Wake Up to Attacks on Christians, Laity Tells Indian Church

Published on: August 4, 2017

This Open Letter to Church leaders urges them to stand up for Secular Values and Those Defending the Constitution



Image Courtesy: AFP
 
One Hundred and One senior Christian intellectuals have in an Open Letter to the leadership of the Church in India, called for support civil society in the struggle to safeguard India’s cultural and religious plurality and diversity, and the republics Constitutional values of secularism, and socialism.
 
The signatories include Jesuit theologians T K John and Francis Gonsalves, academicians Sr. Nirmalini, AC, Dr. Michael Williams, and St Stephen’s college dean Fr Monodeep Daniel, All India Catholic Union president  Lancy D Cuna, EFI general secretary Rev Vijayesh Lal, New Delhi YMCA president Vijay Russel, Former Member of Delhi Minorities Commission AC Michael, activists Cedric Prakash, Ajay Kumar Singh, Dominic Emmanuel, Virginia Saldanha,  lawyers Jenis Francis, Tehmina Arora, Pramod Singh, PI Jose,  and journalists  Suresh Mathew, Jacob Kani, KM Selvaraj, and John Dayal.
 
The Open Letter said “The number of violent acts against Christians alone during the last 3 years (2014-2016) are over 600, including an increasing trend at social boycott that impinges on the right to life, food and livelihood. This includes physical violence, stopping of worship in churches, attacks on churches, arrests of pastors and their companions, and rapes of Nuns. The National Crime Records Bureau documented 47,064 acts of violence against Dalits in 2014, up from 32,643 in 2010. The violence against Muslims is reaching an alarming peak. The hate spewed not just by non-state actors and political functionaries, but even by Members of Parliament and sometimes by ministers forms the backdrop of this violence, as it also smothers voices seeking justice.”
 
The Christian community, despite its laudable heritage of the prophetic tradition of defending justice, human rights and freedom, especially of the oppressed and the marginalized, has not come out openly in support of the truth and its upholders. Many had looked upon the Church and expected it to protest these infringements, whoever be the victim of the moment.
 
“The Church, guided by you, needs to act before it is too late. This is the lesson we learn from history. It is time to stand with the victims to be the voice of poor and marginalised; 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,” the Open letter said.


 Image Courtesy: AFP

The following is the text of the letter and the names, in alphabetical order, of the signatories:
 
An Open Letter to the Heads of all Churches and other Christian Leaders
 
We, as Indian Christians, are concerned at the steady shift we see in our country from a pluralist, secular, democracy to a Hindu Rashtra.  What used to be fringe, has now become mainstream. There is a systematic design to undermine the Constitution. Official machinery often seems working in tandem with the ‘vigilantes’. Street lynching, victims charged as accused, stage-managed trials; all on the basis of one’s religious and caste identities. Media seems mute, silent in self-censorship, coerced by the state, or leashed by its corporate ownership. Fake News is the final straw.
 
What is at stake? The country risks a hierarchical order and an ideology eroding, containing and overwhelming the liberty, equality and fraternity bequeathed us by the Freedom Struggle as an ‘idea of India' for the modern age.  A new coercive culture, steered mob-inspired killers, is destroying lives and families amongst us. Fear stalks the land.
 
The spontaneous multi-city #NotInMyName upsurge of public revulsion was the ordinary Indian’s cry against this hate and blood-letting.
 
The anger is as much over the killings as it is over our collective silence.
 
The government's double talk is apparent. It is right in its solidarity with the global challenge to international terrorism, but has minimized and dismissed the terror wreaked on the weak and the marginalized by the violent nationalism of the mob. Victims have been Dalits, specially their youth and their women, Tribals and religious minorities.
 
The number of violent acts against Christians alone during the last 3 years (2014-2016) are over 600, including an increasing trend at social boycott that impinges on the right to life, food and livelihood. This includes physical violence, stopping of worship in churches, attacks on churches, arrests of pastors and their companions, and rapes of Nuns. The National Crime Records Bureau documented 47,064 acts of violence against Dalits in 2014, up from 32,643 in 2010. The violence against Muslims is reaching an alarming peak.
 
The hate spewed not just by non-state actors and political functionaries, but even by Members of Parliament and sometimes by ministers forms the backdrop of this violence, as it also smothers voices seeking justice.
 
Inevitably, and perhaps deliberately, these divisive and emotional issues divert attention from the repercussions of radical changes in financial laws and economic policies that adversely affect workers, farmers and the youth who suddenly find themselves rendered unemployed.  
 
