By BosNewsLife News Center
NEW DELHI, INDIA (BosNewsLife) -- An advocacy group representing churches and mission organizations says Hindu militants backed by political parties and groups have carried out at least 500 attacks against mainly Christian missionaries in the past 23 months, and urged the central government to halt the violence.
The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) told BosNewsLife that the influential Hindu organizations Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, or â€˜National Volunteers' Organizationâ€™ (RSS) and the Bharatiya Janata Party or 'Indian People's Party' (BJP) have been promoting the attacks against Christian workers.
It released its findings ahead of the Human Rights Day (HRD), celebrated annually across the world Monday, December 10. "The Global Council wants the government to view these developments with due seriousness and take urgent remedial measures on the occasion of the HRD."
Besides attacks against missionaries, there have also been â€œrepeated attacks on churches, disruption of worship services and other forms of harassment indulged in by miscreants obsessed with religious hatred," GCIC added. "Books and literature have been seized and put to fire, prayer halls ransacked. These incidents have been happening in various parts of the country and the culprits invariably are religious fanatics."
Among the latest violence was an attack "on two groups of sisters and brothers belonging to the [Catholic] order of the Missionaries of Charity," GCIC noted, adding that Hindu militants protested against police attempts to arrest suspects. "There is no doubt that the pre-meditated attack was the result of a conspiracy and it is in the interest of the nation to expose the real culprits behind the heinous crime."
One of the injured nuns, it said, "rightly pointed out that the attack by the youths reflected on their upbringing: their intolerance and hatredâ€¦This does not augur well for the country's future."
The GCIC said it has urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to "invoke the constitutional provisionsâ€ and pressure the RSS, BJP and affiliates â€œto restrain cadre members from vitiating the atmosphere with what appears to be [their] communal agenda," adding that ministers of several states have refused to end the violence.
GCIC investigators say there were at least 300 cases of attacks against Christian missionaries in India, up from just over 200 last year. The victims include "innocent women, social workers, pastors and evangelists," the group said in its report obtained by BosNewsLife.
It criticized central and state governments for connecting the attacks to alleged forced conversions and poverty. Evangelical Christians have strongly denied they are forcing Hindus to change their religion, saying accepting Jesus Christ â€œas Lord and Saviorâ€ is a personal and free decision.
However, â€œWhile the missionaries are quite willing to pardon the evil doers, from the point of view of peace in society, such disruptive forces cannot be allowed to play free," GCIC said. "They have already done enough to sow seeds of discord in the name of religion and caste. This type of threat to internal freedom is worse than terrorist attacks."
The GCIC warned that, "Hate speeches and hate- filled Yatras that initially felled a 400-year old mosque had gone on too long bringing in its wake violent conflicts and disharmony: in society. "Unless the secular sections raise their voice against the vicious elements and the government acts decisively against those seeking to exploit majority sentiments for their narrow purposes, minorities are bound to feel insecure."
It said a sustained campaign against Christians, backed by several Hindu nationalist groups and parties, â€œhave resulted in society becoming far less tolerant and respectful to every form of Christian expression."
The GCIC claimed that, â€œToday's culture of intolerance and hate speeches by popular politicians do not augur well for social harmony and development. It will be a sad day for the nation if Nazi-type activists are allowed to thwart democratic freedom in our country." Christians comprise just over two percent of India's mainly Hindu population of over 1.1 billion people. (With BosNewsLife Research, Stefan J. Bos and reporting from India).
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