh had assured the head of the Catholic Church of the “safety” of Christians when the Cardinal called on him after his Satna visit, Cleemis said the incident threatens the “credentials of our democratic system”. The police remained silent spectators when the Christians were manhandled inside the police station, he added.
A.C. Michael, co-ordinator of the United Christian Forum (that documents incidents of anti-Christian violence), visited another state, Uttar Pradesh, at the weekend, over the arrest of seven, including two pastors, two weeks ago on an anti-conversion charge. He told World Watch Monitor: “We are worried about the role of the police and the failure of the judicial system.”
When the bail application of the seven came up for hearing on 17 December before the court in Mathura, 160km south of New Delhi, the judge dismissed it, saying “lawyers were not present”.
“In fact the lawyers were standing in front of the judge,” said Michael, a former member of the Minorities Commission of Delhi state. “We are relieved that finally they were released on bail on 21 December.”
Meanwhile, hardly a day passes without incidents in the media of Christians being threatened not to celebrate during the festive season, and of Christmas celebrations being disrupted.
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