BOMBAY, India, FEB. 18, 2005 (Zenit.org).- The recent wave of violence against Christians in India is part “of a plan led by fundamentalist groups,” says the secretary-general of the bishops’ conference.
“Practically all of these incidents of violence against Christians are masterminded by fundamentalist groups,” AsiaNews quoted Bishop Percival Fernandez, auxiliary of Bombay, as saying.
Conscious that Christianity has been persecuted in the past, the bishop added: “We should not think that this is unique in our country alone, sad though it is.”
As to whether the protection of Christian minorities has improved after the defeat of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) last May, Bishop Fernandez said: “I feel that the central government that we have elected has the responsibility to help people live as brothers and sisters in this beautiful land of ours.”
He invited Christians to “respect others and live in love and harmony. The more we reflect Christ’s message of love and peace so well spelt out in the Gospels, the less will these incidents occur.”
The recent wave of violence began Jan. 30 when followers of Bajarang Dal, one of the most violent Hindu fundamentalist groups, disrupted a Christian prayer meeting in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh.
Then Feb. 3, in the Diocese of Amravati, one of the six divisions of Maharashtra, a Hindu holy man threatened to forcibly reconvert the tribal Adivasi of Rajura who had converted to Catholicism.
In mid-February, other incidents were reported in Karnakata and Kerala. An evangelical pastor was found dead Feb. 11, killed in cold blood in the state of Karnakata, where he had worked for 25 years.
Six evangelical theology students were beaten up Feb. 13 in Kerala by activists of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the armed wing of the BJP, a Hindu nationalist party hostile to religious minorities.
In the state of Krishnagar, police arrested Salesian Father Luciano Colussi, 81, vicar general of the diocese, without explanation Feb. 12. He was released later the same day.
A local Catholic leader expressed to AsiaNews that following Father Colussi’s arrest, Catholics “feel very vulnerable. Who knows who will be targeted next.”