The political process taking shape today is against every fundamental humane and constitutional principle of Equality and Dignity of every Indian, and preserving Common Good.
 
Indeed, it is evil.
And inherently calls upon us as individuals, community and people of Faith, to raise our voice against it.
 
The Christian community, despite its laudable heritage of the prophetic tradition of defending justice, human rights and freedom, especially of the oppressed and the marginalized, has not come out openly in support of the truth and its upholders. Many had looked upon the Church and expected it to protest these infringements, whoever be the victim of the moment.
 
This demands serious reflection. As Christians, we are called to be the salt of the earth. Jesus gave the two greatest commandments... loving our Lord with all we have and loving our Neighbour. We have professed obedience to these commandments, but perhaps not as visibly as we should have.
 
Our children, our youth, ask us if we are showing true Christian love today to our neighbours, manifested in the victims of injustice, the marginalised Dalits and tribals, exploited farmers and unorganized labour? Or have we compromised Kingdom values, for short term gains. Have we become lukewarm; are we the men of cloth who walk by the bleeding man on the road to Jericho?
 
The Church, guided by you, needs to act before it is too late. This is the lesson we learn from history. It is time to stand with the victims to be the voice of poor and marginalised; 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.
 
We humbly call upon you, all Christian leaders and Heads of Churches, to reflect and lead the community in the path of truth, love and justice.
 
We offer a few points for your consideration, as a Charter of our Duty to our fellow Citizens and our nation.
 
1.     Based on the Biblical values of justice, right, freedom, dignity and the well-being of every human being, the Christian community should be part of every civil initiative for truth, reconciliation and peace.
2.     Any erosion, dilution, infringement or violation of Constitutional rights to life and liberty must invite a response from the church as it does from the people. Speaking out is often the one response that is needed. Saying “Stop” to an     act of injustice can often prevent tragedy.
3.     Our educational institutions must assume their pristine role as crucibles for nation-building, as the Supreme Court has described them.
4.     Our Theological institutions, Bible colleges, Formation Houses must in their pedagogy include familiarization with the rights and duties of citizens in international covenants and the Constitution of India to enhance knowledge and hone civic conscience.
5.     In unison with members of all faiths, ideologies we should marshal India’s tremendous spiritual resources in consolidating peace, resolving conflicts infusing a sense of values in the body politic.
 
