12/18/2018, 11.55
INDIA
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Appeal to the Indian government: protect Christians at Christmas

The request comes from the Protestant Christian group Persecution Relief. The secretary general of the Catholic bishops condemns the desecration of the church in Assam. In India religious freedom is guaranteed by Article 25 of the Constitution.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) - The Government of India "must provide protection for Christians during the celebrations of Christmas". This is the appeal launched by Thomas Jacob, the legal representative of the Persecution Relief group, which deals with defending discriminated Christians in India.

In a letter addressed to Minister Rajnath Singh, responsible for public order in the country, the activist demands a guarantee of serene Christmas celebrations for all Christians living in India. "India - he says - is a democratic republic and, as such, all people, regardless of creed, must be able to celebrate each other's festivals in full spirit and with full enthusiasm". Many Catholics also share the purpose of the Protestant group's letter of appeal.

In the last years in India, the period of Advent and Christmas was marred by a series of violent incidents that ruined the festive atmosphere for the birth of the Lord.

The last one took place on December 15th in Assam, in the village of Chapatoli, where unknown criminals vandalized the Catholic church of Saint Thomas and the Virgin’s grotto. Through an official statement, the Assam Christian Forum expresses "pain and frustration at the sporadic attacks carried out by anti-social elements that vandalize places of worship, desecrate statues, attack Christians. The community feels intimidated and insecure, while all together we prepare to [celebrate] Christmas, a celebration of peace ".

Msgr. Theodore Mascharenhas, general secretary of the Indian Bishops' Conference (Cbci) also  expresses "deep concern" to AsiaNews and hopes that no similar incidents will occur.

In the missive, the Persecution Relief activists stress the importance of Article 25 of the Indian Constitution which enshrines freedom of religion. It, they say, "gives to all people, not just citizens, the right to profess, practice and spread their religion", including songs,vigil masses, concerts, music and dances.

The group's call to defuse the climate of religious intolerance in India during this Christmas period is even more relevant if we take into account what happened two days ago in Tamil Nadu. Here a group of  carol singers was attacked by Pudukottai while performing Christmas songs. The assaulted, 16 Christians in all, are part of the Brethren Outreach Team. They were ferociously beaten by around 150 people. The crowd did not want Christmas hymns to be performed. The episode brings to mind a similar incident that took place last year in Satna, in Madhya Pradesh. On December 14, 2017, a group of 30 seminarians and two priests were held hostage by Hindu fundamentalists for a few hours, after being arrested on their way to a distant village to perform Christmas carols. One of their cars was set on fire by the angry mob.

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