05/16/2014, 00.00
INDIA
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Indian Church congratulates Modi, calls for respect for all citizens

by Nirmala Carvalho
The President of the Indian Bishops' Conference tells AsiaNews that cultural, ethnic and religious differences bind Indians "in a unique and rich spiritual and cultural heritage." For the bishop of Pune, the new government should "accept all communities" because "India's development, progress and the moral authority depends on how minorities are treated." Christian leader warns of fundamentalist tendencies in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its supporters.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - The Catholic Church and the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India "congratulate Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for their victory," said His Beatitude Mar Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI) as he spoke to AsiaNews about the country's recent election.

Addressing directly the new administration, the prelate, who is major archbishop of Trivandrum of the Syro-Malankara Church, pledged to "renew the commitment, brotherly dialogue and mission to serve the country as the Catholic Church in India has always done."

At the same time, he called on the Lord "to ensure that the authorities continue to stand alongside the people, especially the poor and religious minorities."

"Our nation is one of the most ancient cultures. It is amazing for its diversity. It is rooted in faith in God. But India is also the birthplace of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism," Beatitude told AsiaNews.

"Sharing spaces, regional ethos and peculiar cultural traits transcend different ethnic, regional and linguistic groups, biding people together in a unique and rich spiritual and cultural heritage, as guaranteed by India's founding fathers and as enshrined in our Constitution."

Mgr Thomas Dabre, bishop of Pune, told AsiaNews that he was hopeful that "under Narendra Modi's leadership, the new government will accept all communities, especially minorities, like Christians, Muslims, Dalits, tribals, as well as women. The primary responsibility of any elected government is to ensure the well-being of every citizen."

According to Mgr Dabre, "India's development, progress and moral authority depends on how minorities are treated in terms of equality. Religious freedom and tolerance are the hallmark of any civilised body."

Speaking to AsiaNews, Sajan George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), expressed concerns about Modi's victory.

"Some BJP-led Indian states have seen a steady rise in anti-Christian attacks and violence," George said. "Others have shown great enthusiasm in applying the anti-conversion laws."

Statements made yesterday by MG Vaidya, the ideologue of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a fundamentalist paramilitary group that has endorsed the BJP, have made matters worse.

What is more, the new government plans to build a temple dedicate to Ram in Ayodhya on the ruins of the Babar mosque (whose destruction caused by Hindu extremists led to anti-Muslim pogroms across the country). It also wants to repeal Article 370 of the Indian constitution, which grants special autonomous status to the predominantly Muslim state of Jammu and Kashmir. Lastly, it has indicated its intention of introducing a Uniform Civil Code, which would apply to member of all religious denominations.

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