Saturday, October 4, 2008

Violence Against Christians Spreads in India

ROMA, October 3, 2008 – In a little over a month, the victims of the wave of anti-Christian violence that began on August 24 in India have risen to 60. To these must be added more than 18,000 wounded, 178 churches destroyed, more than 4600 homes burned, and 13 schools and social centers devastated. At least 50,000 Christians have fled from their villages seeking shelter in refugee camps and in the forests.

This alarming tally was furnished two days ago by the All India Christian Council. Instead of diminishing, these sporadic attacks have become systematic, almost daily, and have extended into various states, beyond Orissa and into Kerala, Karnataka, Andra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, and Tamil Nadu.

Hindu fanatics are above all taking aim at the rural villages, accusing the Christians carrying out forced conversions among the poor, the tribals, and the outcastes. But the fact that this accusation is a pretext is demonstrated by the official numbers, which show that Christianity is not increasing, but is decreasing. In India, Christians were 2.6% of the population in 1971, 2.44% in 1981, 2.32% in 1991, and 2.3% in 2001, and there have been signs of further decreases in the following years.

Rather than conversions, what has unleashed the violence is the activity of Christians on behalf of the poor classes that constitute the servile base of the pyramidal system upon which Hindu society has traditionally been organized. The real "offense" of the Christians is that of preaching and practicing the equal dignity of all, in contrast with the caste system.

In repeated appeals, the Catholic bishops of India have denounced "the apathy and indifference of the government, at the central level and in the individual states," in regard to stopping the aggression against Christians. Security measures have consistently come late and sporadically. The same kind of apathy can be attributed to foreign governments, which are widely uninterested in what is happening to the Christians in India.

But the silence and inaction of Hindu religious leaders and intellectuals are no less serious. It is rare for voices to be raised in defense of Christians, and of peace among religions.

One of these statements follows here, published on September 28, 2007, in the English-language newspaper "The Times of India."

The author, Shashi Tharoor, is a Hindu. An established essayist and writer, he was a candidate in 2006 to be secretary general of the United Nations, after being undersecretary at the UN. He studied in Christian schools, and graduated in law and diplomacy from the Fletcher School of Tufts University, in the United States. He writes for important publications, like the "New York Times" and "Newsweek." He is an editorialist for the "Times of India."

Read it all here.

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