Bhopal (Agenzia Fides) - "It is urgent to stop targeted violence against Christians": this is the appeal launched by Christian leaders to the Prime Minister of Madhya Pradesh, Shivraj Chauhan, and to all Indian political leaders. As Fides learns, the appeal was launched during an interreligious seminar held in recent days in Bhopal, in Madhya Pradesh, central India, focused on the theme of peace and national harmony, in which Hindu, Christian, Muslim and other religions took part.
The leaders present recalled the high number of incidents of violence against the Christian community in the country in 2017, particularly in the state of Madhya Pradesh. According to a report sent to Fides by the Christian organization "Evangelical Fellowship of India" (Efi), 2017 was one of the most traumatic years for Christians in India, reporting at least 351 cases of violence during the year and according to Efi, these are only incidents which are reported.
Alarmed by the huge number of incidents of violence against religious minorities in 2017, Hindu and Muslim religious leaders have called on the government to "take urgent measures against the groups responsible for this chaos". Hindu leader Acharya Maharaj and Muslim leader Shahar Quazi Mohammad Ishrat Ali denounced "extremist forces targeting Christians and other vulnerable groups". The Bishop of Indore, Mgr. Chacko Thottumarickal presented a Memorandum, co-signed by all the other leaders, to be submitted to the political leaders of Madhya Pradesh and also at a federal level.
The Memorandum, sent to Fides, lists incidents such as: detention of children under the pretext of stopping conversions; intrusion of Hindu militants to prayer meetings; violence against believers. All this with increasing police involvement in these actions.
According to the All India Catholic Union (AICU), "in various states of India, such as Madhya Pradesh, some laws called "religious freedom laws" are usually used as a shield to disturb or carry out abuse against minority communities. These laws must be repealed".
Lancy D. Cunha, National President of AICU, points out to Fides: "We criticize the growing abuse of religious symbols in political debates and invite religious leaders to educate their communities and citizens to strengthen democratic traditions, including religious freedom and human rights, free participation in elections, ethics in politics, and not to incite violence or to polarize society". AICU - the largest and oldest movement of lay Christians in the country - says it is "deeply concerned about the failure of the government to condemn and contain threats to freedom of expression in the country" and reaffirms its commitment "in defending the rights of the dalit and tribals, especially those who profess the Christian faith". (SD) (Agenzia Fides, 21/2/2018)