National United Christian Forum raises serious concerns
Rev Richard Howell
New Delhi: The National United Christian Forum (NUCF) comprising three leading Churches of India Saturday voiced serious concern about the current situation of the minorities, particularly the Christians in India
The forum comprising the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) and the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) appealed Prime Minister Narendra Modi to remind people that no development could take place in India if attempts are made to disrupt communal harmony prevailing in the country.
A press release from the forum listed several recent incidents of harassment to Christians. In Bastar, Chhattisgarh, rightwing Hindu groups forced the Church to put the statue of Sarsawati Maa in a Catholic school and forbid children to address the principle with the honorific ‘Father.’
The group bemoaned the burning of a church in Delhi; the declaration of ‘Good Governance Day’ on December 25 to undermine the importance of Christmas; the provocative call by some fundamentalists to convert 4,000 Christians to Hinduism in Agra on Christmas Day and the regular targeting of the Christian community, calling them even anti-national.
Christmas is the only holiday that Christians have in the whole year when they join the rest of the world in celebrating the birth of Christ. A circular by the Navodaya School Commissioner to keep certain government run schools open on that day is perceived by the Christian Community as an insult to the importance of Christmas Day, the press release said.
“The Christian Community being a small minority of just 2.33 percent of the Indian population doing its day to day work in a peaceful manner and setting a good example of how dutiful citizens must abide by law, is highly distressed with the types of announcements and statements made by certain groups belonging to a right wing ideology.”
The group ‘strongly” opposed the call for a national ban on conversion as raised by a minister as this would amount to a direct attack on individual’s freedom of conscience to choose one’s faith and on the freedom to profess, practice and propagate the faith of one’s choice, enshrined in article 25 of the Constitution.
The secular nature of our Constitution with different freedoms was put in there after lengthy debate on this issue by the founding fathers, the ecumenical body reminded the government.
The Church groups reiterated that they forbid religious conversion by force or by fraudulent means and fully supported the government to take any appropriate action against anyone under the already stringent existing laws of the country.
The Christian Community has been always in the forefront of providing service to the nation and would continue with its commitment to make its unique contribution for further development of our motherland. But the Community cannot do that if it is being constantly harassed and labeled as being anti-national believing in a foreign religion. Christianity has been on this land for nearly 2000 years.”