Following yet another series of attacks on Christian places of worship by suspected Hindu militants, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) has warned that the anti-Christian violence in Orissa state could spread to other parts of India.
The bishops firmly condemned the Sunday attacks, recommitting themselves to serving all Indians while also saying that India’s persecuted Christians have “exercised restraint under extreme provocation.”
CBCI president Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil decried the attacks, which were allegedly committed by the group named Bajrang Dal and other extremist groups in various parts of Karnataka.
In a statement issued on September 15, Cardinal Vithayathil said:
“The heightened attacks on Christians, their dwellings and places of worship in different parts of the country are the manifestation of the growing intolerance of certain sections of society that blatantly defy the constitutional rights of the citizens of this country. We ask them to desist from such provocation of religious minorities in India and follow a path of dialogue and dignified approach to sorting out any social, religious and political issues.”
The CBCI statement as a whole also rejected the violence, saying:
“We, as a nation, cannot allow ourselves to be drawn into the vortex of primitive instincts of conflict and destruction. The Christian community in India has been conducting itself in a peaceful manner all this while, and even under extreme provocation it has exercised restraint. However, it is not to be construed as weakness, but a preferred option based on sound principles of civilized living.”
The bishops said that the Christian community continues to serve “sections of Indian society without any discrimination.” Attacking “baseless allegations of fraudulent conversion,” they charged “certain vested interests” with encouraging social polarization along religious lines.
“We, as responsible citizens of India, will not succumb to their divisive tactics, but continue to work, in the spirit of Christ our Master, for the unity, integrity and progress of the nation,” the bishops’ statement said.
The statement also condemned Saturday evening’s bomb attacks in New Delhi, which injured dozens and killed 22 innocents. The militant group “Indian Mujaheddin” has claimed responsibility for the attacks.
“As a civilized society, we must endeavor to defeat such nefarious designs of the misguided elements of society,” the statement said, with the bishops adding that they will pray for the attacks’ victims and their families.