By Matters India Reporter
Tiruchirapalli: The All India Catholic Union, the largest lay group in the country, on November 2 condemned state and non-state actors harassing Archbishop Thomas Macwan of Gandhinagar, who had sought prayers to maintain the country’s secular credentials.
“While the Election Commission of India has served him a notice, fundamentalist and religious nationalist groups have launched a media campaign against the bishop and against the Catholic community,” says statement issued by Lancy D’Cunha, the national president of the 98-year-old union.
The Christian community in India is “aghast” at such developments, the union stated at a press conference held after its Working Committee meeting in Tiruchirapalli, Tamil Nadu.
Archbishop Thomas Macwan has replied to the election commission notice. “AICU, however, wants to know if the Election Commission gave similar notices on prominent priests of various other religions in Gujarat. Some head priests have directly told people to vote for the ruling party and the Prime Minister,” the AICU statement says.
It also says the Catholic Union has consistently decried the growing misuse of religion, religious symbols and places in the political discourse. It wants religious heads to educate their communities and others on strengthening the democratic traditions, including religious freedom and human rights, participation in the electoral.
“Religion must infuse Truth, Morality, Ethics, in the body politic, and not be divisive, incite violence or polarize people,” the statement asserts.
The Catholic union also questioned the government on why Pope Francis was not invited to visit India during his south Asia tour that ended on December 2. The Pope last year had expressed his desire to visit and the Church leaders had requested the government to invite the pontiff.
The AICU expressed its concern at the government’s failure to condemn and contain the threats to freedom of expression in the country. “The ugly controversy over films and the open threats to kill the artistes and director of the period drama film Padmawati, writer Prof Kancha Iailiah, and social media threats to activists Kavita Krishnan, Kavita Srivastava and others, reflect a speedy breakdown in the rule of law,” the statement warns.
The Catholic union also found fault with federal Tourism Minister Alphons Kannanatham, who had stated that no Christian was persecuted in the Modi regime. “Ministers have their compulsions. He will have to answer his own conscience,” says the AICU statement and noted routine attacks on Christians and Muslims in most states, “with the police and political elements complicit in the crime.”
Observing that complaints have also been filed with the National Commission of Minorities, and the United Nations Human Rights Council, the Catholic Union urged the government and the National Crime Records Bureau to publish the data on attacks on religious minorities and not minimize it by registering targeted and communal violence under “other” heads.
The Catholic Union terms tax imposed on coffins, crosses and rosaries as the government’s “indifference to the sentiments of religious minorities.”
“We demand the GST (Goods and Services Tax) be removed on all religious artifacts” and items of women’s personal hygiene.
John Dayal, AICU spokesperson and a former national president, also attended the press conference.