(Vatican Radio) Over a hundred prominent Indian Christians have written an open letter to the heads of all Churches and Christian communities, spurring them to action in support of civil society in its struggle to safeguard India’s secular credentials and cultural and religious diversity. In the letter released on Aug. 4, the 101 signatories noted a dangerious shift in the country “from a pluralist, secular, democracy to a Hindu Rashtra”.
Silence over violence against minorities, marginalized
Noting that there is “a systematic design to undermine the Constitution,” the writers said that “official machinery often seems to be working in tandem with the vigilantes” in carrying out street lynching of innocent victims, on the basis of religion and caste. And amidst all this, the “media seems mute, silent in self-censorship, coerced by the State, or leashed by its corporate owners,” they wrote.
The open letter comes in the backdrop of several people falling victim to recent incidents of mob lynching and vigilantism over consumption of beef or trading in cows and beef. In the latest incident a Christian pastor was shot dead in northern Punjab state July 15 and police have not identified culprits.
Among the signatories to the open letter are rights activist Jesuit Father Cedric Prakash, rights activist and journalist John Dayal, rights activist Father Ajay Kumar Singh, several lawyers, priests, nuns and lay people working in the field of education, law and social activism.
The open letter accused the government of “double talk” saying while it supporte the global fight against terrorism, at home it is not concerned with violent nationalism of the mob wreaking terror on the weak and the marginalized. The prominent Christians observed that between 2014 and 2016, under the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led government, over 600 episodes of violent acts have taken place against their communities. Violence against low-caste Dalits and Muslims have surged according to the National Crime Records Bureau.
Call to raise voice, bold action
Speaking to The Hindu newspaper, one of the signatories, A. C. Michael, a former member of the Delhi Minorities Commission said that the open letter is a wake-up call to all Christians not to be passive any more but to “raise their voice against the violence that the country is witnessing today against the common man,” and to “spread the truth.”
“The Church, guided by you, needs to act before it is too late,” the prominent Christians urgently appealed to the heads of Churches and leaders of Christian communities. Evoking the foundation of their faith, they said, “It is time to stand with the victims to be the voice of poor and marginalized; time to collaborate and partner with the civil society to spread the truth; and time to take bold initiatives and action to prevent further erosion of our humane and constitutional values.”