BANGALORE, India – Hundreds took part in a peaceful yet powerful Christian rally Saturday in India’s third most populous city to protest against the escalating attacks against members of their community and to call for peaceful coexistence.
The event, organized by members of the Karnataka Chraista Sangh (Christian Association of India’s Karnataka state) and led by Member of Parliament Dr. H.T. Sangliana, commenced in Bangalore, India, with the unfurling of India’s national flag followed by the release of pigeons to symbolize freedom. Church leaders, pastors, evangelists and local community members in Karnataka state’s capital city were actively engaged in the rally, carrying flags and banners quoting various inspirational and encouraging Bible verses.
"Today's peaceful gathering focuses on need to practice religion,” Sangliana said during the rally. “Like Hindus want to worship God in their homes and temples, even Christians have freedom to worship. However, from past few months, we are witnessing persecution from radical elements who are working against Christians.”
Recently, extremists in Karnataka have been increasingly targeting Christian leaders and churches in the southern Indian state, accusing them of forceful conversion activities.
“If any media or report is put forth for Christian meetings to be conducted, these extremists with wrong motives wend to destroy them," Sangliana noted.
But the Christian MP and former police commissioner said accusations against Christians in India were mostly unfounded, especially when looking at their “helping and loving nature.”
“Moreover, we care and work for the development of our country in many different forms. Be it education, social services, [or] charity, we are doing the most as a community. We have never disrupted others," he added.
"As Christians who believe and practice non-violence in this country, we for centuries have been living in peace and mutual understanding," Sangliana continued.
The parliamentarian questioned why Christians with such positive and innocent nature are being targeted by extremists for no justifiable reason.
"We have no slogans against any political parties. We only want law to be enforced and the people who are persecuting be punished," he said.
Pastor Johnson, who heads the Indian Presbyterian Mission and the St. Thomas Academic Trust, told the New Delhi-based Christian Today India newspaper that Christians are “a peace loving people and want to have peace with everyone – let it be a Hindu, Muslim or a Christian."
While forceful conversion has been one of the foremost reasons why Christians are persecuted, the minister affirmed that the Church stands against such types of conversion.
"If we find anyone forcing conversion, we will willingly disregard the person from the Church,” he said. “But what people fail to realize is that no one can ‘convert’ and it is God who changes people, bringing them to salvation."
After the conclusion of Saturday’s rally, Christian representatives supported by the Global Council of Indian Christians submitted a memorandum to the governor of Karnataka, seeking justice.