The Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI) has welcomed the commitment of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to protect the rights of religious minorities there, saying with the official's statement comes the wait for "concrete action."
CBCI spokesman Father Joseph Chinnayyan explained that the prime minister's remarks on the issue had long been awaited especially since most of the attacks have been purportedly carried out by members or supporters of the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janaya Party (BJP).
"We welcome his words and now expect concrete action to end violence," the priest said in an interview with the Catholic Fides news agency on Feb. 18.
He noted that Modi's statement, which he made before an assembly of Christians recently, only emphasized the freedom of worship for all Indians, regardless of belief or religious affiliation.
RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN INDIA
The bishops' spokesman reiterated that religious freedom in India is enshrined in the country's constitution.
Chinnayyan also pointed out that Modi's remarks should also serve notice to Hindu extremist groups who have been at the forefront of making India, which is a secular state, into a Hindu-nation.
"The premier affirmed that all religions in India, whether majority or minority, have the same rights and every individual has the freedom to profess and diffuse his or her beliefs," the priest explained. "We welcome these words which are a message for all, including Hindu extremist groups," he said.
"Now we are waiting to see action," he continued.
Modi spoke at an event organized by the Syro-Malabarese Catholic Church to mark the canonization of two Indian saints.
His presence alone at the event had been interpreted as a positive sign that he had been concerned about the apparent growing intolerance against minority faiths like Christianity.
Churches have been attacked in past months, while both Christians and Muslims say they have been forced to convert to Hinduism by some sectors of society.
In his speech, Modi reiterated that "no religious group may incite to violence. My government intends to guarantee freedom of belief and no religious group, whether majority or minority, may incite to hatred against another group, directly or indirectly."
India's population is some 1.2 billion, of whom about 75 percent are Hindu, 13 percent Muslim and Christians are believed to account for about 4.5 percent of the population; followed by other minority religious groups.