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The bishops of India pray at the closing of conference on February 7 (CNA/Anto Akkara)

The Church in India has called for observing March 22 as a “day of prayer and fasting for peace and harmony in the country” amid growing religious tensions. Source: CNA.

“There is an unprecedented religious polarisation which is harming the cherished social harmony in our country and endangering democracy itself,” said a statement released at the conclusion of the 36th biennial assembly of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) in Bangalore.

“There is an apprehension that divisive attitudes, hate speeches, and fundamentalist movements are eroding the pluralistic ethos which has always characterised our country and its constitution. The fundamental rights and minority rights guaranteed by the constitution should never be undermined,” the statement read.

The unusually critical statement from the Church was seen as a criticism of the federal government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, leader of the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party), who observers say has promoted a Hindu nationalist agenda since he assumed office in 2014.

Millions among India’s more than 1 billion Hindus were glued to the live telecast of the consecration of a grand temple dedicated to Lord Ram – a prominent Hindu deity of northern India – in Ayodhya in northern Uttar Pradesh on January 22.

Mr Modi took part in the ceremony, calling it a “historic day”. He encouraged people to celebrate the opening of the temple by decorating their houses and lighting oil lamps, UCA News reported.

Christians and Muslims raised the alarm when Hindu fundamentalists took to the streets and hoisted Hindu saffron flags atop churches and mosques.

However, local authorities in BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh failed to take action against what was seen by many as an anti-Christian and anti-Muslim act.

India’s population is 79.8 per cent Hindu, 14.2 per cent Muslim, and 2.3 per cent Christian. In Uttar Pradesh state — India’s most populous state with 230 million inhabitants — only 0.18 per cent are Christian.


Indian Church to observe ‘day of prayer and fasting’ amid growing religious polarisation (By Anto Akkara, CNA)