01/22/2015, 00.00
INDIA

Indian Bishops tell government no to "saffronisation", yes to secularism

The Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI) calls on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take "urgently intervene" to stop threats against religious freedom across the nation. The impunity enjoyed by radical Hindu groups represents a danger for minorities.

New Delhi (AsiaNews/CBCI) - Following repeated attempts to "reconvert Christians and Muslims to Hinduism," attacks against "churches, clergy and laity," and the "saffronisation" of education and culture, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI) has made a direct appeal to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and to the central government to take a clear position against extremists and radical groups who have gained in power in the wake of the victory by the ultra nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and in so doing they have created a climate of tension and discrimination among minorities.

Recently, a major fundamentalist group called for a national law to stop conversions to religions other than Hinduism. In view of this, "putting an end to such dangerous tendencies is inevitable for the growth and progress of our great nation," the bishops said.

"The Constitution of India guarantees that all the citizens of our country can profess, practice and propagate a religion of their choice. India is a land where different religious faiths have long since flourished, and our Founding Fathers made special efforts to ensure that the rights of all were safeguarded, irrespective of our religious beliefs, gender or caste. Christianity has its roots in Indian soil for more than 2000 years.

"The Christians of India believe in God and believe in the goodness of people and have been selflessly serving the people of this country in the fields of education, health care, etc. without any discrimination on the basis of caste, creed or religion.

"The unfortunate incidents that happened in the past few months in various parts of our country have hurt the sentiments of the Christian community and have shaken the faith in the secular fabric of the nation. The shocking incidents that have taken place against Churches, clergy and laity in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi have caused great concern for the Christian community. The recent controversies in the name of religious reconversions portray a negative image of India. Communal polarization and the bid to homogenize India are posing threat to all minorities - women, Dalits, and all linguistic, cultural and religious minorities.

"The Ghar Wapsi (homecoming) programmes, the saffronisation of education and culture, and the demands for a Hindu Rashtra (nation) are again posing challenges to the secular ethos of our beloved country. Conversions of a religious nature are an exercise of one's free will and one's fundamental constitutional rights, which include freedom of conscience and of religion. Ghar Wapsi is a political process, carried out by the powerful exponents of religious nationalism - much against the principle of secularism. It does not even have the legitimacy of freedom of political expression.

"The Christians of this country need assurance from the Government that we are protected and secure and safe in our motherland. We express our strong concern on the aforementioned issues. Putting an end to such dangerous tendencies is inevitable for the growth and progress of our great nation. This great secular nation has to remain as a place where people of all religions and of different cultural backgrounds can live freely, practicing their faith without fear or threat and in harmony. While we recommit ourselves to the progress and development of our nation, we strongly urge Prime Minister Narendra Modi to urgently intervene and take appropriate action to stop incidents that are a big threat to the unity of this secular nation.

(Santosh Digal contributed to this article)

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