Friday, March 1, 2024

“Not in our name”: Christians criticise community members who attended Modi’s Christmas event

A group of religious leaders and activists, including prominent members of the Christian community held a press conference in Delhi, registering their protest against community leaders who participated in Christmas celebrations hosted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, at his official residence, on December 25. 

They strongly criticised the indifference of  senior clergymen and renowned community members who shook hands with PM Narendra Modi while Christians continue to face attacks and vilification from members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party since 2014, when the Hindutva party came to power at the Centre.

“The summer began with the burning of churches and the killing of Christians in the valley of Imphal in Manipur and ended with religious leaders felicitating the Prime Minister on Christmas for his great contribution to the welfare of this small community, and the county at large,” they said. 

It was also stated in the concept note of the campaign that BJP-ruled states have enacted anti-conversion laws that are used as weapons against the fundamental right to preach, practise and propagate one’s religion.

The statement noted that the BJP ruling states including Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Jharkhand, Karnataka and Himachal Pradesh, have either passed new anti-conversion laws or updated existing ones after 2017 to bring into effect stringent measures and punishments. It further argued that the new grounds invented for restricting conversions are evidently aimed at persecuting religious minorities.

It also alleged that the brutal attacks on Christians in Manipur since May 3, when violence broke out between the Meitei and Kuki communities, were being carried out with “apparent approval from the BJP governments” both at the state and union levels.

Some of the notable figures from the Christian community in India who attended the Prime Minister’s Christmas event include Oswald Gracious, the Indian cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church, the largest denomination among Indian Christians, Paul Swarup, the Delhi bishop of the Church of North India, Anil Couto, the archbishop of Delhi and Roby Kannanchira, the director of the Chavara Cultural Centre, a Kochi-based Catholic cultural institution.

The priests’ meeting with the PM sparked harsh criticism, particularly in Kerala, where state Minister Saji Cherian called out the bishops for failing to raise the topic of Manipur violence during the gathering.

“The bishops who went to meet PM Modi in Delhi did not have the courage to speak about Manipur. When they were having the grapes and cakes served by the BJP, the Bishops forgot the violence in Manipur and it was not at all a subject of discussion for them,” said the Kerala Minister. 

This prompted several Catholic voices, including John Dayal and two Jesuit priests, Father Cedric Prakash and Father Prakash Luis, to launch a signature campaign titled “Not in Our Name! Christmas Celebrations with PM is Not in Our Name,” which invited Christians to sign and send a message that the community is opposed to hate politics.

“Not just Manipur, the persecution of the Christian community across India is rampant and is increasing with each passing day. Why didn’t any of the bishops or clergymen raise the issue of attacks on Dalit Christians or land being taken away from tribal Christians? Instead of raising these issues, they kept heaping praises on the PM,” John Dayal said while addressing the media.

Some of the major parts of the statement could be read as follows:

“Christians and Christian schools and institutions have been hounded and harassed, their places of worship destroyed, they have been denied their ordinary rights as citizens and been subject to denigration and demonization. Celebrations in schools have been stopped and Christians have been arrested without any warrant and put behind bars for no offence of theirs.”

 “The hard truth is that the prime minister and his government have consistently disregarded their constitutional mandate, be it to the minorities, the Adivasis, the Dalits, the backward castes, the farmers, labourers, migrants, etc.”

“[O]ne naturally would question the intention of this reception when he [Modi] has not condemned a single attack on the Christians, under his prime ministership. Interestingly, while he praised Jesus Christ and waxed eloquent about the services of the Christian community, he did not share remorse or empathy for the situation of the Christians in the country today.”

“When these Christian representatives spoke at the reception, they were giving a tacit approval to the omission and commission of this government… Hence, their words were not in our name!”

The campaign has garnered more than 3200 signatures from Christian community leaders. The signatories to the statement include Trinamool Congress MP Deren O’Brien and retired civil servants MG Devashayam and John Shilsi.


Don't Miss

Related Articles