06/08/2018, 14.01
INDIA
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Hindu nationalists accuse Vatican of ‘instigating’ the Indian Church against Modi'

VHP secretary Surendra Jain attacks the pastoral letter of the archbishop of Goa and Daman, which states that "the Indian Constitution is in danger". Secretary: "Unfounded and forced accusations". Hindu nationalists "are not the majority of the population". The Church's tremendous contribution to education, society and health.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) - The Indian Churches "conspire with the Vatican to destabilize the current elected government" of the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) of Narendra Modi. This is the strong charge laid by Surendra Jain, joint general secretary of the VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Hindu ultra-nationalist group), reacting to the pastoral letter of the archbishop of Goa and Daman, Msgr. Filipe Neri Ferrao.

In the missive the prelate said that the Indian Constitution is in danger and minorities live in insecurity. Jain further said the Vatican not only denigrates the Hindus all over the world but also India as a nation and the Indian churches are acting as puppets in their hands.

Speaking to AsiaNews the Archbishop Ferrao's secretary Fr. Joaquim Loiola Pereira underlines that the pastoral document outlines the future work of the diocese for the period 2018-2019 and "talks about the Christian response to how to alleviate poverty".

Instead, in the Indian newspapers the paragraph that has had the most resonance is that in which the Archbishop affirms that "our Constitution is in danger", "human rights are under attack and democracy seems at risk".

According to the secretary, "the accusations are groundless and forced. One or two sentences on the situation within the country have been extrapolated from the context and inflated in proportions, so as to make it appear that the letter was written to destabilize the current government ".

The debate is similar to another episode also involving a recent pastoral document that sparked considerable controversy. This is the letter penned by the Archbishop of Delhi, Msgr. Anil JT Couto,  in which he urges us to fast and pray for the general elections next year. He was challenged for referring to the "turbulent political climate" in India.

Following the dissemination of Goa's pastoral initiative, Msgr. Ferrao and the whole diocese have been targeted by string criticism from government officials and nationalist sympathizers. Added to these are the fierce comments of the VHP secretary, who two days ago declared: "It is now clear that the Churches in India are collude with the Vatican and try to create an atmosphere of distrust against the current government".

“On the contrary, Constitution of India is in danger because of the attacking political stand of the church and its agenda of religious conversions,” he alleged". “The same church remains a mute spectator when emergency was imposed in the country, Kashmiri Hindus were brutally killed in the valley and Sikhs were butchered in the 1984 riots. For the Church, these events do not put the Constitution in danger”.

Fr. Loiola instead responds that "there are some fundamentalist elements in the country (and they do not represent the majority community) that are out to accuse the Church of crimes that she has never committed. The reference to  a "conspiracy" of the Indian Church with the Vatican seems to be the product of a fertile and malicious mind which is ready to go to any length to attack an otherwise tiny and inoffensive minority of less that 3 per cent of the Indian population".

Among the various statements of the Hindu nationalist Jain, there is one according to which the pastoral letter "is not the point of view of the whole Church, but a conspiracy to install governments that can be employed by the Vatican". "Why does the Church behave in this way - he questions - only when the government is led by the BJP? These people started a mischievous campaign on attacks on churches when Modi took power as prime minister."

Fr. Loiola reiterates that "It is nothing but a hate campaign that the fundamentalists like to blow up at the least provocation. The Catholic Church, although so minuscule in its numbers, is contributing in a big way to the nation-building, especially by way of her well-known educational, social and healthcare institutions.  Could this be the reason for such attacks? ".

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