New Delhi: India’s top Catholic body has said that the Christian community is losing confidence in the government as the country is being polarised in the name of religion.
President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) Cardinal Baselios Cleemis told the Indian Express in an interview, “From the point of Christian community, this whole incident of attack on priests and seminaries in Satna and the state government’s move to file cases against the priests, arresting the poor and the innocent instead of finding the culprits, do not help us to keep our confidence in the government intact. We are losing our confidence in the government”.
“The country is being divided on the basis of religious belief. It is bad in a democratic country. I want my country to be united in a secular fabric. But now, this country is being polarised due to religious affiliations. We should fight against it,” he added.
A delegation of the CBCI, led by Cleemis, met home minister Rajnath Singh on Wednesday to express their “pain and anguish and seek justice” in the Satna case. Last week, more than 30 priests and seminarians singing carols in a village near Madhya Pradesh’s Satna were detained after Bajrang Dal activists accused them of practising forced conversion. A priest was arrested under the state’s anti-conversion law. Secretary General of the CBCI, Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, had accused the police of complicity.
Describing the conversion allegation as baseless, Cleemis said that the attack in Satna was pre-planned. Stressing that the Christian community is “committed to work towards the growth of the country beyond ethnic, religious and linguistic affiliations,” Cleemis asked the government to punish the offenders. “The culprits should be punished for their bad acts and for damaging the image of the country,” said the CBCI Cardinal. He asked the government for serious measures to safeguard the interests of the community.
This is not the first time that such an attack on the Christian community has taken place. More and more Christian congregations are being attacked in the name of forced conversion.
According to Open Doors, a global charity which monitors the treatment of Christians worldwide, in the first six months of 2017 alone, there were 410 reported incidents of attacks on Indian Christians.
In October this year, seven children were made to deboard a Mumbai-bound train in Indore by activists of the Hindu Jagran Manch and were taken into custody by the railway police on the suspicion that they were being taken to Mumbai for religious conversion.
In the first week of December, seven Christian priests were arrested for carrying out a ‘forcible conversion campaign’ in Uttar Pradesh’s Mathura. In the state’s Maharajganj district, a prayer meeting at a church was stopped after the right-wing group Hindu Yuva Vahini complained to the police that it was an undercover event for religious conversion.