“Will the desert become a garden”? – OpEd – Eurasia Review

“I am terribly afraid of my identity as a Christian minority in my own country and the fear is more horrible than anything else,” according to a Delhi-based scholar who felt uncomfortable celebrating Christmas this year with his friends. He recalled reported cases of disruption of Christmas celebrations, destruction of statues of Jesus and effigies of Santa Claus set on fire during episodes of violence against the Christian community in several states in India. It was obviously not a sudden surge of attacks on them, but it has been brewing for some time, and the Christian minority – which represents around 2.3% of the population – has been targeted by right-wing outfits throughout. the country in the midst of growing intolerance. .

It is plausible that attacks on minorities are on the increase in India and there are reports of the destruction of churches, attacks on priests and illegal incarceration of church workers etc. The death in custody of the 84-year-old Jesuit priest and human rights activist Stan Swamy is a case in point. The Office of the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights reported that this death in custody “will forever remain a stain on India’s human rights record” because Stan Swamy had “devoted much of his life to defending the rights of indigenous peoples and the Adivasi minority … ” The UN human rights expert said: “There is never an excuse for a human rights defender to be labeled a terrorist, and no reason for him to die the way Father Swamy died, accused and detained, and denied. his rights.

In the recent past, Christians have come under attack in several states such as Karnataka Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand, Odisha, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Delhi. Karnataka witnessed new limits of violence in the context of the passage of the “Protection of Religious Freedom Bill 2021” on December 23, 2021, a day before Christmas. The bill, commonly known as the anti-conversion bill, was passed in the assembly amid protests from the opposition. The bill seeks to prohibit conversion from one religion to another by false declaration, force, fraud, seduction or marriage. Even before tabling the bill, right-wing groups attacked members of the Christian community and set their religious books on fire. The Srinivasapura incident in Kolar district has been widely reported.

According to reports compiled by the Popular Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL)Karnataka has witnessed 39 incidents of attacks on members of the Christian community this year through November. The Archbishop of BangalorePeter Machado expressed concern that the government’s attitude has in some way contributed to “an increase in attacks” against the Christian community. He said: “Certain government behavior or statements, certain government attitudes are the reason why these (attacks) are allowed and tolerated. It can continue and it is sad for us. The bishop added that similar cases have been reported in interior places where “there were fewer community members and small churches. But what is happening in Hubballi, Dharwad, Bengaluru means people are taking justice. ” The PUCL alleged that even “the police department and some politicians colluded with right-wing organizations to carry out these attacks.” The Civil Liberties Organization also said, “Due to the aggressive incitement of hatred against Christians statewide, several people in the community have lost their jobs and are facing economic crises. In schools, teachers threatened to expel Christian students. Christian tenants have lost their homes. Even small businesses have turned away customers just because they are Christians.

A recent New York Times Report says: “Anti-Christian militias are sweeping the villages, assault churches, burning Christian literature, attack schools and attack the faithful. In many cases, police and ruling party members in India are helping them, government documents and dozens of interviews have revealed. Church after Church, the very act of worship has become dangerous despite constitutional protections for freedom of religion. The report also notes that many “Christians have become so scared that they are trying to impersonate Hindus for protection.”

According to United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), an independent US federal government commission that reports on religious freedom, “Violence against Christians has also increased: with at least 328 violent incidents, often on charges of forced conversions. These attacks frequently targeted prayer services and led to the widespread closure or destruction of churches. ” The 2020 report says that “Empowered by anti-conversion laws and often with the complicity of the police, Hindutva groups also carry out campaigns of harassment, social exclusion and violence against Christians, Muslims and other religious minorities through the country. Following attacks by Hindustva groups against religious minorities for conversion activities, the police often arrest religious minorities who have been attacked. The Commission even recommended that India be included in the category of “country of particular concern” (CPC), for having committed and tolerated systematic, continuous and egregious violations of religious freedom, as defined by the International Religious Freedom. Act (IRFA).

Added to the latest list of woes is the Union government’s refusal to renew Mother Teresa’s Missionary of Charity (MoC) license under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA). Criticizing the action of the BJP, Deputy Rajya Sabha, P Chidambaram stressed that the Centre’s action “reveals prejudices and prejudices against Christian charity”. Following the controversy, Father Dominic Gomes, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Calcutta ridiculed the Modi government, claiming the move was a “cruel Christmas present for the poorest of the poor”. According to Gomes, “the missionary sisters and brothers of charity are often the only friends of lepers and those excluded from society whom no one will even venture near… this latest attack on the Christian community and its social influence is, even more, a despicable attack on the poorest of India’s poor.

According to Paul robinson, CEO of Release International, which supports persecuted Christians around the world, “This rising tide of intolerance has increased since the election of nationalist BJP in 2014. It has resulted in attacks on religious minorities and adoption anti-conversion laws in many states. These laws target both Muslims and Christians.

A young priest from Kerala told this author that when Pope Francis accepted the invitation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi (during the latter’s meeting at the Palace of the Popes in the Vatican on October 30 of this year) to visit India, they breathed a sigh of relief. It was a long-awaited visit by the Pontiff to the land of 28 million Christians, the second largest Christian community in Asia. When the Pope presented the Prime Minister of India with a bronze plaque with an inscription, The desert will become a garden, it echoed with inviting warmth and blood. The priest, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal for expressing his views, said the much-vaunted adage “absolute power absolutely corrupts” has taken on new meaning in a community cauldron of suppressed anger.

What is more intriguing is the near silence of the Muslim rulers when the “people of the book” are attacked in their own neighborhood. Does this have anything to do with the “heat decline” that has started to surface with the growing incidents of interfaith conflict and Muslim-Christian perceptions of threat around the world?

Certainly, a host of issues emerging from regional and international regions (such as the Easter attacks in Sri Lanka two years ago and terrorist retaliation in Europe and the Asia-Pacific region) would have contributed to a scenario of cautious responses. Religious sentiments are so sensitive lately that every religion – and every denomination within every religion – has problems on many levels that transcend “spiritual” boundaries. India, being a multicultural and multireligious society, has a constitutional system that provides a social space to mitigate conflict between communities, but it has recently been challenged by communitarianism which has made a dent in the secular fabric. of the nation. As a result, minorities and other subordinate sections of the population have become prime targets of attack.

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