Interior Minister promises a safe Christmas. But celebrations blocked in Rajasthan
The president of the Episcopal Conference hands over a memorandum for the protection of Christians to Rajnath Singh. Several episodes of intimidation are ruining the Christmas celebrations. Card. Cleemis: "Accidents threaten the credibility of our democratic system".
New Delhi (AsiaNews) - Rajnath Singh, Indian Minister of the Interior, has assured that Christmas in India will take place without problems. Yesterday he met a delegation led by Card. Baselios Cleemis, president of the Indian Bishops' Conference (CBCI), who reported the concerns of Christians in the light of a series of episodes of intimidation in recent days. The Union government number two has promised safe festivities. However, just yesterday evening in Rajasthan, a group of Hindu fundamentalists interrupted a Christmas ceremony accusing the organizers of "forced conversions".
The meeting between the representative of the government of Narendra Modi and the ecclesiastical hierarchy takes place at a critical moment for the Christian minority. Last week in Satna, Madhya Pradesh, 30 seminarians and two priests were detained while they were in a village to perform Christmas carols. The Hindu radicals held them hostage and set a car on fire owned by another priest who had rushed to the police station to get news of the detainees. A couple of days ago in Uttar Pradesh a far-right youth faction linked to chief minister Yogi Adityanath issued a warning to Catholic schools: not to celebrate Christmas because it "leads" to the conversion of children. During the Advent period, again in Uttar Pradesh, seven Pentecostals were arrested on proselytism charges; the judge ordered them to be released on bail, but their judicial case is just beginning.
Card. Cleemis stated: “I submitted a memorandum to the home minister to seek justice for the innocent people, request him to ensure such events do not happen in future and to provide safety for everyone in the country". Two days ago the Cardinal went to Satna, where he collected the testimonies of the Catholics and spoke to the police and civil authorities. The events of Satna, he argues, "threaten the credentials of our democratic system.” He bemoaned that the police remained silent spectators when the Church people were manhandled inside the police station. The seminarians have been conducting non formal education in the village for several years. The attackers were all outsiders, not the villagers, the cardinal explained. “Instead of registering a case against the attackers the police filed a case against a priest for alleged conversion,” he added. The prelate dismissed the conversion charge as “frivolous” and “absolutely baseless.”
Despite the reassurances of the minister, yesterday around 8:30 pm (local time) some nationalist fanatics blocked Christmas celebrations in the district of Pratapgarh, in Rajasthan. The event was organized by the association "Masih Shakti Samiti" (committee of the power of Jesus) at the community center, owned by the government and right in front of the revenue agency and the police headquarters. Witnesses say that the radicals raided and overturned the modest decorations that embellished the hall. In a video filmed during the aggression, fundamentalists accuse the organizers of conversions extorted by force. "It's not true. The rally was authorized by the district authorities ", is the reply of the Christians, who were first arrested and then released overnight.