A statement by Indian Christian theologians and leaders about the task of Christians in the time of fascism
We, as Indian Christians, are concerned at the steady shift we see in our country from a pluralist, secular, democracy to a Hindu Rashtra. What used to be fringe, has now become mainstream. There is a systematic design to undermine the Constitution. Official machinery often seems working in tandem with the ‘vigilantes’. Street lynching, victims charged as accused, stage-managed trials; all on the basis of one’s religious and caste identities. Media seems mute, silent in self-censorship, coerced by the state, or leashed by its corporate ownership. Fake News is the final straw.
What is at stake? The country risks a hierarchical order and an ideology eroding, containing and overwhelming the liberty, equality and fraternity bequeathed us by the Freedom Struggle as an ‘idea of India’ for the modern age. A new coercive culture, steered mob-inspired killers, is destroying lives and families amongst us. Fear stalks the land.
The spontaneous multi-city #NotInMyName upsurge of public revulsion was the ordinary Indian’s cry against this hate and blood-letting.
The anger is as much over the killings as it is over our collective silence.
The government’s double talk is apparent. It is right in its solidarity with the global challenge to international terrorism, but has minimized and dismissed the terror wreaked on the weak and the marginalized by the violent nationalism of the mob. Victims have been Dalits, specially their youth and their women, Tribals and religious minorities.
The number of violent acts against Christians alone during the last 3 years (2014-2016) are over 600, including an increasing trend at social boycott that impinges on the right to life, food and livelihood. This includes physical violence, stopping of worship in churches, attacks on churches, arrests of pastors and their companions, and rapes of Nuns. The National Crime Records Bureau documented 47,064 acts of violence against Dalits in 2014, up from 32,643 in 2010. The violence against Muslims is reaching an alarming peak.
The hate spewed not just by non-state actors and political functionaries, but even by Members of Parliament and sometimes by ministers forms the backdrop of this violence, as it also smothers voices seeking justice.
Inevitably, and perhaps deliberately, these divisive and emotional issues divert attention from the repercussions of radical changes in financial laws and economic policies that adversely affect workers, farmers and the youth who suddenly find themselves rendered unemployed.
The political process taking shape today is against every fundamental humane and constitutional principle of Equality and Dignity of every Indian, and preserving Common Good.
Indeed, it is evil.
And inherently calls upon us as individuals, community and people of Faith, to raise our voice against it.
The Christian community, despite its laudable heritage of the prophetic tradition of defending justice, human rights and freedom, especially of the oppressed and the marginalized, has not come out openly in support of the truth and its upholders. Many had looked upon the Church and expected it to protest these infringements, whoever be the victim of the moment.
This demands serious reflection. As Christians, we are called to be the salt of the earth. Jesus gave the two greatest commandments… loving our Lord with all we have and loving our Neighbour. We have professed obedience to these commandments, but perhaps not as visibly as we should have.
Our children, our youth, ask us if we are showing true Christian love today to our neighbours, manifested in the victims of injustice, the marginalised Dalits and tribals, exploited farmers and unorganized labour? Or have we compromised Kingdom values, for short term gains. Have we become lukewarm; are we the men of cloth who walk by the bleeding man on the road to Jericho?
The Church, guided by you, needs to act before it is too late. This is the lesson we learn from history. It is time to stand with the victims to be the voice of poor and marginalised; time to collaborate and partner with the civil society to spread the truth; and time to take bold initiatives and action to prevent further erosion of our humane and constitutional values.
We humbly call upon you, all Christian leaders and Heads of Churches, to reflect and lead the community in the path of truth, love and justice.
We offer a few points for your consideration, as a Charter of our Duty to our fellow Citizens and our nation.
1. Based on the Biblical values of justice, right, freedom, dignity and the well-being of every human being, the Christian community should be part of every civil initiative for truth, reconciliation and peace.
2. Any erosion, dilution, infringement or violation of Constitutional rights to life and liberty must invite a response from the church as it does from the people. Speaking out is often the one response that is needed. Saying “Stop” to an act of injustice can often prevent tragedy.
3. Our educational institutions must assume their pristine role as crucibles for nation-building, as the Supreme Court has described them.
4. Our Theological institutions, Bible colleges, Formation Houses must in their pedagogy include familiarization with the rights and duties of citizens in international covenants and the Constitution of India to enhance knowledge and hone civic conscience.
5. In unison with members of all faiths, ideologies we should marshal India’s tremendous spiritual resources in consolidating peace, resolving conflicts infusing a sense of values in the body politic.
