India’s Catholic bishops ask government
to subdue violent Hindu radicals
Bangalore, Sep 26, 2008 / 05:09 pm (CNA).-
The executive body of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India, meeting
in Bangalore on Friday, issued a statement expressing "utter
disappointment" at the "apathy and inaction" of the national and state
governments in the face of anti-Christian violence committed by
extremist Hindus. Calling upon Indian officials to stop the violence and
to help its victims, they denied allegations of forced conversions to
Christianity and suggested such charges are self-serving.
The bishops lamented the murder of innocent people, the molestation
of women, the desecration and destruction of churches and religious
places, and the destruction of Christians’ homes in various districts of
the east coast state of Orissa, the Indian Catholic reports.
"The State Government kept giving an assurance that things were
normal and security arrangements were perfect," the statement read. "Yet
when representations were made, it pleaded inability to control the mobs
that vandalized church property [and] assailed religious personnel and
the Christian population."
The bishops claimed that the perpetrators of the violence were
"trained agents of radical Hindutva activists" acting under instructions
and executing a "master plan of destruction."
The bishops’ statement also reports that the violence has spread to
Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh.
According to the bishops, the violence is undermining India’s ancient
values of "Ahimsa (non-injury), Truth, Tolerance, and Respect for
The attacks have also damaged India’s international image of secular
democracy, the bishops claim.
"These recent horrors in various parts of our country have disgraced
the high ideals and principles that our wise men and saints upheld and
the vision that our Founding Fathers cherished," they wrote.
While voicing appreciation for the national government’s dispatching
of a fact-finding team to Karnataka, the bishops expressed
disappointment that until recently similar action was not taken in
Invoking the religious liberty guaranteed by the Indian Constitution,
India’s bishops demanded stronger action against "anti-social and
anti-religious elements" that "violate human rights and terrorize
Calling for legal action against those responsible for the violence,
the bishops also demanded adequate restitution for the victims of the
extremists. The bishops asked that the Central Bureau of Investigation
examine connections between the Orissa incidents and anti-Christian
attacks in nearby states.
Further, the bishops demanded a ban on fundamentalist groups that
train "terrorists" under the banner of Hindutva, also demanding that
leaders who incite violence or politicize religion be restrained.
Addressing repeated allegations of forced conversion by Christians,
the bishops declared that they are convinced such a claim is "merely a
strategy developed by vested interests in order to prevent Christian
services of health, education, poverty alleviation and development on
behalf of deprived communities."
The bishops’ statement proclaimed conversion by force, allurement, or
deception to be against Catholic teachings such as those found in the
documents of the Second Vatican Council.
They also countered claims that the poor are manipulated into
"It is truly humiliating to the poor to claim that they easily yield
to the temptation of converting to any religion for some material
advantage. In fact, the poor who choose Christianity forfeit so many
benefits guaranteed by the Constitution," they wrote, referring to
constitutional provisions for low-caste Hindus.
"Some have even sacrificed their lives for refusing to reconvert,"
the bishops added. They suggested that extremist Hindu opposition to
Christian activities "derives from the fear that many of the deprived
communities may be so empowered as to assert their own rights and resist
However, the bishops continued, "we cannot renounce the heritage of
love and justice that Jesus left us."
They counseled that forgiveness is the proper response to
anti-Christian violence, saying they themselves are "heartened" by
Hindus and other Indians who have condemned the "evil deeds of a fringe
group of fundamentalist activists" and have helped their victims.
The Catholic Bishops Conference of India statement ended with a call
"We invite everyone to join in prayer for our great nation, for
leaders of the Governments and for Civil Authorities, for all those who
have suffered in the recent violence and also for those who were the
cause of our sufferings. May God bless our country and lead us on the
way of peace and justice."
Catholic News Agency - CNA