New Delhi: Recent attempts to convert Christians and Muslims into Hinduism go against the principles of secularism, asserted a special consultation organized by India’s Catholic bishops.
The January 20 meeting in New Delhi viewed the “ghar Wapsi” (home coming) of the Hindu radical groups as a political process carried out by “the powerful exponents of religious nationalism.”
The consultation was held in the backdrop of attempts to bring Christians and Muslims into the Hindu fold, rewriting of Indian history and textbooks and demand or turning India into a Hindu theocratic nation.
“The Ghar Wapsi programs, the saffronization of education and culture, and the demands for a Hindu Rashtra are again posing challenges to the secular ethos of our beloved country. Conversions of a religious nature are an exercise of one’s free will and one’s constitutional/fundamental rights and freedom of conscience and of religion,” says a press release issued by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India on Wednesday.
The consultation attended by top Catholic leaders in India, urged the government to uphold India’s secular nature.
They noted that India’s constitution guarantees that all the citizens can profess, practice and propagate a religion of one’s choice. “India is a land where different religious faiths have long since flourished and our founding fathers made special efforts to ensure that the rights of all are safeguarded, irrespective of our religious beliefs, gender or caste,” they added.
The consultation also drew attention to Christianity existence in India for 2000 years. “The Christians of India believe in God and believe in the goodness of people and have been selflessly serving the people of this country in the fields of education, health care, etc. without any discrimination on the basis of caste, creed or religion,” said the press release signed by Fr. Joseph Chinnayyan, deputy secretary general and spokesperson of CBCI.
It regretted that recent “unfortunate incidents” in various parts of India have hurt Christians’ sentiments and shaken India’s secular credentials.Consultation
“The shocking incidents that have taken place against churches, clergy and laity in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi have caused great concern for the Christian community. The recent controversies in the name of religious reconversions portray a negative image about India. Communal polarization and the bid to homogenize India are posing threat to all minorities – women, dalits, and all linguistic, cultural and religious minorities,” the statement noted.
Christians need assurance from the government that they are protected and secure and safe in their country, the consultation said. Expressing “strong concern” over these issues, the meet asserted that checking such dangerous tendencies was necessary to help the nation’s growth and progress.
“This great secular nation has to remain as a place where people of all religions and of different cultural backgrounds should live freely, practicing their faith without fear or threat and in harmony,” the meet said.
The participants vowed to continue to aid the country’s progress and development and “strongly” urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to urgently intervene and take appropriate action to stop incidents that pose big threat to the unity of this secular nation.
CBCI president Cardinal Baselios Cleemis Catholicos presided over the consultation attended by Cardinals Oswald Gracias, Telesphore Toppo and George Alencherry along with representatives of Conference of Religious, India, Catholic Council of India, All India Catholic Union, Indian Catholic Youth Movement, legal experts and human rights and social activists.