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Religious leaders come together to ask government to ensure safety to religious minorities

By TwoCircles.net Staff Reporter

Indian Catholic bishops organised a seminar with spiritual leaders from various religions to discuss fears which have risen in the society since the last couple of years. The seminar, which was held on July 16, was named as Collective Action for Dialogue and Social Harmony. Meeting in Delhi under the aegis of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), the group of 40 leaders called upon the Government to end impunity which was at the root of the atmosphere of fear that stalks the land today. It was felt that these developments threatened not just secularism, but the Constitution and the democratic fabric of the country. Social activist John Dayal said, “I think it was a very important initiative. It is time to stand up to the hate, and to the lynching.”

A five-point program of action was put forward in the meeting:

1. The ideology of hate is a reality and needs to be challenged by Governments, political parties, civil society activists, the criminal justice system and religious communities in a concerted manner.

2. Religious leadership must act at the grassroots to assert the inherent unity of the people. This will help restore public confidence and remove the mutual suspicion that had started growing.

3. The leadership must generate literature as well as content for the traditional, mainstream and social media to challenge falsehood and hatred. Social media can indeed also be used to defeat hate and strengthen bonds between communities.

4. Community leaders must come together at various levels so that tensions can be diffused and trust restored and strengthened. Similarly, national institutions including the National and State Minorities Commissions and other structures must be encouraged to actively work in restoring peace and help strengthen the rule of law. This would also go a long way in ensuring the devolution of development efforts under the 15 point programme and other government measures.

5. A National Inter-Faith and Civil society convention will be held as soon as possible to discuss the developments and the measures that the government needs to take at the national and state levels. The leaders asked people to seek strength from India’s deep spiritual reservoirs to end the increasing environment of hate, violence and disregard for the rule of law in which many innocents of religious and marginalised communities have been lynched in recent weeks. CBCI also welcomed Prime Minister Modi’s remark in which he said that law and order are the responsibility of the state governments and asked them to deal sternly with cow vigilantes. Referring to the murder of Pastor Sultan Masih, Bishop Franco Mulakkal of the Diocese of Jalandhar said, “The murder of Pastor Sultan Masih was an attack on the Christian community.”

Bishop Mulakkal told Crux Now, “Pastor Sultan Masih was targeted by the killers, with the full knowledge that he was a pastor and this anti-Christian incident has deeply wounded and caused insecurity and disturbances in the Christian community.” Not only religious minorities have been attacked in the past, but Hindu population has also suffered the violence up to some extent. Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, the secretary general of the CBCI, called the Amarnath attack “dastardly and cowardly,” and described it as “another sign of the flames of violence that seem to be unfortunately engulfing the country.”

The meeting was attended by Goswami Sushil Ji Maharaj, Vivek Muni, Umer Iliyasi, Sardar Paramjeet Singh Chandhok, Mohinder Singh, Manzoor Alam, Zafar Ullah Khan, Chairman of Delhi Minority Commission Navaid Hamid, Delhi Minority Commission Member Anastasia Gill, Rabbi Ezekiel Malekar, TK John, Denzil Fernandes, Michael Williams, Rev Vijayesh Lal, Rev Richard Howell, D K Manavalan IAS, Fr Alarico Carvalho, Fr Bento Rodrigues, Delhi Vicar General Msgr Susai Sebastian, Fr Freddy D’Souza, AC Michael, John Dayal, Msgr Chinnayyan Joseph and Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, the Secretary General of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India who had convened the meeting.

(With inputs from Crux Now)