The All India Christian Council held its North West India Chapter meeting in Amritsar on 15 and 16 October. The Council called upon Punjab Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal to ensure the safety and security of the Christian community in the state, from major urban churches to the smallest house churches and village worship places. The Council noted that the peaceful existence of Christians in Punjab has been disturbed in recent months by an increasing frequency of Sangh Parivar harassment, including assaults, particularly on House Churches and Pastors. Representatives of the Council and other State Christian leaders had recently met Mr Badal in this context.
Dr Dayal, who attended the recent meeting of the National Integration meeting in New Delhi, said Chief Minster Badal had in his address at the NIC had correctly cautioned the nation to focus on employment and development. Mr. Badal must take urgent steps for the economic development of the Christian community, which though small, was present in a sizable manner in districts such as Gurdaspur. The state government must take urgent steps to ensure adequate representation for educated Christian in the administrative and police apparatus of the State, especially in the gazetted ranks.
The Council is closely monitoring the situation in Orissa and Karnataka, Dr Dayal said. The situation in the two states is far from normal. In Orissa, the situation remains so critical that even the Central Reserve Police Force, meant to guard the Christians and ensure peace, had retreated in the face of Sangh aggression. Chief minister Naveen Pattnaik cannot get away with platitudes. National and international criticism seems to have bounced off the Teflon skin of the State administration though even the National Commission for Minorities has condemned the political failure in the state.
Mr Patnaik and the Union government cannot pass the buck to each other. Both must assume full responsibility in taking appropriate legal action against the Bajrang Dal. The people of India cannot be taken for a ride any longer.
The All India Christian Council takes this opportunity to clear its position on dialogue. The Council puts great faith in a constant dialogue of all right thinking citizens for peace in this great country, and co-existence within the norms of a republican democracy founded on pluralism. We welcome religious dialogue as much as collaboration with Civil Society institutions. But surely there cannot be a dialogue with criminals and those who have no faith in the Constitution of India, who do not abide with the rule of law, who openly espouse ideologies of hate that have been proscribed internationally since the defeat of Nazism and Fascism in the Second World War.
There is no place in a civilised country for such barbarians. It is for the state to act, enforce the law of the land, and gives them the punishment due to them for the murder of innocent people, the rape of women and the elimination of a people from their homeland.
The All India Christian Council also reaffirms its commitment to church unity, for which it has been working since its founding ten years ago. We denounce all efforts, by the Sangh Parivar and State governments, to divide Church groups by putting psychological and other pressures and the use of state machinery. This has been very evident in Karnataka.
Everyone who follows Christ is a Christian. Born to families two thousand years old or accepting the faith today, each Christian becomes heir to our common heritage and tradition in this great land. Denominations and definitions such as House Churches and basic Christian Communities enrich the rich diversity of our faith. Big or small, each is equally holy in the eyes of God, and must be so in the eyes of the Law. The Council calls upon all state governments to cease and desist from the harassment of house churches, and harassment of independent pastors.
In its call for church unity, the Council encourages everyone to respect India’s cultural traditions and its modern secular and inclusive urges. This must be so in our vocabulary and in our actions. Ample precautions also need to be taken, by Church and by the authorities, so that mischievous and criminal elements do not plant offensive literature in churches. We remain open to public scrutiny in all our actions, at all times.