Feb. 7, 2015
We, the 140 Bishops from across the country attending the 27th Plenary Assembly of the Conference of the Catholic Bishops of India (CCBI) during February 3–9 in Bangalore, hereby express our deep anguish and concern over increasing threats to peace and communal harmony in the wake of various untoward incidents affecting the Christian community in different parts of the country.
Hardly a day has passed off in recent months without reports of attacks on Christians, Churches and Christian institutions from across the nation. Churches have been torched even in the national capital while reports of ‘Ghar Waspsi’ and blatant threats to hold mass reconversions are causing anxiety to the Christians scattered in the far corners of the nation.
Amid canards being spread and open threats against religious minorities by belligerent groups and their leaders, even elected representatives of people have made shocking statements brazenly challenging the freedom of conscience guaranteed by the Constitution of India under Article 25. (1) which lays down that: “Subject to public order, morality and health and to the other provisions of this Part, all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion.”
We are distressed over divisive steps from passing of resolutions to ban Christian practices at village level to an aborted national level bid to keep educational institutions open even on Christmas Day. Such concerted efforts at different levels raise concerns of a planned program to undermine the Christian community as second class citizens in our motherland where the community has made immense contributions in the field of education, healthcare and social service even in the remote hinterlands.
As citizens of this country, we have every right for ‘Equality before Law’ guaranteed by Article 14 of the Constitution which mandates that “The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.”
The police manhandling of peaceful gathering of even women, children, nuns and priests at the gate of the Sacred Heart Cathedral in the heart of New Delhi on February 5, 2015 raises questions whether these constitutional guarantees are not applicable to the Christian community.
The recurring assaults and vandalism against Christian targets in different parts of country and failure of the guardians of law to bring the culprits to book have only worsened the air of impunity.
The silence of those responsible for upholding our Constitutional Rights and their failure to protect the community are indeed baffling.
It is high time for the Government - that has the bounden duty of protecting its citizens and their rights - to enforce the rule of law and curb the belligerence of the outfits defiling peace and communal harmony in the nation.
Oswald Cardinal Gracias Abp. Filipe Neri Ferrao Bp. Varghese Chakkalakal
President Vice-President Secretary General