MODI GOVERNMENT TRYING TO DIVIDE, COERCE CHURCH; AICU SOLIDARITY WITH DELHI ARCHBISHOP ANIL COUTO
AICU president demands halt to targeted violence against Dalits, religious minorities
KOLKATA / DIMAPUR, 24 May, 2018
[The following press statement was issued by Mr. Lancy D Cunha, the National President of the All India Catholic Union, and Dr. John Dayal, Official Spokesman and former President. The 99-year-old AICU celebrates its 100 years in 2019.]
The All India Catholic Union expresses serious concern at attempts by the Union government, the ruling party and its ideological affiliates as well as a section of the media, to divide the Christian churches, pitting bishop against bishop, and targeting individual religious leaders who dare speak of the multiple threats posed to India’s democracy and its secular and plural character.
This malicious exercise wants national and world attention to shift from state violence against the people as in the police sniper fire in Tuticorin which killed 11 persons, including several Catholics, inured a priest and other innocents protesting the expansion of a dangerous Sterlite plant which will poison underground water resources of the community. This plant is owned by the powerful Vedanta group, one of the several crony capitalists who have the benign support of the government. AICU demands arrest of the police officers and their trial for this unprovoked violence. Police had not fired at upper caste miscreants who burnt and looted government property during violence in Rajasthan, Haryana and other northern states. Any self-respecting chief minister would have resigned in such a situation.
As the largest and oldest movement of lay Christians in the country, the AICU is deeply concerned at the government’s failure to condemn and contain the threats to freedoms of faith, livelihood and expression in the country. Our beloved land has been ravaged by caste violence. Dalits have been beaten to death in several states of the country. Dalits and Muslims have been lynched from Assam to Rajasthan on mere suspicion of eating beef or transporting cattle.
The persecution of Christians is at its height, in almost every state with Tamil Nadu, now in a total anarchy, topping in communal violence too. State impunity and often the collusion of local police and civil officials aggravates the situation. Police routinely file cases against the victims, even against relatives of people who have been beaten to death.
As followers of Christ who taught us to love everyone as we would love our brother, we cannot close our eyes when our citizens, who are among the poorest of the poor and are ostracized for their caste origins and religious affiliations, are being targeted and often beaten or hanged to death in full public view. The killers film the murder as if were an act of valor. The police look on. Ruling party members often take out processions seeking the release of the guilty. The rape of the shepherd child in Kathua, Jammu and Kashmir state, is the most heinous such act. Government has admitted to the death of 111 persons in822acts of communal violence in 2017. As we go towards the 2019 general elections, communal forces widen the polarisation by communal violence. It is crystal clear as to who benefits from the polarisation.
The Catholic Union stands in solidarity with Archbishop Anil Couto of the Delhi Latin Catholic Archdiocese and commends his courage, integrity and spiritual strength in calling attention to this rising tide of targeted violence against Dalits and religious minorities. Archbishop Anil has been hounded since his letter to his clergy asking his people to pray for the people, and to keep a special fast every Friday seeking blessings for India and peace in the land. We demand of every Bishop in India to issue such call for prayer for the country. We hope religious heads of all communities will also join in these prayers.
The Catholic Union had, in fact, organised such a prayer meeting In Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, earlier this. Alarmed at the very large number of incidents of violence against the Christian community in India in 2017, and specially in Madhya Pradesh, religious leaders of the Hindu, Muslim and other religions had come out strongly in support of the minority community, demanding that the government take strict and urgent action against the groups responsible for such mayhem. Acharya Sushil Goswami and Indore Shahar Quazi Mohammad Ishrat Ali had then led a galaxy of religious leaders of Madhya Pradesh who spoke out against communal and extremist forces targeting the Christian and other minority groups. We hope to organise more such meeting.
The Catholic Union has heard Central tourism minister Alphons Kannanatham saying that no Christian has been persecuted in the Modi regime. Mr. Alphons has also led the government brigade targeting Archbishop Anil Couto. Ministers have their compulsions. He must answer his own conscience. As must leaders of the Church who have been coerced or persuaded to issue certificates to the central government. The Church cannot close its eyes to violence against other marginalised communities even if not a single Christian is harmed, the Catholic Union affirms.
The Catholic Union has consistently decried the growing misuse of religion, religious symbols and places in the political discourse. We note with regret the increasing tendency of religious leaders to seek votes and support for the Central government and the ruling party in elections. Religious heads must educate their communities and the citizens large on strengthening the democratic traditions, including religious freedom and human rights, participation in the electoral. Religion must infuse Truth, Morality, Ethics, in the body politic, and not be divisive, incite violence or polarize people.
The Catholic Union has been in the forefront of the rights of Dalits and Tribals, specially those professing the Christian faith. AICU has filed a writ in the Supreme court together with others demanding Scheduled Case rights for Dalits professing the Christian Faith. We hope the courts will take a decision at an early date as this impacts the civic and human rights of a large number of people in the community.
Released to the Media by the official Spokesman, Dr. John Dayal.
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