By Jose Kavi
New Delhi: The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India on October 6 denounced the reported burning of the image of a Hindu deity and Indian national flag by a sect claiming to be Christian in the northeastern state of Mizoram.
A press statement from the conference’s New Delhi headquarters termed the incident as “unfortunate” and upsetting.
According to media reports, the incident occurred on September 21 in Lunglie District of Mizoram. The police, however, reportedly hid the news to avoid sectarian violence. The police have arrested seven people in connection with the incident.
Meanwhile a video clip on social media showed a man hurling slogans against Hinduism, accompanied by several boys, one holding a cross. The man was heard shouting, “We have long been under the Hindus. We have long been under India. Now, we want to declare ourselves independent.” Following this, the video showed the man setting ablaze a Hindu idol while some boys poured petrol. They then proceeded to burn the Indian flag.
The CBCI statement expressed shock that someone showed disrespect to another religion in the name of Christ. CBCI secretary general Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, who signed the press statement, says the perpetrators of the crime should not claim to be followers of Christ, who has taught to respect the nation along with revering God. “We, as Christians, love and worship God and, in the same way, love and serve our country and people selflessly,” he added.
Bishop Mascarenhas also said the Church shared the “pain of our Hindu brethren, who would be hurt and upset by this unfortunate and unacceptable incident.”
Religion, he asserted, is meant for building bridges and constructing people’s lives. “It cannot be used and should never be utilized for spreading hatred against fellow human beings.”
The press statement asserted that the Church opposed all sorts of fundamentalism and considered any attempt to cause division and spread sectarian hatred as against the principles of Christianity.
“The Catholic Church along with other Christian Churches has always stood for national unity and for peace and harmony among all peoples,” said the statement signed by CBCI secretary general Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas.
Bishop Mascarenhas said they heard the news with “great sadness and sorrow” and contacted Bishop Stephen Rotluanga of Aizawl for further information. The CBCI official said Bishop Rotluanga was also upset about the happenings.
The diocese based in the Mizoram capital of Aizawl covers the entire state.
Bishop Mascarenhas also reminded people that Christians are a peace loving community known for its love for India. “We condemn in the strongest possible terms the burning of our flag.”
Police sources have revealed that the man was Lalrinawma, who claims to be Christian preacher. The police also said the ‘sect’ emerged only a few months ago.
The preacher reportedly tried to bury himself, claiming his resurrection would take place three days later, similar to Jesus Christ. However, villagers weren’t too enthused with the idea of being prosecuted in case he died, newspaper reports said.
Mizoram is one of the three Christian majority states in northeastern India. According to the 2011 census, 87 percent Mizos are Christians, predominantly Presbyterian. The state also has a Chakma Theravada Buddhist population of 8.5 percent, followed by Hindus at 2.7 percent