Indian Christians alarmed at violence against religious minorities

(Photo: REUTERS / Anindito Mukherjee)A worker of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) rides his bicycle past the party's campaign billboard featuring Prime Minister Narendra Modi outside their party headquarters in New Delhi February 10, 2015. Upstart anti-establishment Aam Aadmi Party crushed the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in an election for the Delhi assembly on Tuesday, smashing an aura of invincibility built around Prime Minister Narendra Modi since he swept to power last year. The billboard reads: "One India, Best India"

More than a hundred prominent Indian Christians have written to the heads of all churches and Christian communities, urging support for civil society in its struggle to safeguard India's secular credentials and cultural and religious diversity.

They released an open letter on Aug. 4, with the 101 signatories noting a dangerous shift in the country "from a pluralist, secular, democracy to a Hindu Rashtra," Vatican Radio reports.

Shortly after the Open Doors website, the monitors persecution against Christians worldwide issued a statement Aug. 8 saying,

"If the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) has its way, India will soon be unified under one religion, one culture, and one language."

It was a reference to the group known as RSS that is an extremist Hindu nationalist organization that is said to have the backing of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Open Doors had reported that in the first quarter of 2017 there were 248 persecution incidents in which Christians were harassed, threatened or attacked for their faith.

More recent records, said Open Doors, indicate the number of incidents in first six months of 2017 is now up to 410 incidents.

This represents an enormous increase in persecution as there were only 441 incidents reported in 2016 for the entire year.

The Aug. 4 open letter signatories noted "a systematic design to undermine the Indian Constitution," saying that "official machinery often seems to be working in tandem with the vigilantes" in carrying out street lynching of innocent victims, on the basis of religion and caste.


Amid all this they noted, the "media seems mute, silent in self-censorship, coerced by the State, or leashed by its corporate owners."

The open letter is written at a time, reported Vatican Radio when several people have fallen in recent mob lynchings ‎and vigilantism over consumption of beef or trading in cows and beef.

In the latest incident, it said, a Christian pastor was shot dead in northern ‎Punjab state on July 15 and police have not identified culprits.‎

Among the signatories to the open letter are rights activist Jesuit Father Cedric Prakash, rights activist and journalist John Dayal, rights activist Father Ajay Kumar Singh, several lawyers, priests, nuns and lay people working in the field of education, law and social activism.

The letter accused the Indian government of "double talk" saying while it supports the global fight against terrorism, at home "it is not concerned with violent nationalism of the mob wreaking terror on the weak and the marginalized."

The prominent Christians observed that between 2014 and 2016, under the BJP-led government, more than 600 episodes of violent acts have taken place against their communities.

It said, further, violence against low-caste Dalits and Muslims have surged according to the National Crime Records Bureau.

Speaking to The Hindu newspaper, one of the signatories, A. C. Michael, a former member of the Delhi Minorities Commission said that the open letter is a wake-up call to all Christians.

He said they should not to be passive any more but to "raise their voice against the violence that the country is witnessing today against the common man," and to "spread the truth."

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