05/15/2007, 00.00
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Maharashtra: Christian leaders against “confessional terrorism”

by Nirmala Carvalho
After Christian missionaries are seen beaten on TV, a delegation of religious leaders and civil rights activists meet the Indian state’s chief minister. They appeal for respect of minorities, enforcement of existing laws and a police’s commitment against violence that undermines national unity itself. Mumbai archbishop says Christians have “faith in the constitution.”

Mumbai (AsiaNews) – Christian leaders who met Maharashtra’s Chief Minister asked him to stop acts of confessional terrorism by Hindu fundamentalists against Christians and other Indian minorities. In the state, a virtual campaign of terror against minorities is underway.

The delegation which met Mr Vilasrao Deshmukh was led by Mgr Agnelo Gracias, auxiliary bishop of Mumbai; Lawrence Dsouza, president of the All India Catholic Union (Maharashtra); Dr John Dayal, president of the All India Catholic Union; and Dr Abraham Mathai, deputy chairman of the State Minorities Commission.

Commenting the meeting to AsiaNews, Mgr Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Mumbai, said he was “very hopeful and optimistic” and had “faith in the Constitution” and in the “citizens of this country, irrespective of caste and creed” who will “not allow communal elements to prevail.”

Talking about incidents in Kolhapurdi, where Hindu extremists from the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) taped the beating of two Christians for broadcasting on TV, he said they were “a shame for the country,” and “sadly puts India back.”

In his opinion responsibility for what is happening lies squarley with politicians but also with the police.

“I don’t think we need new laws to stop this trend. All that is needed is for existing laws to be enforced and for police to uphold the rule of law and resist political or communal pressures.”

The statement signed by the members of the delegation that met on Sunday the chief minister of Maharashtra, where 2the religious freedom of minorities had always been guaranteed,” urged him to put pressure “on the central government to take steps to stop violence and intimidations by fundamentalists and prosecute the culprits” because “sectarian terror is a threat to national unity and integrity.”

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