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Violence leaves India’s Christians fearful

By Sarah Mac Donald - 22 December, 2014

Church and civic leaders warn “These acts of violence are not isolated incidents."

St Sebastian's Church Dehli

St Sebastian’s Church Dehli

Courtesy: Independent Catholic News http://www.indcatholicnews.com

Source: Fides/Indian Bishops Conference

India’s Christians of all denominations have issued a joint pre-Christmas statement in which they voice their sadness and concern at the growing attacks on Christians throughout the country.

“.. we have a heavy heart because of the violence against our churches in various parts of the country, especially in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and now in the territory of the capital city Delhi.”

The letter warns that the demolition of the San Sebastiano church in Delhi, as well as other incidents of targeted violence, show contempt not only towards the religious feelings of the Christian community, but also for the protection guaranteed in the Constitution of India.

The signatories included Mgr Anil Couto, Archbishop of Delhi, as well as other Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant Bishops, and civil society leaders.

In the statement which was issued in Delhi, the church and civic leaders write, “These acts of violence are not isolated incidents. They are part of a series of interconnected actions by various non-state actors. Many politicians have called for national laws against conversion, measures that affect the Christian and Muslim communities, although not mentioned.”

The text continues: “The well organised campaign, also by senior members of Parliament belonging to the ruling party, is a threat to peace and national harmony and calls into question the identity and patriotism of different religious minorities in India”, discrediting and exposing them to further violence.”

“While the government won the election by presenting a platform of ‘development and good governance’, radical groups see their program of hatred and religious nationalism approved. It is a blatant attempt to sabotage the Indian Constitution, which guarantees freedom of every Indian citizen to profess, practice and propagate their religion”.

The leaders note that the measures, paradoxically called ‘Laws for religious freedom’, in force in several Indian states, have been in fact limited and “have been used against minorities, giving police the power to disrupt, arrest and punish priests, religious and church operators”.

The Bishops have sent a memorandum to the government that lists various “representative episodes of hostility and discrimination suffered by Christians throughout India.”

They report cases of “social boycott”, physical aggression and desecration of religious buildings.

The text concludes: “India is a land where different religious faiths have always lived together. The founders are committed to ensure that the rights of all are protected regardless of religion, gender or caste. We hope and pray that this discrimination and targeted violence are stopped thanks to a strong political will of civil and political institutions.”

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