ASIA/INDIA - “Christian are small in numbers but they can be important for the vote in India. We hope that fundamentalist Hindus do not prevail ”: Director of Pontifical Mission Societies in India speaks to Fides

Thursday, 11 March 2004

Bangalore (Fides Service) - “In the coming elections the Christian community, though a minority in India can play a vital role in some parts of the country. In some places the votes of Catholics can even affect the final results of the election. This is why the local Church must be united in defending its principles”. Mgr Ignaci Siluvai, of Bangalore diocese who is National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in India said this to Fides commenting the situation of Christians in India and the elections next month. Mgr Siluvai spoke about the threat of Hindu extremism: “Because of the threat of fundamentalist Hindus who support the Baratiya Janata Party (BJP), in power at the moment, Christian voters must take suitable counter measures. It should be said that in many part of India Catholic voters are not sufficiently informed or aware of the situation. This is why Bishops all over India have issued or will soon issue criteria as a guidelines for choosing candidates and to explain the Church’s teaching with regard to the activity of Christians in the social and political field. ”.
“Problems will arise - the Director says - after the vote if fundamentalist groups obtain a large majority: in that case they may decide to change the Constitution which sanctions a secular state and India’s Christians, including Catholics, could suffer. In some parts of the country Christians are victims of attacks and harassment by Hindu fundamentalists. But this threat does not prevent us from proclaiming the Good News, the more Christians are persecuted the more they grow in numbers”.
The Pontifical Mission Societies - Mgr Siluvai concludes - work closely with the Indian Bishops to create awareness with regard to missionary activity at all levels particularly among children: “At our last meeting in February there were 8,500 children members of Missionary Childhood, proud to be great little missionaries ”.
(PA) (Agenzia Fides 11/3/2004 lines 33 words 348)