MUMBAI, India – A group of religious sisters and brothers in India is calling on the country’s Catholic bishops to make their voices heard as Christians and other religious minorities are attacked in India.

In a letter to Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), the Forum of Religious for Justice and Peace noted individuals and civil society groups have register their protest against “the gross violation of our rights” by signing petitions, but added that “what is missing is the voice of the official church, the CBCI.”

“During the two days, December 24-25, the media reported 7 well-planned attacks on Christian Institutions across the country. In fact, in the year 2021, there were 486 incidents of violence against the Christian community in India, according to the United Christian Front. What shocks us is the complete silence on the part of the official Church, the CBCI,” the letter says.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has ruled India since 2014. The BJP is linked with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a Hindu nationalist group.

Hindu nationalists often accuse Christians of using force and surreptitious tactics in pursuing conversions, often storming into villages and leading “reconversion” ceremonies in which Christians are compelled to perform Hindu rituals.

These pressures on Christians, which also affect Muslims and other religious minorities, are part of what observers describe as a broad program for the “saffronization” of India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, meaning an attempt to impose Hindu values and identity while squeezing out rival faiths.

“The violent acts against the Christian community and Muslim community or any other minority group are in complete violation of the law of the land and the Indian Constitution.  If we do not respond to such acts, the secular fabric of India will be lost causing irreparable damage to the people of India, and an inclusive, democratic and pluralistic India as envisioned in the preamble of the Indian Constitution could be lost forever,” said the letter from the Forum of Religious for Justice and Peace.

In the missive, the religious request that Gracias “guide the Catholic Community of India to respond to the increasing hate speech and violence against Muslims and Christians.”

“We are of the view that we Catholics cannot remain silent spectators when the drama of violent attacks against the minorities is unfolding before us. We need to act and fulfill our prophetic role before it is too late,” the document continues.

In the letter, the forum makes several requests of the cardinal:

  1. Sending a letter to the Indian Prime Minister and the Union Home Minister [who is in charge of law enforcement] asking them to give strict orders to the chief ministers of the states where atrocities against Christians are taking place, to prevent such atrocities in future and to bring to book the culprits who are involved in these crimes;
  2. Have prominent Christian leaders under the leadership of the Chairman of the Regional Bishops Conference submit a memorandum to the chief ministers of states where violent incidents against Christian community are taking place asking them to take strict measures to prevent such incidents and file cases against those are involved in inciting violence against Christians;
  3. Have the CBCI respond immediately after any harassment or attacks on Christian institutions and Church personnel by the agencies of the state or by the right-wing groups take place;
  4. Create a legal advisory committee under the CBCI to provide legal guidance and support to the victims of violence or harassment to approach the competent courts;
  5. Organize a day of fasting at the Indian state capitals under the leadership of all the bishops of the region to protest against the increasing violence against minorities;
  6. Plan strategies to prevent as well as manage crises at the diocesan level, regional level and the national level;
  7. Organize united action against the attacks through protests, closure of the Christian educational institutes, common prayers, and other such initiatives.

Presentation Sister Dorothy Fernandes said the letter was sent to Gracias because “the sporadic and well-planned actions” taking place around the Christmas holiday made the Forum of Religious for Justice and Peace feel the need to call on “the leadership of our Church to wake up.”

“People of different walks are asking us why we are silent?” Fernandes told Crux.

“We have also suggested a number of doable actions which is inclusive and will sustain the secular fabric of our beautiful nation. We would believe that our inclusiveness will reach out to the Muslims, Sikhs, Dalits, Tribals, women and children. This is our prophetic calling, and we can no longer afford to sit on the fence and wait till they come for us,” she said.

“We shall not remain silent but will pursue the matter till we move the hierarchical Church to become action oriented,” Fernandes added.