Issued at the National Consultation on “Upholding Constitutional Rights of Minorities, with Special Reference to Christians”
This meeting of the leadership of the Church in India takes place in a moment of global crisis in which people of faith are facing mass violence, even extermination in the Middle-East at the hands of religious fanatics. We offer our prayers for and stand in solidarity with the Christian communities in Syria, Iraq, Pakistan and neighboring countries. The situation in those parts of the world once again brings home to us the dangers of religious intolerance.
We, therefore, rejoice in India’s ancient and rich diversity of cultures, languages, religions and ethnicities. We celebrate the Constitution of India and the strength of its institutions. Our deep love for and commitment to our country and our fellow citizens lends urgency to our reflection on the challenges that we face as a nation.
The cultural DNA of India of pluralism and diversity is being threatened. We are anxious about the implications of the fundamentalist political thesis that India is “one nation, one people and one culture”. A nation of cultural homogeneity is an impossibility and any effort to impose it is fraught with grave ramifications for country.
The Church in India asserts its stake in the country’s development. As citizens and followers of Christ, we have contributed to and continue to work for social development in all spheres of national life. We are committed to protecting the dignity of the human being in this great nation. We participate in this endeavor with other religious and social communities, civil society and all people of good will.
We are deeply concerned about the physical violence – arson, murder and rape of our religious personnel both men and women – as with the structural violence which is manifest in urban and rural India, in social and administrative excesses, and aberrant judicial pronouncements.
We are aghast at, and condemn in the strongest terms, the brutal rape of an aged Nun leading a convent and school in rural West Bengal. We locate all incidents of violence, of which there have been over 150 in 2014 including two murders, in an environment of hate that has so marked the political landscape of India for the last two years and shows no signs of abating soon.
We welcome the occasional statements of those in authority of adhering to the Constitution of India and, in particular to its assurances of the Freedom of Faith. However, these statements fail to have any impact on the leadership of socio- political organizations that are polarizing the nation with the language and acts of intolerance, hate and violence. Political groups demonize various religious traditions and terrorize vulnerable groups. These groups seek to sabotage the Constitution which alone brings us together in a national identity.
We are particularly alarmed at the assault on the education system and the human resource development systems which are a critical building block of modern India.
The President of India, Mr. Pranab Mukherjee, noted the rise of communalism and the targeting of religious minorities in his address to the Nation on 25th January 2015, the eve of Republic Day. President Mukherjee said “In an international environment where so many countries are sinking into the morass of theocratic violence … We have always reposed our trust in faith-equality where every faith is equal before the law and every culture blends into another to create a positive dynamic. The violence of the tongue cuts and wounds people’s hearts. The Indian Constitution is the holy book of democracy. It is a lodestar for the socio-economic transformation of an India whose civilisation has celebrated pluralism, advocated tolerance and promoted goodwill between diverse communities. These values, however, need to be preserved with utmost care and vigilance.”
These developments bring us together not just in the pain of injury, but in the need to reflect and pray for the country in its journey.
We also share a reflection that citizenship is not just co-existence but living together as a way of life. For us the kingdom of God is where every human person has an equal share. Mother Teresa understood this and set a high example.
We therefore, reaffirm our commitment as the church in India:
- To bear witness to Christ by demonstrating the values of justice, equality, fraternity and liberty in all our work and words.
- Our service to all people and in particular our affirmative action for the poor and vulnerable, especially women
- To work towards strengthening civil society in India,
- To cultivate responsible relationships with all communities,
- To pray for the nation, its political leadership and institutions
Our recommendations to the Government
1.This meeting takes note of the continuing plight of Dalits and Tribals in India and internal displacement in several parts of the country. The sharp decline in the budgetary allocations for members of the Schedule Castes is a cause for deep concern. We call upon the Government not only to restore but also to increase, the financial allocations for Dalits and Tribals. In particular, we affirm our continued support to the struggle of the Dalit Christians for their constitutional rights.
- Take urgent and effective measures to restore the rule of law and curb the targeted and communal violence. The guilty must be traced, and action under the law should be taken. Police officers must be held accountable for communal crimes in their jurisdiction
- Insulate government controlled school and higher education, syllabi and curriculum from political intervention and thesis of religious nationalism.
- Enhance allocations to strengthen the poorer sections of religious minorities to ensure their participation in public life so they can benefit from the opportunities created by the development processes.
- To ensure adequate representation of religious minorities in the police, administrative and judicial services at all levels.
- To enact a suitable law to prevent communal and targeted violence.
|Catholic Bishops Conference of India||National Council Of Churches in India||Evangelical Fellowship of India|
|His Eminence Baselios Cardinal Cleemis||Bishop Dr. Taranath S. Sagar||Bishop Dr. C. V. Mathew|
|President, CBCI, President NUCF,||President NCCI, Co-President NUCF||Chairman EFICC, Co-President NUCF|
|Father Joseph Chinnayyan||Rev. Dr. Roger Gaikwad||Rev. Dr. Richard Howell|
|Deputy Secretary General CBCI,
Co Secretary NUCF
|General Secretary NCCI,
Co Secretary NUCF
|General Secretary EFI,