India’s Catholic Church has condemned the growing phenomena of terrorist attacks, lynching, killing and communal violence in the country and appealed to the people to “rise above religion, caste, language or region and to unite in promoting peace, harmony and brotherhood.” India’s Catholic bishops have described as “dastardly and cowardly” Monday’s attack by militants on Hindu pilgrims as they returned from Amarnath shrine in troubled Kashmir. Seven, mostly women, were killed and 12 were wounded. The pilgrim bus got caught up in a gun battle between the militants and police near the town of Anantnag.
“This last attack is another sign of the flames of violence that seem to be unfortunately engulfing the country,” wrote Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, Secretary General of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) in a statement on Tuesday. The apex body of the Catholic Church in the country expressed “its profound pain and sorrow at the spiraling violence in our country in recent times.”
Militants have been battling Indian rule in Muslim-majority Kashmir, but have largely spared pilgrims, even during the most violent phases of their 28-year armed revolt. India has been struggling to restore normalcy in the region, which both India and Pakistan claim as their own.
The July 10 attack was also condemned by Archbishop Felix Machado of Vasai Diocese. Speaking to Asianews, the Chairperson of the CBCI Office for Interreligious Dialogue said, “We strongly condemn this ruthless assassination,” wondering when this hatred will end. Arch. Machado noted that "faithful of different religious traditions live in fear, with anxiety and insecurity, under the sword of fundamentalist ideology that does not accept religious pluralism.” He regretted “an increase in the level of aggression and religious intolerance,” noting “there are special interests that do not want peace, but perpetrate violence against innocent people, for their own gain.”
In the same statement, Bishop Mascarenhas also condemned mob lynching in India to protect the cow, an animal considered holy by Hindus. “We have been equally shocked and saddened by the lynching of human beings by mobs calling themselves, “gaurakhshaks” [cow protectors]”, the CBCI official said. “Violence (in whatever name) be it the name of animals or of God or of religion is appalling and unacceptable.” “We also condemn atrocities against dalits, tribals and other weaker sections. We condole the death of so many innocents and pray for God’s comfort to their families,” he said.
Bishop Mascarenhas also expressed concern over “communal violence that is being fanned in parts of West Bengal and other areas in the country.” On behalf of the Indian bishops he appealed “to all concerned to restore peace and communal harmony in our society.” “A nation cannot progress if it divides itself on the basis of caste, creed and religion,” he said. “Violence brings death and destroys lives and families. We cannot risk the future of our children, our youth and our country for narrow political gains or for one-upmanship.
“Our beloved country has been known for its traditional peace and harmony and though there have been times when we have seen unimaginable violence, death and bloodshed, our society has bounced back to peace and brotherhood,” the CBCI Secretary General wrote. “Lynchings, killings, terrorist attacks in recent times,” he said, “are frightening and worrying.” “We appeal to all our brother and sister Indians to rise above religion, caste, language or region and to unite in promoting peace, harmony and brotherhood,” Bishop Mascarenhas wrote. (Source: CBCI)