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Break Your Silence: 101 Christian Intellectuals to the Church in India

 

 

NEW DELHI: A 101 Christian intellectuals from all walks of life have written an Open Letter to the silent—and as some would say—the rather timid leadership of the Church in India to come out in support of civil society in its struggle to “safeguard India’s cultural and religious plurality and diversity, and the republics Constitutional values of secularism, and socialism.”

The signatories include Jesuit theologians T K John and Francis Gonsalves, academicians Sr. Nirmalini, AC, Dr. Michael Williams, and St Stephen’s college dean Fr Monodeep Daniel, All India Catholic Union president Lancy D Cuna, EFI general secretary Rev Vijayesh Lal, New Delhi YMCA president Vijay Russel, Former Member of Delhi Minorities Commission AC Michael, activists Cedric Prakash, Ajay Kumar Singh, Dominic Emmanuel, Virginia Saldanha, lawyers Jenis Francis, Tehmina Arora, Pramod Singh, PI Jose, and journalists Suresh Mathew, Jacob Kani, KM Selvaraj, and John Dayal.

The Open Letter states “The number of violent acts against Christians alone during the last 3 years (2014-2016) are over 600, including an increasing trend at social boycott that impinges on the right to life, food and livelihood. This includes physical violence, stopping of worship in churches, attacks on churches, arrests of pastors and their companions, and rapes of Nuns. The National Crime Records Bureau documented 47,064 acts of violence against Dalits in 2014, up from 32,643 in 2010. The violence against Muslims is reaching an alarming peak. The hate spewed not just by non-state actors and political functionaries, but even by Members of Parliament and sometimes by ministers forms the backdrop of this violence, as it also smothers voices seeking justice.”

The Christian community, despite its laudable heritage of the prophetic tradition of defending justice, human rights and freedom, especially of the oppressed and the marginalized, has not come out openly in support of the truth and its upholders. Many had looked upon the Church and expected it to protest these infringements, whoever be the victim of the moment.

“The Church, guided by you, needs to act before it is too late. This is the lesson we learn from history. It is time to stand with the victims to be the voice of poor and marginalised; time to collaborate and partner with the civil society to spread the truth; and time to take bold initiatives and action to prevent further erosion of our humane and constitutional values,” the Open letter said.

The following is the text of the letter and the names, in alphabetical order, of the signatories:

“We, as Indian Christians, are concerned at the steady shift we see in our country from a pluralist, secular, democracy to a Hindu Rashtra. What used to be fringe, has now become mainstream. There is a systematic design to undermine the Constitution. Official machinery often seems working in tandem with the ‘vigilantes’. Street lynching, victims charged as accused, stage-managed trials; all on the basis of one’s religious and caste identities. Media seems mute, silent in self-censorship, coerced by the state, or leashed by its corporate ownership. Fake News is the final straw.

What is at stake? The country risks a hierarchical order and an ideology eroding, containing and overwhelming the liberty, equality and fraternity bequeathed us by the Freedom Struggle as an ‘idea of India’ for the modern age. A new coercive culture, steered mob-inspired killers, is destroying lives and families amongst us. Fear stalks the land.

The spontaneous multi-city #NotInMyName upsurge of public revulsion was the ordinary Indian’s cry against this hate and blood-letting.

The anger is as much over the killings as it is over our collective silence.

The government’s double talk is apparent. It is right in its solidarity with the global challenge to international terrorism, but has minimized and dismissed the terror wreaked on the weak and the marginalized by the violent nationalism of the mob. Victims have been Dalits, specially their youth and their women, Tribals and religious minorities.

The number of violent acts against Christians alone during the last 3 years (2014-2016) are over 600, including an increasing trend at social boycott that impinges on the right to life, food and livelihood. This includes physical violence, stopping of worship in churches, attacks on churches, arrests of pastors and their companions, and rapes of Nuns. The National Crime Records Bureau documented 47,064 acts of violence against Dalits in 2014, up from 32,643 in 2010. The violence against Muslims is reaching an alarming peak.

The hate spewed not just by non-state actors and political functionaries, but even by Members of Parliament and sometimes by ministers forms the backdrop of this violence, as it also smothers voices seeking justice.

Inevitably, and perhaps deliberately, these divisive and emotional issues divert attention from the repercussions of radical changes in financial laws and economic policies that adversely affect workers, farmers and the youth who suddenly find themselves rendered unemployed.

