05/30/2007, 00.00
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Anti-Christian violence will destroy the country, says archbishop of Mumbai

by Nirmala Carvalho
The prelate who chairs the Indian Bishops’ Conference talks to AsiaNews about yesterday’s big rally by Christian groups against religious intolerance and warns that without religious freedom India will crumble.

Delhi (AsiaNews) – Rising anti-Christian violence “is irrational and greatly harms the country’s development. It projects an image of an illiberal and fascist India which on the long run will destroy everything its people has created,” Mgr Oswald Gracias told AsiaNews.

As he talks about yesterday’s big demonstration by Christian groups in protest against religious intolerance, the archbishop of Mumbai does not mince words. Indeed, the latest events “have shown that India’s Christian community can no longer remain silent if it wants to ensure the safety of its members. I express my closeness to the demonstrators,” he explained.  “Even though I could not be there in person I want to join my voice to that of all those who are demanding that the government protect minorities and safeguard citizens’ human rights.”

Furthermore, the prelate said: “I have full confidence in the people and the constitution of India. If only the government did its duty and followed the precepts of the law which guarantees every citizens security of life and property! The government must listen to the cry of those who suffer from violence and oppression.”

For him the rising number of attacks against Christians “is an ominous sign of the breakdown in Indian society of civil order and inter-religious respect and represents a grave violation of human rights and religious liberty.”

“Some state governments are responsible for the climate of intolerance because they tacitly give encouragement to the lawlessness and this is very bad for the country. India,” he said, “cannot afford such negativity for it will hamper the progress of the nation.” Instead “our country has always been known for understanding and tolerance and sadly the rise tide of violence projects a very negative image of India. The whole world is looking at us and we should not look like this.”

The main risk “is that we are playing with fire. Those who are responsible for these acts of violence against a community like the Christian community which has given so much to the country since the first days of independence don’t realise how much they are putting at risk. We are but a few but we contribute disproportionately in the fields of education and health care.”

“The contribution by Christians to the country has been made in a spirit of patriotism and loyalty.  We are second to none as far as working for the nation and its development,” Mgr Gracias said. “And yet, the government is ignoring our pain and nothing is changing”.

The archbishop concluded saying: “I pray that this protest may seriously move those who govern us and I hope that such an important message will not be ignored by those who can stop the injustice. On the long run, violence and injustice can only be disastrous for the whole country.”

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