‘Strangers in their own land’

Dilemma Of the Christian populace in India

Julio Ribeiro, retired Indian Police Service officer, former Director General of Police of Mumbai and Gujarat recently said the following: “As a Christian, suddenly, I am a stranger in my own country.” He is merely reflecting on the recent dilemma of the Christian community in India since the ascendance of Narendra Modi as its prime minister.

It is indeed a sad commentary from a distinguished public servant who has served the country with great zeal and dedication to protect and preserve its territorial integrity.

Today, scores of Indian Christians who have contributed in so many ways toward the development of India especially in the social and educational sectors are pained to feel the same way as Ribeiro does. As a Christian and a member of the Diaspora, I truly share the sentiment of Ribeiro and salute him for his fortitude in speaking out.

What exactly has happened to bring about such anxiety and insecurity to such a small community that poses no harm to its fellow citizens? The latest reports from India point to two more attacks targeting the Christian religious places of worship, one at St. George Church in Navi, Maharashtra, and the other at St.Peter and Paul Church at Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh, along with two schools that are managed by the churches.

These may have happened at the heel of another incident in Nadia district in West Bengal where a 72-year-old nun was gang raped by six individuals at the Jesus and Mary convent school. Reacting to the gang rape of the nun, Surendra Jain, joint secretary of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) blamed the ‘Christian Culture’ for the incident. He also justified the vandalizing of a church in Haryana and stated that these attacks would continue if conversions do not stop.

Several churches in Delhi were vandalized and desecrated by religious extremists in the past months including St. Sebastian Church in Dilshad Garden which was reduced to ashes with its altar charred and Bibles strewn all over the ground.

Archbishop Anil Couto said that the arson in St. Sebastian Church was condemnable not just because it was act of sacrilege and hate against the community and its faith, but because it could happen in the national capital which is recovering from a series of communal incidents. Also distressing to him is the sense of police impunity that long hours were lost, and possible evidence destroyed, before police finally came.

Most of the culprits still remain at large and the law enforcement officials seem to show very little urgency in bringing them to justice.

These incidents are not just limited to certain parts of India but happening across the country. The recent incident in a village in Chattisgarh reveals the fear and insecurity of those who have embraced Christianity as their faith.

Sukhram Kashyap, a Christian from Chhattisgarh, has not only seen his church vandalized but was denied food rations from the Hindu dominated village council and several of his friends were beaten up when they protested. Some of his fellow worshippers were reconverted in an aggressive campaign called ‘Ghar Wapasi’ by Hindu fundamentalists who have also banned any Christian clergy from entering the village.

Breaking a long silence on this continuing onslaught by the Hindutva brigade on Christians and their Institutions around the country Prime Minister Modi said the following. ‘The tradition of welcoming, respecting and honoring all faiths is as old as India itself.” One wonders whether his ardent followers in Bharatiya Janata Party and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh are listening!

President of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India Cardinal Baselios Cleemis said that the recent attacks on churches and Christians in India have made many ‘feel that their Christian identity is being questioned and it gives a sense of sadness. It showed that not everybody had taken seriously Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s assurance to minorities’. ‘Irrespective of their faiths, anybody being attacked was an Indian citizen and it was the government’s duty to protect them,’ the cardinal added.

In an interview to Karan Thapar on Headlines Today, Cardianal Cleemis also described as “very painful and sad” the comments of RSS head Mohan Bhagwat that Mother Teresa’s humanitarian works were driven by her motive to convert those she served. “It was very painful and very sad to hear about Mother Teresa whom the nation honored with Bharat Ratna,” he said.

There is no doubt that that Cardinal Cleemis spoke on behalf of all Christians in India that may very well include many of the faithful in the Diaspora. Although he did not single out any organization over many of these incidents but went on to criticize the Modi government for observing Christmas as Good Governance Day, saying good governance should be done everyday and the Christian festival should be respected.

