Bishops appeal for ‘true nationalism’ and dialogue between different religions
‘Dialogue with followers of other religions and with ecumenical groups is the need of the hour’
India’s bishops have issued a statement appealing for “true nationalism” in order to bring “genuine peace, harmony, progress and prosperity”. Referring to the current climate of violence, the bishops appealed to their fellow countrymen “to shun mob culture and vigilantism in favour of peace.”
Militant Hindu groups have stepped up violence against minorities since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power four years ago. Indian government data showed that 111 people were killed in sectarian violence in 2017, compared to 86 in 2016 and that there were 822 recorded incidents of violence in 2017 compared to 703 in 2016.
Some hard-line Hindu groups portray Christians and Muslims as being loyal to foreign powers. Some Hindu leaders have even publicly called for Muslims to leave India and settle in majority-Islamic nations and for Catholics to move to Rome.
“No one should doubt our loyalty or our commitment to the nation,” the bishops wrote, stating that Christianity in India is as old as the Christian faith itself. They urged all Indians, “to resolve to go beyond narrow domestic walls of every kind” in order to establish a truly secular, socialist and democratic nation.
The bishops stressed the importance of peace talks. “Dialogue with followers of other religions and with ecumenical groups is the need of the hour,” they said.
The Auxiliary Bishop of Ranchi and secretary-general of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, Theodore Mascarenhas, said attacks on pluralism were “not only against Christians but all Indians.” “You cannot allow a few rabid elements to spoil the harmony. It is a question of upholding constitutional values and rule of law,” Mascarenhas added.
The newly elected president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, admitted that “intolerance is causing a certain amount of anxiety to us.”
He warned: “Diversity is one of the strengths of India. It is known the world over for its diversity of culture, language and religion. Any attempt to divide people by certain sections will be harmful for the nation.”