04/24/2017, 17.06
INDIA
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Uttar Pradesh: bishops call on new chief minister to defend persecuted Christians

by Nirmala Carvalho

The meeting with Yogi Adityanath took place on 21 April. Local Church leaders extended their best wishes to him in his new capacity. They also asked him to guarantee the security and protection of the Christian minority and its places of worship.

Lucknow (AsiaNews) – Seven Catholic bishops met on Friday with Uttar Pradesh’s newly-elected chief minister, Yogi Adityanath, and expressed their best wishes to him in his new capacity.

During the 15-minute meeting, Church leaders assured him that he is in their prayers, but they also raised the issue of security for the Christian minority.

The meeting was especially important since Yogi Adityanath is a famous Hindu priest, known for his radical views, including extreme criticisms of Mother Teresa of Kolkata and the work of Christians in India, and for the fact that one of the latest episodes of anti-Christian intolerance took place in the State he governs.

"We assured him of our prayers for the success of his work as the head of the government of the largest Indian state,” Mgr Gerald John Mathias, bishop of Lucknow, told AsiaNews. “We also expressed some concerns, calling for security and protection of our minority, especially in its places of worship. We also asked the eminent chief minister to investigate people who take the law into their own hands."

The reference is to an episode on 7 April, when members of the radical Hindu Yuva Vahini, a youth nationalist group created in 2002 by Yogi Adityanath himself, broke into a church in Dadhauli (Maharajganj district) and disrupted an ongoing religious service.

About 150 worshippers were in the church at the time, including ten American tourists. Everyone, including Rev Yuhanna Adam, were arrested by police on charges of forced conversions to Christianity.

During the meeting, the "chief minister assured us that he would not allow people to stand above the law,” Mgr Mathias said. “He expressed appreciation for our work in the service of the poor and the needy, especially in the field of education. Finally, he invited us to continue practicing our faith without fear."

The bishop went on to say that Yogi Adityanath "is against conversions, but told us to continue to talk about Prabhu Yesu (the Lord Jesus), respect other faiths, and live in harmony with everyone."

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