Representation Image | Reuters
The Forum of Religious for Justice and has written to Cardinal Oswald Gracias to draw his attention to the recent attacks on the Christian community across India. The attacks, threats and vandalism over months had peaked on Christmas week. The letter signed by nuns and priests, who are also scholars and peace activists, highlighted the attacks reported around December 24-25, 2021.
Around seven “well-planned attacks on Christian Institutions across the country” were reported, stated the letter, adding that there were “486 incidents of violence
against the Christian community in India” in 2021. This letter is crucial as it is perhaps the first that calls out the lack of an official response from the Church in India.
“What shocks us is the complete silence on the part of the official Church, the CBCI,” it states and calls upon the Cardinal “as the leader of the Catholic Church in India,” to guide the community. “The community is facing a great threat and many Christians are living in fear. As Indian citizens we have our ‘Constitutional Rights’ and these rights are being violated both by the state and non-state actors. As a minority religious community and citizens of India we have the right to protest within the framework of law against the violation of our rights.”
The letter names note of the violent acts against Christians, Muslims and other minority group as being “in complete violation of the law of the land and the Indian Constitution,” adding if the people and the communities leadership do not respond to such acts, “the secular fabric of India will be lost causing irreparable damage to the people of India, and an inclusive, democratic and pluralistic India as envisioned in the preamble of the Indian Constitution could be lost forever.”
The siginorites who include Dorothy Fernandes (PBVM), Anthony Thekkinyath (OFM CAP), Fr Cedrik Prakash (SJ), Sr Leena, Fr Anand Mathew (IMS), and others informed the Cardinal that as individuals they joined civil society groups to register their protest against the gross violations of rights by signing petitions. However, adding, “What is missing is the voice of the official church, the CBCI.” They request the Cardinal “to guide the Catholic Community India to respond to the increasing hate speech and violence against Muslims and Christians.” The letter minces no words and puts on record that “when Muslims were lynched by the right-wing groups, the Church in India remained silent. Now these groups have intensified their attacks on Christians. We are of the view that we Catholics cannot remain silent spectators when the drama of violent attacks against the minorities is unfolding before us. We need to act and fulfill our prophetic role before it is too late.”
“The evangelical churches, pastors and the faithful are mostly the vulnerable victims of persecution. As the leader of the Catholic Church, the largest denomination in India, we suggest that you play an important and necessary role of being a bridge between different denominations and towards building Christian solidarity,” says the letter.
The Forum proposes a “united action against the attacks” and asked that the Cardinal write to Prime Minister and the Union Home Minister “asking them to give strict orders to the chief ministers of the states where atrocities against Christians are taking place, to prevent such atrocities in future and to bring to book the culprits who are involved in these crimes.” They also asked that an expert legal cell be set up under the CBCI “to provide legal guidance and support to the victims of violence or harassment to approach the competent courts.”
The forum’s letter may be read here: