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INDIA – Christian leaders: “Christmas with a heavy heart because of the violence against Churches”

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(Agenzia Fides) – “In view of Christmas 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 demolition of San Sebastiano church in Delhi, as well as other incidents of targeted violence, show contempt not only towards the religious feelings of our community, but also for the protection guaranteed in the Constitution of India”. This is what Bishops and Christian leaders of all denominations said in a statement issued in Delhi and sent to Agenzia Fides. The statement was signed, among others, by His Exc. Mgr. Anil Couto, Archbishop of Delhi, by other Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant Bishops, and civil society leaders.

“These acts of violence – they explain – 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”.

In addition, the text continues, “the well organized 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.
The statement explains: “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” (some Christian missionaries are denied entry in over 50 villages in the region of Bastar in Chhattisgarh, and some Christian families in Orissa are not allowed to use the public well in the village); physical aggression (in many states); desecration of religious buildings.
The text sent to Fides 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”. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 19/12/2014)

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