Christians join Muslims to discuss hate crimes in India

2016-09-08 Vatican Radio

A consultation was organized by National Council of Churches, the umbrella organization of around 30 Protestant and Orthodox Churches in India, in New Delhi, India on September 5-6, 2016 bringing Christians and Muslim leaders together seeking ways to check increasing violence against religious minorities in India.

The 50 attending religious leaders met to discuss "challenges for the freedom of religion and belief in India" under Prime Minister Narendra Modi who heads the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party led federal government.

Currently religious minorities, especially Christians are "facing physical, symbolic and structural violence" from Hindu extremists across the country, said Father Z. Devasagaya Raj, secretary of the Indian Catholic bishops' conference's office for Dalit and indigenous people. "Every Indian should have the right to practice and promote their religion peacefully," he said.

Christian and Muslim leaders maintain that Hindu groups that work to make India a Hindu state consider Modi's landslide electoral victory more than two years ago as a mandate for them to step up their harassment of religious minorities.

Ever since Modi came to power, several of his ministers and parliamentarians have publicly spoken against Muslims, demonizing them and asking them to leave the country.

There was at least one anti-Muslim riot in Uttar Pradesh, in which three Muslims were killed and some 30 people were injured in June. In another major mob violence in the same state, a Muslim family was attacked and the father beaten to death for allegedly eating beef, as the cow is viewed a sacred animal by orthodox Hindus.

The religiously motivated violence against Christians include arson attacks on churches, conversion of Christians to Hinduism by force, and threats of physical violence, distribution of hate literature, burning of Bibles, raping of nuns, murder of Christian pastors and destruction of Christian schools, colleges, and cemeteries.

In the first half of 2016, there were at least 134 incidents of violence against Christians, compared to 147 incidents in all of 2014 and 177 in 2015, according to data released by the Evangelical Fellowship of India's Religious Liberty Commission.

Christians are a small minority forming 2.4 percent of the 1.2 billion Indians, more than 80 percent of who are Hindus. Muslims form 14 percent of the population.

Catholic and Protestant religious leaders and organizations should involve Muslim leaders who represent the country's largest religious minority, to curb anti-Christian violence, said T.K. Oommen, a sociologist.

Together they must "identity as citizens of India demand and our rights as a citizen, rather than crying out as a minority group," he said.

Arun Pannalal, a Christian leader from Chhattisgarh state that has witnessed several cases of violence against Christians in the past year. He said both Christian and Muslim leaders must highlight education among the youth as they are socially marginalized and considered as outcasts, especially in northern Indian states.

More than 90 percent of law making decisions and policies are formulated by Hindu bureaucrats, so Christians and Muslims should aim to have more of their children in the civil service, said Muslim leader Zafar Mahmood.


(from Vatican Radio)