Concern over increased targeting of Christian community
Two leading Church-associated organisations in Meghalaya have expressed concern over the increased targeting of the Christian community in the country.
The Shillong-based Khasi Jaintia Christian Leaders Forum (KJCLF) on Tuesday evening flagged Monday’s vandalisation of a church in Chhattisgarh, which left many injured, including the superintendent of police of Narayanpur district. PTI reported on Tuesday night that a local BJP leader had been arrested. The Congress is in power in Chhattisgarh.
The Forum said in a statement: “The deafening silence of the Prime Minister on atrocities against Christians over a long period of time in different parts of the country is significantly notable.”
Around the same time on Tuesday evening, the Catholic Association of Shillong flagged, also through a media release, the December 16 letter issued by the Assam police’s special branch to all districts seeking information on the number of churches and religious conversion, among others, in the neighbouring state.
The Association found the letter “very alarming in nature, particularly towards Christian minorities in the state (Assam)”.
Poll-bound Meghalaya is a Christian-majority state, and the developments have caused unease in the state, which has a National People’s Party-led coalition government in which the BJP is a constituent.
The Catholics are the leading denominations in Meghalaya, followed by the Baptists and Presbyterians, among others, a church leader said.
Monday’s incident was the latest in a series of attacks on the Christian community over alleged conversion in Chhattisgarh, a church representative said.
KJCLF secretary Rev. Dr Edwin H. Kharkongor said the Forum had hoped that those in the seat of authority would have “strongly disapproved” the adverse actions perpetrated by certain organisations against Christians and people who exercise their individual choice of faith and religion.
Standing in solidarity with Christians and others in the country who “continue to experience aggression and injustice”, the KJCLF called upon the authorities in both the states and the Centre to “protect the lives and properties of Christians and other minority groups” all over the country, and to rein in the perpetrators of violence and hatred.
The Catholic Association of Shillong has sought the intervention of the central government through the Union home ministry to ensure exercises “targeting” Christian minorities are stopped once and for all. It sought “steps to enhance the space of communal harmony”.
Expressing “its protest and anxiety” with “deep concern” over the issuance of the Assam police special branch letter, the Association said: “The details sought with regard to community, area and pattern of conversation surely befit the term prejudice towards some particular communities, regions and cultural receptivity of such community.”
The Association pointed out that “the seven particulars sought by the department specifically targeting Christians in the state... are nothing short of attempts to intimidate and threaten the community at large”.
“Further, we appeal upon the Government of Assam, particularly the chief minister of Assam, Shri. Himanta Biswa Sarma, to kindly reverse such an order with immediate effect and ensure that Christians in the state are shown the leaf of hope and confidence...,” the Association said.
Sarma had distanced himself from the letter. “I would like to clarify the position of the government of Assam: we don’t want to have any survey on any church or, for that matter, on any other religious institution.... In short, I completely dissociate myself from the letter. It was never discussed at any government forum,” Sarma had said last month.
The Catholic Association of Shillong statement was signed by B. Nongbah, general secretary, the Catholic Association of Shillong; B. Shylla, state president, the All India Catholic Union; C. Kharkongar, president, Synjuk ki Seng Rangbah; R. Kahit, vice-president, Synjuk ki Seng Rangbah; and A. Savio Kharkong or of the Shillong Archdiocese Catholic Youth Movement.