Trichur (Fides Service) – On the one hand satisfaction because episodes of violence against Christians or Christian institutions have decreased in the last two years; on the other concern for the climate of tension and for threats which Christians still receive in various states of India. These are the sentiments lived by the Church in India today, Mgr Percival Fernandez, Secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India said in his address during the recent general assembly of Bishops in Trichur, Kerala which closed in 14 January.
Mgr Fernandez said that while between 1998-2002 more than 500 Hindu extremist attacks against Christians were registered, only between 40 and 60 have happened in the last two years. “This means that millions of Hindus live in peace with Christians” he said.
Despite this positive note, many Bishops at the assembly voiced concern for violence against Christians in various dioceses, physical attacks, vandalism, threats, devastation of churches.
The most recent episode reported was a stone throwing raid on a Catholic school in Bangalore, Madya Pradesh, involving more than 500 people led by Hindu extremists on 14 January. The crowd accused the school teachers, nuns and headmaster of being responsible for a crime committed within the school campus. In the school grounds, in the evening of January 12 a Tribal girl was attacked and murdered. While the police are still investigating, fundamentalist Hindus appear to have passed judgement and they took advantage of the episode to attack the school and the staff.
The Bishops also voiced concern for a growing tendency in India to confuse political life with religious issues for example the “anti-conversion bill” approved in a number of states, including Tamil Nadu and Gujarat, according to which conversions to Christianity must be reported and judged by the local magistrate. “This denotes a situation of confusion with regard to political, civil and religious issues”, they underlined.
The Bishops’ Conference reaffirmed the Church in India’s commitment to continue along the path of interreligious dialogue, the only path to guarantee peace and harmony in society.
(PA) (Fides Service 16/1/2004 lines 44 words 468)