The political process taking shape today is against every fundamental humane and constitutional principle of Equality and Dignity of every Indian, and preserving Common Good.

Indeed, it is evil.

And inherently calls upon us as individuals, community and people of Faith, to raise our voice against it.

The Christian community, despite its laudable heritage of the prophetic tradition of defending justice, human rights and freedom, especially of the oppressed and the marginalized, has not come out openly in support of the truth and its upholders. Many had looked upon the Church and expected it to protest these infringements, whoever be the victim of the moment.

This demands serious reflection. As Christians, we are called to be the salt of the earth. Jesus gave the two greatest commandments… loving our Lord with all we have and loving our Neighbour. We have professed obedience to these commandments, but perhaps not as visibly as we should have.

Our children, our youth, ask us if we are showing true Christian love today to our neighbours, manifested in the victims of injustice, the marginalised Dalits and tribals, exploited farmers and unorganized labour? Or have we compromised Kingdom values, for short term gains. Have we become lukewarm; are we the men of cloth who walk by the bleeding man on the road to Jericho?

The Church, guided by you, needs to act before it is too late. This is the lesson we learn from history. It is time to stand with the victims to be the voice of poor and marginalised; time to collaborate and partner with the civil society to spread the truth; and time to take bold initiatives and action to prevent further erosion of our humane and constitutional values.

We humbly call upon you, all Christian leaders and Heads of Churches, to reflect and lead the community in the path of truth, love and justice.

We offer a few points for your consideration, as a Charter of our Duty to our fellow Citizens and our nation.

  • Based on the Biblical values of justice, right, freedom, dignity and the well-being of every human being, the Christian community should be part of every civil initiative for truth, reconciliation and peace.
  • Any erosion, dilution, infringement or violation of Constitutional rights to life and liberty must invite a response from the church as it does from the people. Speaking out is often the one response that is needed. Saying “Stop” to an act of injustice can often prevent tragedy.
  • Our educational institutions must assume their pristine role as crucibles for nation-building, as the Supreme Court has described them.
  • Our Theological institutions, Bible colleges, Formation Houses must in their pedagogy include familiarization with the rights and duties of citizens in international covenants and the Constitution of India to enhance knowledge and hone civic conscience.
  • In unison with members of all faiths, ideologies we should marshal India’s tremendous spiritual resources in consolidating peace, resolving conflicts infusing a sense of values in the body politic.

God bless our people
And God bless India
We are:

