India bishop stresses need for Church to spread religious tolerance

(Photo: REUTERS / Alessandro Bianchi)A priest wears vestment depicting two new Indian saints, Kuriakose Elias Chavara (L) and Mother Euphrasia Eluvathingal, as Pope Francis leads a canonization ceremony, to make saints out of six men and women, in Saint Peter's square at the Vatican November 23, 2014.

Despite rising incidences involving religious minorities in India, an official of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India has underpinned the need for the church's deeper involvement in advocating for tolerance.

Bellary Bishop Henry D'Souza has pointed out that religious leaders must guide their followers to embrace tolerance of each other's beliefs, saying people of different faiths could do so much better if they worked together.

"Without considering each other as enemies, religious followers must fight common enemies such as poverty, disease, the dehumanizing caste system, sex-selective abortion, violence against women, and the degradation of the environment," the bishop told Vatican Radio.

D'Souza, who chairs the CBCI's Office for Youth, explained that citizens of a country must take it upon themselves to promote the religious tolerance and instill among the people that freedom to worship is a fundamental right for every person.

The bishop said the Catholic Church in the country has the network to involve the youth in shaping their perspective on religious tolerance.

"With a nationwide large network of educational institutions and youth associations, the Catholic Church is in a position to sensitize children and youth to the demands of such a task," he pointed out.

"Interreligious outlook and values are being inculcated through formal and informal education."

"[The education] should start in the families and continue through formal education in schools and colleges," the bishop continued, saying that "no one disputes the need of social harmony for the progress of a country. It is of paramount importance."

India has seen a rise in attacks against religious minorities since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took office in May last year. Hindu fundamentalists are fueling fears that the country is slowly yielding to minority religions.

Some 600 cases of attacks against Muslims and Christians have been documented, while dozens of people are believed to have faced forced conversion to Hinduism.

In addition, at least five attacks on a Catholic church in India have been recorded since December. The most recent one was February 2 when vandals defaced the St. Alphonsa's church in New Delhi.

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