'The Christian minority in India is under serious threat'
"Especially under threat is the Christian minority because it is rejected by extremists as alien and because the Christian message is threat to the caste system."
By Reinhard Backes
NEW YORK—With the
election of Narendra Modi of the Hindu "Bharatiya Janata Party” (BJP) as
prime minister of India the country's secular constitution has come under
threat, charged an Indian Catholic priest.
Father Ajay Kumar Singh, a human rights activist in
Kandhamal District in the East Indian state of Odisha (formerly Orissa), warned
of the growing influence of radical Hindu forces on the Indian subcontinent. "Especially
under threat is the Christian minority because it is rejected by extremists as
alien and because the Christian message is threat to the caste system," the
priest said in an interview with international Catholic charity Aid to the
Church in Need.
According to Father Kumar Singh—who is associated with
the “Odisha Forum for Social Action"—the BJP aims to establish a state
religion which excludes the lower castes and all minorities. "They even
want to impose only one language, Sanskrit, even though hundreds of languages
are spoken in India," he continued, adding that the strength of party and
the movement it represents has become the strongest political force in India,
taking many observers, including Church leaders and their flock, by surprise.
"It is important for us to understand what is
happening. As a Church we must think way beyond the bounds of the individual
dioceses; we must act regionally and nationally in order to find responses to
this challenge,” the priest said.
“Otherwise Orissa 2008 will be repeated, even worse
than then because we learned no lessons from it,” the priest said, referring to
August 2008, when Hindu nationalists attacked villages of Christian dalits or “untouchables,” belonging to
the lowest caste in the Hindu social hierarchy. The violence left more than 100
dead, according to the "National People’s Tribunal” (NPT), an association
of human rights activists in Odisha.
According to the NPT, the attacks had been prepared
well in advance: more than 600 villages were looted, the organization has reported,
with 5,600 houses, 295 churches and 13 schools destroyed. More than 54,000
people were made homeless and of this number 30,000 have not been able to
return to their villages. Around 10,000 children were robbed of the possibility
to attend school because they were forced to flee and were displaced. Some 2,000
Christians were compelled to deny their faith. Numerous women were raped. Many
of the perpetrators of the violence—though they are known to authorities—have never
Father Kumar Singh is afraid history might repeat itself.
ACN photos: Father Kumar Singh; a burn victim in Kandhamal