One of the most astounding observations that can be made about these attacks on minorities in India is that there is a deafening silence on the part of the Diaspora in the US. Hindu American Foundation, Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America, and GOPIO (Global Organization of People of Indian Origin) along with many other organizations have decided to look the other way.

Though relatively new as immigrants to this great country (US), Indians continue to demand our rightful place, justifiably so, at the table in sharing the riches and defending our values and traditions while not tolerating any injustice that offends our sensibilities. A huge segment of the community has indeed made tremendous strides in this short period realizing the American dream and integrating itself into the mainstream.

However, Christians in India who have lived there for almost two centuries are made to feel as if they are strangers in their own land. How a personal choice of faith that is guaranteed under the article 25 and 26 of the Constitution of India could make or break the ‘Indian ness’ of its citizenry is beyond the comprehension of any rational mind.

Undoubtedly, the forces of polarization and divisions have come out of the woodwork and kept themselves busy transforming India at the expense of the values and principles of inclusiveness and tolerance that brought the nation together.

The current government’s dual-track policy of providing good optics for the consumption of the global community while unleashing the extremist forces to undo the social progress of the last 65 years, mostly under the Congress rule, is troublesome and disheartening to most of its citizens.

US President Barrack Obama in his Siri Fort speech prodded the new government ‘India will succeed so long as it is not splintered along the lines of religious faith, as long as it is not splintered along any lines and it is unified as a nation.’

It sounds prophetic and to plainly put it, unless the prime minister reins in these extremist elements that run amok now, his dream of ‘modern India’ could be in increasing peril.

(George Abraham, Chairman, INDIAN NATIONAL OVERSEAS CONGRESS (INOC), USA. This article appeared in countercurrents.org on April 1, 2015)

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1 thought on “‘Strangers in their own land’

  1. The tragic paradox of the 20th and 21st century is, the largest Christian population of the world, the Catholics 1.2 billion and the Protestants 1.1 billion, thus 2.3 billion total population has been targeted around the world for persecution by some evil spirited people.

    Indian Christianity is 2000 years old, Parse religion is more than 2500 years old, Islam religion around 1400 years old, then other religions like Buddhism-Jainism and Sikhism as Indian born religions.

    Hinduism, which is a way of life not a religion. Was it born in India? No at all. These people also came from many nations of the middle eastern countries, took over the native Dravidians and exploited them applying the army format using religion.

    Now the BJP/RSS union has created an idea that India is the birthright of the Hindus; and the rest must go back. On the other hand, the educated Hindus are migrating to Christian countries all over the world. The Muslim nations are not discriminating the Hindus for giving them jobs.

    Take the minority Christian community in their great contribution in education. The first University, Serampore University in Serampore started by the Baptist missionary William Carey. The first College in India at Kottayam, Kerala established by the Church Missionary Society. Both the Madras University and Bombay Universities, the older Universities were started by the Christian Missionaries. The founder of the Wilson College in Mumbai was the key player in stating the Mumbai University.

    Watch the rush of the non-Christians, especially the Hindus to study in the famous Christian colleges like St. Stephen College, Madras Christian College, Lyolla College etc. The great contribution given by the minority Christians, the Catholic and Protestant is very unique; thus they have given inspiration to the non-Christians to start educational institutions. I was quite surprised while going through the educational backgrounds of the current BJP leaders, a great percentage of them got educated at the Christian Schools and Colleges; but they want to terrorize the minority Christian community of India.

    Then take the medical care side. A very high percentage of the nationally known and unknown hospitals in India in the private sector is owned and operated by the minority Christians. The Vellore Medical College Hospital is getting national award as the no 1 in the nation, how many non-Christians are patients there?

    The newly invented political spade card game plan of the BJP through chocking the fundamental liberty of the minorities, especially that of the Christians which is an easy target for the BJP/RSS is keenly watched by the Christian nations of the world, because now we are living in an internet and You Tube age.

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