During a recent conference discussing interreligious violence Cardinal George Alencherry of India explained that although motivations driving violent acts are diverse, they are always rooted in evil.
“Violence is really coming from an evil inspiration, and this evil inspiration can come from any kind of phenomenon that happens in society,” the cardinal explained to CNA June 17.
Cardinal Alencherry is the Major Archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamali for the Syro-Malaber Church in Kerala, India and was present for an Oasis conference in Sarajevo, Bosnia discussing the temptation toward violence among religions.
Observing how “India is a country that believes in non-violence,” the cardinal described how it was through non-violent means that Mahatma Gandhi led India to independence from the British.
However, “there are many people who use religion as a means to create violence,” while “there are others who take their political ambitions to create violence,” he noted.
“So we cannot simply define that violence is due to this reason or to that, there are many reasons.”
Going on, he explained how violence originally began in the country with its partition into India and Pakistan in order to create a country for the Muslims, stating that this “was not the wish of the majority of the other Indians.”
Conflict continued with the annexation of Kashmir to India in 1947, which generated the “ill will” that led to “wars one after the other” Cardinal Alencherry explained, stating that on the other side there has been “another feeling of equilibrium” among the Indians that they wish to maintain.
This is because “we are a country of Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, all religions” the cardinal noted, observing that some extremist groups disrupt this balance because they believe that “if the number of one religion increases, it is a threat to the other.”
“And there are so many extremist groups who think like that and fight against the other religions” he said, stating that at present the situation in India is comparatively more peaceful than in its past.
“Now there is no tension because people think that in the future some tensions may come, because minorities might not be respected by the majority community” the cardinal observed, expressing his opinion that these fears are “not very well based.”
“India is a democratic country, we have a very good constitution that respects all religions and all minority communities, and we can defend the rights by appealing to the courts and so on, so if that system is there nobody can do whatever they like.”
However, he cautioned that despite the government’s efforts to curb instances of interreligious conflict, “troubles can be created, violence can be brought,” and voiced his hope that “the governments and the people at large will be vigilant against this kind of violence.”
“But if there are people who instigate” sentiments of fear and religious dominance “among the people, violence can come again.”
Referring to the results of the country’s five week long general election process in May, Cardinal Alencherry voiced his hope that the new government in India will maintain this sense of interreligious peace.
Led by its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, India’s Bharatiya Janata Party won the 2014 general elections with a majority vote, making them the first non-Congress party and non-coalition government in Indian history.
They have “professed in all their speeches and taking of oaths that all the communities will be respected, all the rights will be preserved and that we will have the total development of the nation as a whole, not simple compartmentalizing the society,” the cardinal observed.
“The prime minister has said that he will have a vision of the whole country and that projects of development will be applicable to everybody. So we are hoping for the better.”