A C Michael, Former Member of Delhi Minorities Commission
A. Chinnappan, Secretary General – All India Catholic Union
Fr. Ajay Kumar Singh, Human Rights Activist
Fr. Alex Ekka, Educationist
Amrit Goldsmith, Human Rights Activist
Anthony Cruz, Social Activist
Anthony Dias, Scholar
Fr. Avinash Masih, Brotherhood Society
B. Balakrishnan, Advocate
Barnabas Nongbah, General Secretary, Catholic Association, Shillong
Benny Anthony Muttath, Catholic Trainer & Activist
Bertram Devadas, Associate General Secretary, New Delhi YMCA
Ms. Brinelle D’souza, Faculty Member, Tata Institute of Social Sciences
Fr. Cedric Prakash, SJ, Human Rights Activist
Mrs. Chinnamma Jacob, Women Activist
Mrs. Clara Fernandes, Assistant Secretary General of AICU
Dr. Daisy Panna, Vice President, Federation of Catholic Associations of Archdiocese of Delhi
Deepak Mukerji, Governing Board Member – St Stephen’s College
Fr. Denzil Fernandes, SJ, Executive Director, ISI, Lodi Road
Fr. Dominic Emmanuel, Activist & Author
Fr. Francis Gonsalves, Theologian & Journalist
Franklyn Ceaser Thomas, Advocate
Gary Andrady, Church Leader
Fr. (Dr.) George Plathottam sdb, Principal, Don Bosco College, Tura
Fr. George Peter, Spiritual Animator
Fr. George Valiyapadath, Capuchin Friar, Padre Pio Shrine, Wayanad
Ms. Hazel D’Lima, Social Worker
Captain Hunjan Singh Govindra, Air India
Rev Isaac Shaw, National Director/President, Delhi Bible Institute
Ivan Menezes
Fr. J Felix, Secretary, Inter-religious Commission, Archdiocese of Delhi
Fr. Jacob Kani, Journalist
Fr. Jacob Panjikaran SG
Fr. Jacob Peernikaparambil CMI, National Convener – Forum of Religious for Justice & Peace
Fr. Jai Kumar, Brotherhood Society
Jasmine Jose SD
Jenis Francis, Advocate & President, Federation of Catholic Associations of Archdiocese of Delhi
Fr. John Chathanatt, SJ, Sahayog
Dr. John Dayal, Human Right Activist & Journalist
Dr. Jolly Rimai, Church Leader
Jose Leon, President – Leo Burnett India
Joseph Bara, Social Scientist
Joseph Mattam, SJ
Fr. Joseph Xavier, SJ, Advocate & Human Rights Activist
Jugal Kishore Ranjit
Sr. Justine Gitanjali Senapati, csj, CAO – Congregations of St. Joseph UN NGO
K M Selvaraj, Journalist
Sr. Kochurani Abraham, Feminist Theologian, Kerala
Kulakanta Dandasena Majhi, JKS Iindia
Lancy D’Cunha, National President – All India Catholic Union
Lawrence F Vincent, Vice President (M) – Catholic Council of India
Ms. Loreign Ovung, Advocate
M. S. Stanislaus, Secretary General – Federation of Catholic Associations of Archdiocese of Delhi
Sr. Manju Kulapuram, FORUM National Secretary
Sr. Manish SCN, Social Animator & Activist, Delhi
Sr. Maria Palathingal, SCN
Marshal Pereira, AICU President – Madhya Pradesh
Dr. Michael Williams, President, United Christian Forum
Ms. Molly Sebastian, Women Activist
Fr. Monodeep Daniel, Dean, St Stephen’s College
Myron J Pereira, Campion Jesuit Residence, Mumbai
Ps. Nehemiah Christie, Head – ADF India Tamil Nadu Legal Aid Centre
Sr. Nirmala Mulackal SCN, Executive Director CBCI CARD
Sr. Nirmalini, AC, Educationist
Dr. Neeti Lal Bhai, Theologian & Human Rights Activist, Varanasi
O J Metei, Theologian / Social Activist
Norris Pritam, Board of Director-New Delhi YMCA & Journalist
Rev Dr. P B M Basaiawmoit, Retired Pastor
Fr. P Augustine SJ, Pastor & Spiritual Guide
P I Jose, Advocate
P. Joseph Packiaraj, President – AICU Tamil Nadu
Fr P R John, SJ, Principal, Vidyajyoti College of Theology, Delhi
Sr. (Dr.) Pauline Chakkalakal, dsp, Biblical Theologian & Coordinator of Interfaith Partnership
Pramod Singh, Advocate
Fr. Prashant Olekar, Educational Activist
Fr Raju Alex, Secretary – Catholic Council of India
Raphael D’Souza, AICU Maharashtra State President
Sr. Rita Puthenkalam, scn
Robin Ratnakar David, Advocate
Fr S. Emmanuel, AICUF National Adviser
Prof S V Antony, Educationist
Sr. Sabrina Edwards IBVM, Social Worker
Shibu Thomas, Minister of Jesus & Founder – Persecution Relief
Sr. Stella Kaiprampatt
Fr. Stan Fernandes, Educationist
Sunil Mallick
Sunil Nayak
Fr. Sunny Jacob, SJ, Secretary, JEA, South Asia
Fr. (Dr.) Suresh Mathew, Chief Editor, Indian Currents
Fr. T K John, SJ, Theologian
Mrs. Tehmina Arora, Advocate
Fr. Tom Mangattuthazhe, Secretary, UCF of Karbi Anglong District, Assam
Dr. Varghese Manimala, Philosopher, Theologian, Teacher & Activist
Rev Vijayesh Lal, Secretary General, Evangelical Fellowship of India
Vijay Russel, President, New Delhi YMCA
Vinay Stephen, Dalit Leader, Delhi
Fr. Vincent, Church Personnel
Virginia Saldanha, Former Secretary, CBCI Women’s Commission & FABC Laity Commission
Walter Cyril Pinto, Business Development Associate, Udupi
Walter J Maben, Chairman, Karnataka Missions Network Mangaluru, Karnataka

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Comment (1)

  1. K SHESHU BABU

    The christian community coming forward in solidarity with the civil oppression and repression of the government is a positive step.

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