The Archbishop of Mumbai and president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India stands against the anti-Muslim law, but also urges non-violence and dialogue. Polarisation along confessional lines is a danger to the country.
Mumbai (AsiaNews) – Card Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Mumbai and president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India, issued a statement yesterday on the country’s controversial citizenship law that penalises Muslims.
“Religion,” he writes, “should never be the criterion for citizenship of a country. Nor is violence a solution when there is a difference of opinion.”
Starting on 9 December, protests have multiplied across country in opposition to the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, a law voted by the Indian parliament, which opens the path to Indian citizenship to members of persecuted minorities in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, all except Muslims.
Because of this, many Muslim students – followed by other non-Hindu groups – took to the streets to protest. Catholic leaders joined them and have been detained as a result.
Several Hindu intellectuals have also come out against the law in the name of India’s multiethnic and multi-religious character.
In many cities police and demonstrators have clashed. In some places, protesters have started fires and carried out acts of vandalism.
In order to re-establish order, the police have blocked Internet and carried out hundreds of arrests.
So far, 23 people have died in connection with India’s most divisive law, and thousands more have been injured.
In his statement, Card Gracias says that the law is a “cause of great anxiety for all citizens and could harm the country. There is a danger that there could be a polarization of our peoples along religious lines, which is very harmful for the country.”
Hoping perhaps to see the law repealed, the prelate goes on to say that “It is necessary that the Government dialogue with those opposing the Act, and come to an agreement about the way forward with justice, equity and fairness.”
In fact, “There is no harm in backtracking: changing course if this is necessary for the good of the country and our people.” this is especially true now, at Christmas, “a time for peace, justice and unity. These values which Our Lord brought to humankind in Bethlehem should be paramount in our hearts and minds at this time.”
(Nirmala Carvalho contributed to this article)