Thursday, January 22, 2015

Press Release - Catholic Bishops Conference of India

Government urged to uphold the Secular nature of India

New Delhi: January 21, 2015

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India urged the Government to uphold the Secular nature of India. A Special Consultation was organized by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India at the CBCI Centre, New Delhi, on Monday, January 20, 2015.

The Constitution of India guarantees that all the citizens of our country can profess, practice and propagate a religion of one’s choice. India is a land where different religious faiths have long since flourished and our founding fathers made special efforts to ensure that the rights of all are safeguarded, irrespective of our religious beliefs, gender or caste. Christianity has its roots in Indian soil for more than 2000 years. The Christians of India believe in God and believe in the goodness of people and have been selflessly serving the people of this country in the fields of education, health care, etc. without any discrimination on the basis of caste, creed or religion.

The unfortunate incidents that happened in the past few months in various parts of our country have hurt the sentiments of the Christian community and has shaken the faith in the secular fabric of our Nation. The shocking incidents that have taken place against Churches, clergy and laity in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi have caused great concern for the Christian community. The recent controversies in the name of religious reconversions portray a negative image about India. Communal polarization and the bid to homogenize India are posing threat to all minorities – women, dalits, and all linguistic, cultural and religious minorities.

The Ghar Wapsi programmes, the saffranisation of education and culture, and the demands for a Hindu Rashtra are again posing challenges to the secular ethos of our beloved country. Conversions of a religious nature are an exercise of one’s free will and one’s constitutional/fundamental rights and freedom of conscience and of religion. Ghar Wapsi is a political process, carried out by the powerful exponents of religious nationalism – much against the principle of Secularism. It does not even have the legitimacy of freedom of political expression.

The Christians of this country need assurance from the Government that we are protected and secure and safe in our motherland. We express our strong concern on the aforementioned issues. Putting an end to such dangerous tendencies is inevitable for the growth and progress of our great nation. This great secular nation has to remain as a place where people of all religions and of different cultural backgrounds should live freely, practicing their faith without fear or threat and in harmony.  While we recommit ourselves for the progress and development of our nation, we strongly urge the Honourable Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, to urgently intervene and take appropriate action to stop incidents that pose big threat to the unity of this secular nation.

The CBCI Special Consultation was presided over by the CBCI President, Cardinal Baselios Cleemis Catholicos and attended by Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Cardinal Telesphore Toppo, Cardinal George Alencherry, the CBCI Office-Bearers, representatives of Conference of Religious, India (CRI), Catholic Council of India (CCI), All India Catholic Union (AICU), Indian Catholic Youth Movement (ICYM), Legal experts, Human Rights and Social activists, CBCI Core Team and Secretaries.

Fr. Joseph Chinnayyan,

Deputy Secretary General &

Spokesperson, CBCI