God bless our people
And God bless India
1. A C Michael, Former Member of Delhi Minorities Commission
2. A. Chinnappan, Secretary General – All India Catholic Union
3. Fr. Ajay Kumar Singh, Human Rights Activist
4. Fr. Alex Ekka, Educationist
5. Amrit Goldsmith, Human Rights Activist
6. Anthony Cruz, Social Activist
7. Anthony Dias, Scholar
8. Fr. Avinash Masih, Brotherhood Society
9. B. Balakrishnan, Advocate
10.Barnabas Nongbah, General Secretary, Catholic Association, Shillong
11.Benny Anthony Muttath, Catholic Trainer & Activist
12.Bertram Devadas, Associate General Secretary, New Delhi YMCA
13.Ms. Brinelle D’souza, Faculty Member, Tata Institute of Social Sciences
14.Fr. Cedric Prakash, SJ, Human Rights Activist
15.Mrs. Chinnamma Jacob, Women Activist
16.Mrs. Clara Fernandes, Assistant Secretary General of AICU
17.Dr. Daisy Panna, Vice President, Federation of Catholic Associations of Archdiocese of Delhi
18.Deepak Mukerji, Governing Board Member – St Stephen’s College
19.Fr. Denzil Fernandes, SJ, Executive Director, ISI, Lodi Road
20.Fr. Dominic Emmanuel, Activist & Author
21.Fr. Francis Gonsalves, Theologian & Journalist
22.Franklyn Ceaser Thomas, Advocate
23.Gary Andrady, Church Leader
24.Fr. (Dr.) George Plathottam sdb, Principal, Don Bosco College, Tura
25.Fr. George Peter, Spiritual Animator
26.Fr. George Valiyapadath, Capuchin Friar, Padre Pio Shrine, Wayanad
27.Ms. Hazel D’Lima, Social Worker
28.Captain Hunjan Singh Govindra, Air India
29.Rev Isaac Shaw, National Director/President, Delhi Bible Institute
31.Fr. J Felix, Secretary, Inter-religious Commission, Archdiocese of Delhi
32.Fr. Jacob Kani, Journalist
33.Fr. Jacob Panjikaran SG
34.Fr. Jacob Peernikaparambil CMI, National Convener – Forum of Religious for Justice & Peace
35.Fr. Jai Kumar, Brotherhood Society
36.Jasmine Jose SD
37.Jenis Francis, Advocate & President, Federation of Catholic Associations of Archdiocese of Delhi
38.Fr. John Chathanatt, SJ, Sahayog
39.Dr. John Dayal, Human Right Activist & Journalist
40.Dr. Jolly Rimai, Church Leader
41.Jose Leon, President – Leo Burnett India
42.Joseph Bara, Social Scientist
43.Joseph Mattam, SJ
44.Fr. Joseph Xavier, SJ, Advocate & Human Rights Activist
45.Jugal Kishore Ranjit
46.Sr. Justine Gitanjali Senapati, csj, CAO – Congregations of St. Joseph UN NGO
47.K M Selvaraj, Journalist
48.Sr. Kochurani Abraham, Feminist Theologian, Kerala
49.Kulakanta Dandasena Majhi, JKS Iindia
50.Lancy D’Cunha, National President – All India Catholic Union
51.Lawrence F Vincent, Vice President (M) – Catholic Council of India
52.Ms. Loreign Ovung, Advocate
53.M. S. Stanislaus, Secretary General – Federation of Catholic Associations of Archdiocese of Delhi
54.Sr. Manju Kulapuram, FORUM National Secretary
55.Sr. Manish SCN, Social Animator & Activist, Delhi
56.Sr. Maria Palathingal, SCN
57.Marshal Pereira, AICU President – Madhya Pradesh
58.Dr. Michael Williams, President, United Christian Forum
59.Ms. Molly Sebastian, Women Activist
60.Fr. Monodeep Daniel, Dean, St Stephen’s College
61.Myron J Pereira, Campion Jesuit Residence, Mumbai
62.Ps. Nehemiah Christie, Head – ADF India Tamil Nadu Legal Aid Centre
63.Sr. Nirmala Mulackal SCN, Executive Director CBCI CARD
64.Sr. Nirmalini, AC, Educationist
65.Dr. Neeti Lal Bhai, Theologian & Human Rights Activist, Varanasi
66.O J Metei, Theologian / Social Activist
67.Norris Pritam, Board of Director-New Delhi YMCA & Journalist
68.Rev Dr. P B M Basaiawmoit, Retired Pastor
69.Fr. P Augustine SJ, Pastor & Spiritual Guide
70.P I Jose, Advocate
71.P. Joseph Packiaraj, President – AICU Tamil Nadu
72.Fr P R John, SJ, Principal, Vidyajyoti College of Theology, Delhi
73.Sr. (Dr.) Pauline Chakkalakal, dsp, Biblical Theologian & Coordinator of Interfaith Partnership
74.Pramod Singh, Advocate
75.Fr. Prashant Olekar, Educational Activist
76.Fr Raju Alex, Secretary – Catholic Council of India
77.Raphael D’Souza, AICU Maharashtra State President
78.Sr. Rita Puthenkalam, scn
79.Robin Ratnakar David, Advocate
80.Fr S. Emmanuel, AICUF National Adviser
81.Prof S V Antony, Educationist
82.Sr. Sabrina Edwards IBVM, Social Worker
83.Shibu Thomas, Minister of Jesus & Founder – Persecution Relief
84.Sr. Stella Kaiprampatt
85.Fr. Stan Fernandes, Educationist
86.Dr. Sunil Gokavi, Executive Director, Emmanuel Hospital Association
89.Fr. Sunny Jacob, SJ, Secretary, JEA, South Asia
90.Fr. (Dr.) Suresh Mathew, Chief Editor, Indian Currents
91.Fr. T K John, SJ, Theologian
92.Mrs. Tehmina Arora, Advocate
93.Fr. Tom Mangattuthazhe, Secretary, UCF of Karbi Anglong District, Assam
94.Dr. Varghese Manimala, Philosopher, Theologian, Teacher & Activist
95.Rev Vijayesh Lal, Secretary General, Evangelical Fellowship of India
96.Vijay Russel, President, New Delhi YMCA
97.Vinay Stephen, Dalit Leader, Delhi
98.Fr. Vincent, Church Personnel
99.Virginia Saldanha, Former Secretary, CBCI Women’s Commission & FABC Laity Commission
100. Walter Cyril Pinto, Business Development Associate, Udupi
101. Walter J Maben, Chairman, Karnataka Missions Network Mangaluru, Karnataka