On the eve of India’s monsoon session of parliament, a group of 40 Indian senior spiritual leaders and intellectuals from diverse faiths called upon their countrymen to seek strength from the nation’s deep spiritual reservoirs to end the increasing environment of hate, violence and disregard for the rule of law in which many innocents of religious and marginalized communities have been lynched in recent weeks. The leaders who gathered on Sunday in New Delhi, “called upon the government to end impunity which was at the root of the atmosphere of fear that stalks the land today,” said a press release by Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, the Secretary General of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), the apex body of the Catholic Church in the country. “It was felt that these developments threatened not just secularism, but the Constitution and the democratic fabric of the country,” wrote the bishop who convoked the meeting on the eve of the July 17 to August 11 parliament monsoon session. The Indian parliament is scheduled to hold 19 sessions that will see the election of India’s new president and vice-president. Bills involving a range of issues such as education, security, finance, labour, shipping and statistics are likely to be introduced and discussed.
Below is the full text of the press release of Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas:
Prot. 767 / GenSec2017 (3-b-10 / CBCI-GC) 16th July, 2017
Religious leaders condemn lynching, call for rule of law to restore peace and communal harmony India’s deep spiritual strength is bulwark against hate, divisive forces.
New Delhi, 16th July 2017
Senior spiritual leaders and intellectuals have called upon the people to seek strength from India’s deep spiritual reservoirs to end the increasing environment of hate, violence and disregard for the rule of law in which many innocents of religious and marginalized communities have been lynched in recent weeks.
Meeting in Delhi under the aegis of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, the group of 40 leaders called upon take Government to end impunity which was at the root of the atmosphere of fear that stalks the land today. It was felt that these developments threatened not just secularism, but the Constitution and the democratic fabric of the country.
Welcoming Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi’s assurances to leaders of Opposition parties on the eve of the Monsoon session of Parliament, the meeting noted that the vast majority of the people of India of all communities had been shocked at the lynching in various states on the pretext of protecting cows. The Prime Minister must now see that State governments and their police forces acted against the guilty in an impartial manner.
The meeting agreed on a five point urgent programme of action:
- The ideology of hate is a reality and needs to be challenged by Governments, political parties, civil society activists, the criminal justice system and religious communities in a concerted manner.
- Religious leadership must act at the grassroots to assert the inherent unity of the people. This will help restore public confidence and remove the mutual suspicion that had started growing.
- The leadership must generate literature as well as content for the traditional, mainstream and social media to challenge falsehood and hatred. Social media can indeed also be used to defeat hate and strengthen bonds between communities.
- Community leaders must come together at various levels so that tensions can be diffused and trust restored and strengthened. Similarly, national institutions including the National and State Minorities Commissions and other structures must be encouraged to actively work in restoring peace and help strengthen the rule of law. This would also go a long way in ensuring the devolution of development efforts under the 15 point programme and other government measures.
- A National Inter-Faith and Civil society convention will be held as soon as possible to discuss the developments and the measures that the governments need to take at the national and state levels.
The meeting was attended by Goswami Sushil Ji Maharaj, Vivek Muni, Dr Umer Iliyasi, Sardar Paramjeet Singh Chandhok, Dr Mohinder Singh, Dr Manzoor Alam, Dr Zafar Ullah Khan, Chairman of Delhi Minority Commission, Mr. Navaid Hamid, Delhi Minority Commission Member Sr Anastasia Gill, Rabbi Ezekiel Malekar, Prof TK John, Dr Denzil Fernandes, Dr Michael Williams, Rev Vijayesh Lal, Rev Richard Howell, Mr D K Manavalan IAS, Fr Alarico Carvalho, Fr Bento Rodrigues, Delhi Vicar General Msgr Susai Sebastian, Fr Freddy D’Souza, Mr AC Michael, Dr John Dayal, Msgr Chinnayyan Joseph and Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, the Secretary General of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India who had convened the meeting.
Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, SFX
Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India