At least 4,000 Christians from across India courted arrest in New Delhi May 29 in protest against the “silence” of the federal government on increasing anti-Christian attacks.
At a rally, “Stop Violence on Christians”, held at Jantar Mantar near Parliament, Christian leaders, including All India Christian Council (AICC) president Joseph D’souza, AICC secretary general Dr. John Dayal, Bishop Karam Masih of the Church of North India, and principal of Mount Carmel School in Delhi V.K. Williams warned Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh that his silence could lead to killing of innocent people at the hands of Hindu extremists.
“This was the first time since November 1997 that such large numbers of Christians have been arrested in the Parliament Street police station. It was incredible to see Catholic nuns, Protestant pastors, civil society activists and more singing Christian songs of liberation within the police station,” said Dayal, member of the National Integration Council of the Government of India.
The rally, co-sponsored by the AICC, began at 10 a.m. and was attended by about 5,000 people.
“The protest is in the wake of attacks on Pastor Walter Masih in Jaipur (capital of Rajasthan state) on April 19 and Christian workers Ramesh Gopargode and Ajit Belavi on May 7 in Kolhapur (Maharashtra state) – which were launched by Hindu extremists in the presence of TV cameras of private channels, and a sudden increase in the incidence of anti-Christian violence this year thus far,” the Rev. Madhu Chandra, regional secretary of the AICC, told ICC.
He explained that in 2006, the AICC recorded at least one incident of anti-Christian attack every three days, “but this rose to one attack every alternate day during the first four months of this year”.
Referring to the televised attacks, Chandra said Christians fear that “copycat attacks” could be repeated in the future due to the “silence of the government authorities”.
The participants, who were from several states, including Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Punjab, Orissa and Andhra Pradesh, shouted slogans against the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government led by the Congress party, saying, “UPA sarkar hosh me aao, Christians par atyachar band karao” (Wake up UPA government and stop atrocities on Christians.)
Also present at the rally were victims of communal violence, including Jaipur pastor Walter Masih, who walked up to the stage limping due to the persistent swelling in his leg.
Dayal said Christianity had been reduced to a “daylight religion”, because “the people of the community feel unsafe after sunset”.
Expressing disappointment with the Congress party, Dayal added that it was no longer only the Bharatiya Janata Party that should be blamed for anti-Christian agenda, “look at the Congress-government in Himachal Pradesh, which enacted the anti-conversion law.”
“We have asked the authorities to publicly condemn the attacks on peace-loving Indian Christians. We have appealed to the chief ministers and police administration of various states besides writing open letters to the prime minister and Congress president Sonia Gandhi, but we have not received any response from any of these,” lamented the AICC leader.
President of Justice Party and prominent Dalit leader Udit Raj told the Christian gathering not to trust any political party, including the Congress, saying, “You must have hopes only from yourselves.”
Offering Dalits’ support to the Christian community, Raj added that they should “learn to identify their friends.”
The crowd left the Parliament Street police station, where they courted arrest, at 2:15 p.m. after an official announced that there were not enough jails to keep such a huge number of people.
Among the organizers of the Delhi protest were the All India Catholic Union, Truth-Seekers International, Christian Legal Association, and All India Confederation of Scheduled Castes (Dalits)/Scheduled Tribes (Tribal or aborigine people) Organizations.
The delegates included leaders of the Roman Catholic Church, the Church of North India (CNI), Pentecostal churches, Salvation Army, Seventh-day Adventist, and mission organizations, such as the India Evangelical Mission, Indian Evangelical Team, Maharashtra Village Ministry, and Haryana Dalit Kalyan Samiti (Welfare Society).
“We want a truly secular India where all people can practice their faiths without facing violent attacks,” Chandra added.
Meanwhile, Christians in Mumbai also staged a rally today at Azad Maidan to show solidarity to the protesters in New Delhi. The protest was organized by the Bombay (former name of Mumbai) Catholic Sabha (Group) or BCS at 4 p.m.
Dolphy D’souza, president of the BCS, said in a statement, “We feel the authorities, including both government and police, are complacent in protecting Christians against violent and brutal attacks.”
According to the 2001 Census of India, Christians comprise merely 2.3 percent of the one billion plus population of India. A majority of attacks on Christians are led by groups associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (National Volunteer Corps or RSS), which is also the ideological mentor of the Bharatiya Janata Party. Christian organizations estimate that more than 100 anti-Christian attacks have taken place this year thus far.
Source: International Christian Concern, Washington D.C./USA