The embattled Christian community is having a torrid time so far harassment, intimidation and persecution of a sort in some states of Northern India by Hindutva forces causing much grief and anxiety to members of the faith. The Constitution of India and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 give inalienable human rights to people to practice their faith and belief-system. The demographically small Christian communities which may be just 2.4% of the total population feel helpless and lost as physical violence and torching of their churches make them hang their head in shame.
Be that as it may, it must be noted that Christians have been very apolitical and very peaceful community who have been loyal citizens of the land. So in this context, this sudden rash and spate of mindless violence and vendetta on the false alibi, that they are converting people by fraudulent means. The affiliates of the Saffron group – Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal who acts as storm troopers forget the fact that despite being 2.4% of the total population nearly 25% medical, educational needs of the nation is being done by them with all humility and dedication.
Many instances have been recorded in states of Orissa, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal etc., where Christians have to suffer physical assaults and destruction of their Churches and educational and allied properties. Not too long we had the case of Graham Stains and his two minor sons Paul and Timothy being torched alive, yet his widow forgave the people who perpetrated this gruesome act of cruelty.
It is well-known fact that Christianity is a religion of love and service, and Christians are enjoined by the teachings of their master Lord Jesus Christ to be forbearing and turn the other cheek when they are attacked without rhyme and reason. And many of them have done, and many Christians have become martyrs of their faith.
Today the world has become a global village, all the religions of the world are trying to have inter-religious dialogue and the concept of interdependence is gathering momentum and substance. So when the world is changing so rapidly and we have become members of global village why this back to days religious conflict, persecution, hatred and mindless killing take place.
All the Freedom of Religion Bill – a misnomer to say the least, which have been passed in many states like Orissa, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Arunachal Pradesh etc have been passed by respective Legislative Assemblies of the respective states is just an effort to demean, humiliate and emasculate the small vibrant Christian community on the pretext that they are converting people to Christianity by giving people false hopes and wrongful help. Had it been so the Indian Christian community would have crossed the double digit figure long ago.
False perception of Indian culture and religious heritage which emphasizes exclusivity is nothing short of a recipe to invite disaster for the nation. All religions of the world are found in India, and we have to have inclusive perspective and learn to live as brothers and sisters of the same nation. Therein lies our hope and future destiny.
I would fervently offer my pleas for better understanding from those misguided brothers and sisters who believe in religious animosities, hatred and physical violence.
And my desire to put my thoughts in writing is to sensitize and enlighten my fellow friends, brothers and sisters that we all must subscribe to philosophy of tolerance and love. One must follow ones own religion and which is a fundamental right granted by the Constitution of India, yet at the same time common citizenship enjoins upon each and every person to learn to live in co-existence with others. We have multiple identities – religious, social, political, cultural and yet there is in the end an Indian identity.
V. R Whiso.