Christians say Modi govt not indifferent to minority attacks

Meetings with BJP leadership draw cautious praise.

New Delhi: 

As India's Hindu party led government completes its first year, prominent Christian leaders say they see an attitude change among political leadership that shows genuine concern over attacks on the minority community in the past several months.

"The indifference and total silence" regarding the attacks on churches and the Christian community "have now given way to a genuine concern," said Archbishop Kuriakose Bharanikulangara of Faridabad, who along with 13 other top Christian leaders met Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Saturday.

Since May 26 last year, when Prime Minister Narendrea Modi came to power after his pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) won a landslide in national elections, Christian leaders have complained of attacks on churches and individuals along with forced reconversion perpetrated by hardline Hindu groups.

For months, the Modi government was silent, but in February he told church leaders he would address the problem. In recent weeks, party officials have met with Christian leaders and vowed to take concrete action.

Jailtley, who is also the Minister of Information and Broadcasting and a close confidante of Modi, "was very concerned about the attacks" and suggested certain steps to improve relations with the Christian community, the archbishop said.

One suggestion was to have one or two point persons from the community to interact with government "so that there is direct communication in times of need," said Father Savarimiuthu Sankar, the spokesperson of the Delhi archdiocese, who was part of the 14-member delegation that met Jaitley.

The priest said it was a "very positive development" given the long silence in the wake of the attacks.

“[There was] no breakthrough … but we cannot continue to have an hostile approach to the government. We need to break the ice," said Father Sankar, adding that the government side initiated the meeting.

The senior minister, an alumnus of a Catholic college, promised to help Christians and asked them to contact him when they face difficulty, especially in BJP-ruled states. The minister said he would personally contact BJP chief ministers to help Christians, the priest said.

"He made it very clear that as a party BJP is does not approve of attacking faith communities, hate speeches and forced conversion," Father Sanker said. However he mentioned the "helplessness" of the government in having a control over speeches and actions of all party members.

Sources in Jatiley's office said the motivation for the meeting was to reach out to the minority community as part of a government endeavor to work for the development of all people.

Jaitley told media on Saturday that the past year was "very good in terms communal tension in the country."

"In fact investigation has proved that most attacks on churches were law and order issues. The government is providing ample protection to the churches in Delhi," he said.

BJP's national spokesperson Sambit Patra told that most media reports about the forced reconversion of Christians to Hinduism, under a Hindu movement called Ghar Vapasi or home coming, were "sheer media hype." He said even opposition politicians have admitted that media have "exaggerated incidents of Ghar Vapasi".


Source: UCAN


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