God bless our people
And God bless India
We are
 
  1. A C Michael, Former Member of Delhi Minorities Commission
  2. A. Chinnappan, Secretary General – All India Catholic Union
  3. Fr. Ajay Kumar Singh, Human Rights Activist
  4. Fr. Alex Ekka, Educationist
  5. Amrit Goldsmith, Human Rights Activist
  6. Anthony Cruz, Social Activist
  7. Anthony Dias, Scholar
  8. Fr. Avinash Masih, Brotherhood Society
  9. B. Balakrishnan, Advocate
  10. Barnabas Nongbah, General Secretary, Catholic Association, Shillong
  11. Benny Anthony Muttath, Catholic Trainer & Activist
  12. Bertram Devadas, Associate General Secretary, New Delhi YMCA
  13. Ms. Brinelle D’souza, Faculty Member, Tata Institute of Social Sciences
  14. Fr. Cedric Prakash, SJ, Human Rights Activist
  15. Mrs. Chinnamma Jacob, Women Activist
  16. Mrs. Clara Fernandes, Assistant Secretary General of AICU
  17. Dr. Daisy Panna, Vice President, Federation of Catholic Associations of Archdiocese of Delhi
  18. Deepak Mukerji, Governing Board Member - St Stephen’s College
  19. Fr. Denzil Fernandes, SJ, Executive Director, ISI, Lodi Road
  20. Fr. Dominic Emmanuel, Activist & Author
  21. Fr. Francis Gonsalves, Theologian & Journalist
  22. Franklyn Ceaser Thomas, Advocate
  23. Gary Andrady, Church Leader
  24. Fr. (Dr.) George Plathottam sdb, Principal, Don Bosco College, Tura
  25. Fr. George Peter, Spiritual Animator
  26. Fr. George Valiyapadath, Capuchin Friar, Padre Pio Shrine, Wayanad
  27. Ms. Hazel D’Lima, Social Worker
  28. Captain Hunjan Singh Govindra, Air India
  29. Rev Isaac Shaw, National Director/President, Delhi Bible Institute
  30. Ivan Menezes
  31. Fr. J Felix, Secretary, Inter-religious Commission, Archdiocese of Delhi
  32. Fr. Jacob Kani, Journalist
  33. Fr. Jacob Panjikaran SG
  34. Fr. Jacob Peernikaparambil CMI, National Convener – Forum of Religious for Justice & Peace
  35. Fr. Jai Kumar, Brotherhood Society
  36. Jasmine Jose SD
  37. Jenis Francis, Advocate & President, Federation of Catholic Associations of Archdiocese of Delhi
  38. Fr. John Chathanatt, SJ, Sahayog
  39. Dr. John Dayal, Human Right Activist & Journalist
  40. Dr. Jolly Rimai, Church Leader
  41. Jose Leon, President – Leo Burnett India
  42. Joseph Bara, Social Scientist
  43. Joseph Mattam, SJ
  44. Fr. Joseph Xavier, SJ, Advocate & Human Rights Activist
  45. Jugal Kishore Ranjit
  46. Sr. Justine Gitanjali Senapati, csj, CAO – Congregations of St. Joseph UN NGO
  47. K M Selvaraj, Journalist
  48. Sr. Kochurani Abraham, Feminist Theologian, Kerala
  49. Kulakanta Dandasena Majhi, JKS Iindia
  50. Lancy D’Cunha, National President – All India Catholic Union
  51. Lawrence F Vincent, Vice President (M) – Catholic Council of India
  52. Ms. Loreign Ovung, Advocate
  53. M. S. Stanislaus, Secretary General – Federation of Catholic Associations of Archdiocese of Delhi
  54. Sr. Manju Kulapuram, FORUM National Secretary
  55. Sr. Manish SCN, Social Animator & Activist, Delhi
  56. Sr. Maria Palathingal, SCN
  57. Marshal Pereira, AICU President – Madhya Pradesh
  58. Dr. Michael Williams, President, United Christian Forum
  59. Ms. Molly Sebastian, Women Activist
  60. Fr. Monodeep Daniel, Dean, St Stephen’s College
  61. Myron J Pereira, Campion Jesuit Residence, Mumbai
  62. Ps. Nehemiah Christie, Head – ADF India Tamil Nadu Legal Aid Centre
  63. Sr. Nirmala Mulackal SCN, Executive Director CBCI CARD
  64. Sr. Nirmalini, AC, Educationist
  65. Dr. Neeti Lal Bhai, Theologian & Human Rights Activist, Varanasi
  66. O J Metei, Theologian / Social Activist
  67. Norris Pritam, Board of Director-New Delhi YMCA & Journalist
  68. Rev Dr. P B M Basaiawmoit, Retired Pastor
  69. Fr. P Augustine SJ, Pastor & Spiritual Guide
  70. P I Jose, Advocate
  71. P. Joseph Packiaraj, President – AICU Tamil Nadu
  72. Fr P R John, SJ, Principal, Vidyajyoti College of Theology, Delhi
  73. Sr. (Dr.) Pauline Chakkalakal, dsp, Biblical Theologian & Coordinator of Interfaith Partnership
  74. Pramod Singh, Advocate
  75. Fr. Prashant Olekar, Educational Activist
  76. Fr Raju Alex, Secretary – Catholic Council of India
  77. Raphael D’Souza, AICU Maharashtra State President
  78. Sr. Rita Puthenkalam, scn
  79. Robin Ratnakar David, Advocate
  80. Fr S. Emmanuel, AICUF National Adviser 
  81. Prof S V Antony, Educationist
  82. Sr. Sabrina Edwards IBVM, Social Worker
  83. Shibu Thomas, Minister of Jesus & Founder – Persecution Relief
  84. Sr. Stella Kaiprampatt
  85. Fr. Stan Fernandes, Educationist
  86. Sunil Mallick
  87. Sunil Nayak
  88. Fr. Sunny Jacob, SJ, Secretary, JEA, South Asia
  89. Fr. (Dr.) Suresh Mathew, Chief Editor, Indian Currents
  90. Fr. T K John, SJ, Theologian
  91. Mrs. Tehmina Arora, Advocate
  92. Fr. Tom Mangattuthazhe, Secretary, UCF of Karbi Anglong District, Assam
  93. Dr. Varghese Manimala, Philosopher, Theologian, Teacher & Activist
  94. Rev Vijayesh Lal, Secretary General, Evangelical Fellowship of India
  95. Vijay Russel, President, New Delhi YMCA
  96. Vinay Stephen, Dalit Leader, Delhi
  97. Fr. Vincent, Church Personnel
  98. Virginia Saldanha, Former Secretary, CBCI Women’s Commission & FABC Laity Commission
  99. Walter Cyril Pinto, Business Development Associate, Udupi
  100. Walter J Maben, Chairman, Karnataka Missions Network Mangaluru, Karnataka