Bishops condemn violence and urge authorities to restore order
The Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) issued a statement at the end of December 2017 condemning violent attacks against Christians and urging political leaders to bring back the rule of law and order and to deal severely with miscreants.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India expresses its shock, pain and hurt at the unprovoked violence against Catholic Priests and Seminarians in Satna in the Central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh on the night of 14th December 2017. A group of 30 Seminarians and two priests from St. Ephrem’s Theological College in Satna were detained as they were conducting a routine Christmas carol singing programme which has been the practice during the Christmas season for the last 30 years. Unfortunately, in Madhya Pradesh, there have been other signs of harassment of the Catholic Church in the last few months about which we have not raised a hue and cry.
What is even more shocking is that eight priests who later went to inquire about the detained priests and seminarians were also taken into custody. Shamefully the situation outside the police station was allowed to be so hostile that even those who wanted to approach the detained persons could get no access to them. The charge of conversion on which the priests and seminarians are detained is frivolous and laughable. The violence perpetrated by groups who claim to be “nationalists” and have taken upon themselves the mantle of protecting “nationalism’ and “religion” is disgraceful. The complicity of the police who arrested the seminarians and stood by helplessly as the priests and seminarians were assaulted is disgusting and appalling. Such misuse of the police force and break down of law and order is not tolerable in a democracy and in a civilized Society.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India condemns the behaviour of the goons who even went on to torch the vehicle of the priests. All right thinking Indians will hang their heads in shame at these terrorists who have taken on the garb of ‘religious police”. We are absolutely sure that they do not speak in the name of our very broad-minded and peace-loving Hindu brethren. It is sad that this attack comes just two days after the effusive praise heaped upon the Catholic Church by the Honourable Vice President of India Shri. Venkaiah Naidu at the Christmas Celebrations 2017 organized by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India in Delhi on 12th December 2017.
It is worrying that this incident of mobocracy occurs among a host of other incidents happening around the country in States ruled by leaders cutting across party lines. The video clipping of the gruesome murder of Mohammad Afrazul, a migrant worker from West Bengal who was hacked with a cleaver and then set on fire by a man in Rajsamand, Rajasthan on the suspicion of being in a relationship with a woman from another religious faith has recently gone viral around the world. Reports that rallies are being planned in favour of this murderer are disturbing. Political murders in Kannur, Kerala and elsewhere, brutal killings of journalists in the last few months in Bihar, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Tripura and in other places do not give our beloved country a good name. Lynchings of more than 32 persons over the last two years almost all from one minority community on the suspicion of killing a cow or possessing beef is creating a fear psychosis among the minorities. These acts of Cow Vigilantes do not bring credit to our democratic nation with its long tradition of being the model of civilized living and harmonious existence in comparison to some other countries in the neighbourhood.
Our Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has himself condemned mobs taking law into their own hands. “Some anti-social elements have made cow protection a medium for spreading anarchy. People involved in disturbing harmony in the country are also taking advantage of it…These affect the image of the country. State governments should take strict action against such anti-social elements.” he told an all-party meeting in July 2017.
We hail with pride, as Indian citizens, the words our Vice President Shri Naidu, uttered two days ago, “Christmas is the festival of love, joy and sharing. It is a time to renew our commitment to love and serve our families, communities and society; to be just and transparent in our dealings; to promote social and economic inclusion of all; to promote lasting peace between people of different religions and cultures and to promote sustainable development”.
The incident in Satna just a few days before Christmas is shameful and deplorable. Even worse, lynchings, mob attacks and brutal killings of innocent victims with culprits often not being found or going unpunished for months are large blots on our democracy. It is the time that we go beyond words and promises. Violence is dangerous. Our history has repeatedly shown us that violence and bloodshed, hate and fear, cannot help build a New India. Riots and mayhem have left behind destitute orphans and widows. We are not angry; we hold no grudge. We are sad and pained that our beloved Country is getting a bad name through the acts of hoodlums who are taking the law into their hands.
We appeal to our political leadership at the Centre and in the States to bring back the rule of law and order and to deal severely with miscreants that disparage the work of leaders who want to bring peace and development to our peoples. Those that have been “fringe elements” till now cannot be allowed to take centre stage. The Christian community has been hailed by political and social leaders across the board as “a peace-loving community” which works with every government at the centre and in the state to engage in Nation building. We will continue to do so. But it is time for our leaders to go beyond words and promises and to ensure that every Indian citizen lives without fear and with respect and dignity.
Mahatma Gandhi had warned us before Independence, “Violent means will give violent freedom. That would be a menace to the world and to India herself”. We have the power to build a peaceful, tolerant and prosperous India. Let us show the will to do it.
God bless India. Jai Hind!
Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, SFX
Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India