- Bishop seeks President Kovind’s urgent intervention
By Abdul Bari Masoud
New Delhi: In the wake of the Hindutva outfit Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s (VHP) threats to demolish Churches in Madhya Pradesh on September 26, the Christian minority community on Saturday sought President of India, Ram Nath Kovind’s urgent intervention to ensure the safety and security of Christians and to stop the anti-Christian violence in the BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh. The community also appealed to the state’s governor and chief minister to intervene and diffuse the situation.
It is said, the VHP members, an affiliate of the RSS, the mentor of India’s ruling party, are preparing to demolish churches in the tribal-dominated Jhabua district on Sunday, and 26thSeptember. Jhabua is located in western Madhya Pradesh, bordering Baroda; this district had witnessed similar unrest when Azad Prem Singh, a local leader of VHP had demanded the closure of all churches in the area earlier this year.
Auxiliary Bishop Paul Muniya, of the Protestant Shalom Church in Jhabua, led a delegation to the District Collector and submitted a memorandum addressed to the President of India, seeking his urgent intervention to ensure the safety and security of Christians and to stop the anti-Christian violence. He said the onslaught on citizens of minority faith continues in Madhya Pradesh.
Although VHP members focused on Jhabua and surrounding tribal-dominated districts, the continued escalation of communal threats could have repercussions across the country, particularly in states like Madhya Pradesh which have enacted the anti-conversions laws. However, far from helping the cause of the minorities under threat, a District Revenue official has directed the Christian priests to present themselves before him and explain the nature of their religious activities and has even sought details of their appointment as priests, said Bishop Muniya.
The official letter also asked priests to certify if they themselves were converted through allurement or force while threatening to initiate legal proceedings against any illegal conversions, if detected.
While addressing the media, Bishop Muniya expressed his anguish and concern over what appears to be the local administrators siding with the perpetrators responsible for harassing Christians who number a mere four percent of the one million population of the district.
“If there is an illegal structure, let the administration take action. Why are private individuals and organizations issuing such threats?” the Bishop asked. He also sought to know if the same yardstick would be applied to other religious structures in the district and the state.
Father Maria Stephan, PRO of Bhopal Catholic Archdiocese feels both the revenue and police administration of the district are biased against Christians. “Christians are peace-loving citizens. We are seeking judicial remedies to ensure peace and harmony in our society. We have no objection to sharing any official details about our work and personnel to the government provided the intention is right.”
President of UCF, Dr. Michael Williams, while expressing concern and distress over the situation in Jhabua, has appealed to the Prime Minister and Home Minister to help put a stop to this targeted violence.
“The very fabric of our secular nation is being stretched by a few who do not respect the Constitution of India. Such people are the real anti – nationals and must be dealt with as strictly under law as possible. This intolerance has no room in our country”, he added.