Breaking his silence on the recent attacks against the Christian institutions in and around Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that India cannot accept violence against any religion on any pretext and that he strongly condemn such violence.
Prime Minister was attending the National Celebration of the elevation to sainthood of Fr. Kuriakose Elias Chavara and Mother Euphrasia organised by Syro-Malabar Church in association with Archdiocese of Faridabad and the congregations of CMC and CMI in New Delhi. The seminar had double significance as Christians in India was facing religious insecurity as well as the Global Church is celebrating the Year for Consecrated Life.
Giving a strong assurance to the anxious Christian community, he said that his government will not allow any religious group belonging to the majority or minority to incite hatred against others, overtly or covertly. Trying to quell the fears, he further stated that his government will act strongly in this regard.
He said that his government will ensure that there is complete freedom of faith and that everyone has the undeniable right to retain or adopt the religion of his or her choice without coercion and undue influence. Mr. Modi was addressing the Christian community for the first time in the wake of the recent attacks against churches and the poll debacle of his party in Delhi and he grabbed the opportunity to send out a strong message. He also acknowledged the social reformation done by St. Kuriakose Elias Chavara and St. Euphrasia in Kerala.
Major Archbishop Mar George Allencherry, Archbishop Mar Kuriakose Bharanikulangara, Archbishop Mar Anil Couto, Archbishop Mar Andrews Thazhath, Bishop Joseph Mar Barnabas(?), Bishop Mar. John Vadakkel, Bishop Emeritus Mar Gracian Mundadan, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Union Minister of Minority Affairs, Najma Heptulla, Justice Cyriac Joseph and PJ Kurien also attended the function. Earlier, In his welcome speech, Mar Kuriakose Bharanikulangara said that Mr. Modi’s participation in the celebration is a gesture of his acknowledgement of the presence of the Christian community in India and his care for the minorities. Mar Andrews Thazhath requested the government to take measures to protect the Christians, who are living in a fear after the recent attacks in Delhi. Citing examples of LK Advani and Smriti Irani, he reminded that many leaders of BJP are the alumni of Christian schools and colleges. Mar Thazhath said that the Christians are serving the nation well especially the poor in rural areas.
PJ Kurien in his address said that it was an honour to see the tricolor flying high in Vatican and thanked Mr. Modi for sending him as the leader of the delegation to attend the Canonization of Fr. Kuriakose Elias Chavara and Mother Euphrasia. While referring to the current situation in the country, he reminded that when there was no constitution or laws to protect the minorities, the Hindu Rajahs of Kerala protected and allowed the practice of faith of the early Christians which helped the community immensely. He said that we all are children of Mother India and there is no place for violence against each other.
Archbishop Anil Couto reminded the importance of celebrating the life of Fr. Chavara and Mother Euphrasia in the Year of Consecrated Life 2015. Referring to the recent attacks against the churches he said the fundamental rights should never be tampered with. He also appealed to the government to revisit the reservation policy in which the Dalit Christians are denied the benefits.
Ms. Najma Heptulla acknowledged the fact that Prime Minister’s agenda of Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas can only be a success when all sections of the society is taken care of.
Mr. Jaitley in his speech said that there is an ample space for every religion to prosper, propagate and grow in the country. Referring to a remark made by PJ Kurien in his speech, he said the recent incidents are not just an aberration, but unacceptable aberration and he hoped the guilty will be brought to the book.
Mar Allencherry thanked Mr. Modi for his gesture on behalf of the Syro-Malabar Church. He expressed concern about the fact that the previous census’ which showed a reduction in numbers of Christians in the country. He said that conversion is a personal decision and should not be used by force and anyone doing that is trying to disrupt the unity of the country. Later, speaking in Hindi, he expressed the concern of the community to the Prime Minister. Mar Alencherry praised the selfless service done by St. Chavara and St. Euphrasia for the people.
Report: Siby Augustine
Photo: Prime Minister Narendra Modi lights a lamp during a function in New Delhi on Tuesday to celebrate the elevation of Kuriakose Elias Chavara and Mother Euphrasia to sainthood, by R. V. Moorthy of The Hindu.