“Be United against Fundamentalists,” Christian leaders urge

"We are first all Indians and then only Christians, Hindus, Sikhs and so on''
( [email protected] ) Nov 25, 2003 10:51 AM EST

Hyderabad, India., Nov. 25 - Church leaders, comprising Bishops, denominational heads, Fathers and pastors, today resolved to forge unity among all Christians to ensure their safety and protection of their rights.

Christians in huge numbers, and from all parts of the state, had congregated at the Nizam College ground here on the occasion of the `National Prayer and Solidarity Day' called by the Inter-Church Committee in the backdrop of recurrent persecution against churches and other religious places.

Decrying the ``atrocities'' unleashed by fundamentalist forces in the country, particularly in Andhra Pradesh, they held placards saying `Let us live and let live', `Let us live together', `Save Christians and unity and integrity of the country' and `Arrest the culprits and institute a high-level committee of inquiry'. They also prayed for unity and integrity of the country.

Groups belonging to different churches descended on the venue. Choirs sang a number of prayers before the meeting, while prayers and Bible readings were held intermittently for the well-being of the country. A two-minute silence was also observed to pay homage to late Reverend Alan de Lastin, the former archbishop of New Delhi; Reverend Father George Kughzikandam; Vijaya Kumar Ekka; and Reverend Ashish Prabhas.

Addressing the gathering, United Christian Forum on Human Rights (UCFHR) secretary John Dayal accused the NDA Government of bringing pressure through the National Minority Welfare Commission on Christian leaders to have a dialogue with the VHP and Bajrang Dal. He accused the latter of being responsible for the attacks and made it clear that Christians would go in for a dialogue only ``when violence against them is minimised''.

Dayal noted that since the killing of Graham Staines in Orissa, attacks on Christians are continuing unabated. The violence would come to an end only when political forces supporting the perpetrators are contained, he asserted.

Archbishop Marampudi Joji, Archdiocese of Hyderabad, said it was unfortunate that some anti-social groups were deliberately creating an atmosphere of hatred and hostility, levelling all kinds of false accusations against the minorities. This, he said, was not only a matter of concern to minorities but also to all citizens.``We want our diverse languages, cultures, ethnic backgrounds and religions to be accepted, respected and taken as a gift to the nation,'' the Archbishop said.

Dayal and Joji, besides other speakers, pointed out that ``we are first all Indians and then only Christians, Hindus, Sikhs and so on''.