Good Friday march in Mumbai to oppose anti-Christian violence

.- More than 20,000 Indian Christians will take part in a Good Friday silent march in Mumbai to remember the victims of increasing anti-Christian attacks.

The Good Friday pilgrimage, which will take place on a day of prayer and fasting, will begin at Mumbai’s Sacred Heart Church and end at the Convent of St. Charles, six miles away. Christians of all denominations will participate.

“The community of believers has recognized the need to dedicate Good Friday, the day in which we reflect and pray about Christ's crucifixion, to all the 'crucified' faithful today in India and around the world,” said Joseph Dias, a Catholic layman who directs the Catholic Secular Forum, which is sponsoring the event.

Attacks by Hindu extremist groups are on the rise, Dias told Fides news agency.

“(I)n 2011 there is one attack a day on average. Sometimes the attacks are concentrated in some areas, such as Orissa or Karnataka, but we can't say that any state in India is immune,” he said.

Dias denounced what he called “the criminal alliance between army chiefs and Hindu extremist leaders” responsible for the anti-Christian violence in several Indian states.

In the state of Karnataka, extremist groups have led attacks on churches, schools and the homes of Christians. They have physically beaten hundreds of people.

In February an independent report on anti-Christian violence in Karnataka charged that the violence was covered up by the state government and was backed by the state’s chief minister and home minister. The police, the state administration and the lower judiciary were also allegedly used against Christians and community institutions.

“Christians are easy victims because they do not respond with violence, nor with revenge, but through prayer and forgiveness,” Dias continued. Often false accusations of proselytism and forced conversions trigger the attacks. He said the real issue is Hindu extremists’ intolerance for the social commitment of Christians in schools and hospitals.

He praised Christians’ “valuable work” in promoting the economic and social situation of Dalits and tribals. Dias said these groups are “downtrodden and discriminated against in society on the basis of caste, and as a result they often ask to embrace the Christian faith.”

On Feb. 21, tens of thousands of Christians rallied in Mangalore against a government report on violence. They called the report “distorted” and “anti-Christian.” A Feb. 18 silent fast at St. Mark University of Bangalore involved 18 Catholic bishops.

In 2008, violence against Christians affected 13 districts in Orissa state and caused over 100 deaths. In Kandhamal district alone, 6,600 houses were destroyed and 56,000 people became internally displaced, according to news reports.

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