Church in India Upbeat Despite Attacks by Fundamentalists

Cardinal Toppo Optimistic About Country’s New Leadership

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NEW DELHI, India, NOV. 2, 2004 ( The Church in India keeps on bearing witness to Christ, even as Hindu attacks on Christians continue, says Cardinal Telesphore Toppo.

«Hindu extremist movements will always be a problem,» the archbishop of Ranchi and president of the Indian bishops’ conference of India, told Fides when he visited the Vatican missionary agency recently.

«Episodes of Hindu fundamentalist violence in unusual areas such as Kerala prove that there exist forces contrary to Christianity. But we are not afraid,» Cardinal Toppo said. «These episodes make us more careful and prudent but they also strengthen our faith and our witness of life. They are a sign that the Catholic community is alive and active and that our presence and witness are visible.»

Commenting on India’s social and religious situation, a few months after the installation of the new central government led by Congress Party, the cardinal added: «Governments bring change, and this is democracy. But changes do not happen overnight; they take time.»

«The Hindu nationalist party, Baratiya Janata Party, in power for six years, took control of state bureaucracy,» he continued. «The heritage of the old government will linger but with the Congress Party leading the country we hope for a change in mentality. The last elections were a success for democracy and tolerance and we are sure the new government will work to eliminate the major problems afflicting India: poverty, illiteracy and a precarious health care situation.

«However we must remember that India is a vast country and it is the largest democracy in the world. Democracy works. This is comforting and we look to the future with optimism and as Christians of India we are ready to make our contribution for the good of the country.»

The «Church in India is often regarded with prejudice, suspicion, and its social service and charity works are regarded as proselytism,» the cardinal continued.

To overcome this mistaken opinion, «the local Church must show her authentic face to the public,» he said. «This is why Church commitment in the field of the media is most important. God is the first communicator. He communicated with humanity sending his Son Jesus Christ. Today the Church is called to continue the Lord’s mission of communicating the Good News.

«In this sector we must improve, we must be more present in the states of India in order to make truth prevail and to make known all that the Church does in the field of education, health care and development.»

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