An Open Letter to the Heads of All Churches and Other Christian Leaders

Pastor John Muller and his pregnant wife lost their home and church building to arson in Tamil Nadu state. (Morning Star News)
Pastor John Muller and his pregnant wife lost their home and church building to arson in Tamil Nadu state. (Morning Star News)

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Our educational institutions must assume their pristine role as crucibles for nation-building, as the Supreme Court has described them.
  4. 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.
  5. 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:

1. A C Michael, Former Member of Delhi Minorities Commission

2.A. Chinnappan, Secretary General – All India Catholic Union

3.Fr. Ajay Kumar Singh, Human Rights Activist

4.Fr. Alex Ekka, Educationist

5.Amrit Goldsmith, Human Rights Activist

6.Anthony Cruz, Social Activist

7.Anthony Dias, Scholar

8.Fr. Avinash Masih, Brotherhood Society

9.B. Balakrishnan, Advocate

10.Barnabas Nongbah, General Secretary, Catholic Association, Shillong

11.Benny Anthony Muttath, Catholic Trainer & Activist

12.Bertram Devadas, Associate General Secretary, New Delhi YMCA

13.Ms. Brinelle D’souza, Faculty Member, Tata Institute of Social Sciences

14.Fr. Cedric Prakash, SJ, Human Rights Activist

15.Mrs. Chinnamma Jacob, Women Activist

16.Mrs. Clara Fernandes, Assistant Secretary General of AICU

17.Dr. Daisy Panna, Vice President, Federation of Catholic Associations of Archdiocese of Delhi

18.Deepak Mukerji, Governing Board Member - St Stephen’s College

19.Fr. Denzil Fernandes, SJ, Executive Director, ISI, Lodi Road

20.Fr. Dominic Emmanuel, Activist & Author

21.Fr. Francis Gonsalves, Theologian & Journalist

22.Franklyn Ceaser Thomas, Advocate

23.Gary Andrady, Church Leader

24.Fr. (Dr.) George Plathottam sdb, Principal, Don Bosco College, Tura

25.Fr. George Peter, Spiritual Animator

26.Fr. George Valiyapadath, Capuchin Friar, Padre Pio Shrine, Wayanad

27.Ms. Hazel D’Lima, Social Worker

28.Captain Hunjan Singh Govindra, Air India

29.Rev Isaac Shaw, National Director/President, Delhi Bible Institute

30.Ivan Menezes

31.Fr. J Felix, Secretary, Inter-religious Commission, Archdiocese of Delhi

32.Fr. Jacob Kani, Journalist

33.Fr. Jacob Panjikaran SG

34.Fr. Jacob Peernikaparambil CMI, National Convener – Forum of Religious for Justice & Peace

35.Fr. Jai Kumar, Brotherhood Society

36.Jasmine Jose SD

37.Jenis Francis, Advocate & President, Federation of Catholic Associations of Archdiocese of Delhi

38.Fr. John Chathanatt, SJ, Sahayog

39.Dr. John Dayal, Human Right Activist & Journalist

40.Dr. Jolly Rimai, Church Leader

41.Jose Leon, President – Leo Burnett India

42.Joseph Bara, Social Scientist

43.Joseph Mattam, SJ

44.Fr. Joseph Xavier, SJ, Advocate & Human Rights Activist

45.Jugal Kishore Ranjit

46.Sr. Justine Gitanjali Senapati, csj, CAO – Congregations of St. Joseph UN NGO

47.K M Selvaraj, Journalist

48.Sr. Kochurani Abraham, Feminist Theologian, Kerala

49.Kulakanta Dandasena Majhi, JKS Iindia

50.Lancy D’Cunha, National President – All India Catholic Union

51.Lawrence F Vincent, Vice President (M) – Catholic Council of India

52.Ms. Loreign Ovung, Advocate

53.M. S. Stanislaus, Secretary General – Federation of Catholic Associations of Archdiocese of Delhi

54.Sr. Manju Kulapuram, FORUM National Secretary

55.Sr. Manish SCN, Social Animator & Activist, Delhi

56.Sr. Maria Palathingal, SCN

57.Marshal Pereira, AICU President – Madhya Pradesh

58.Dr. Michael Williams, President, United Christian Forum

59.Ms. Molly Sebastian, Women Activist

60.Fr. Monodeep Daniel, Dean, St Stephen’s College

61.Myron J Pereira, Campion Jesuit Residence, Mumbai

62.Ps. Nehemiah Christie, Head – ADF India Tamil Nadu Legal Aid Centre

63.Sr. Nirmala Mulackal SCN, Executive Director CBCI CARD

64.Sr. Nirmalini, AC, Educationist

65.Dr. Neeti Lal Bhai, Theologian & Human Rights Activist, Varanasi

66.O J Metei, Theologian / Social Activist

67.Norris Pritam, Board of Director-New Delhi YMCA & Journalist

68.Rev Dr. P B M Basaiawmoit, Retired Pastor

69.Fr. P Augustine SJ, Pastor & Spiritual Guide

70.P I Jose, Advocate

71.P. Joseph Packiaraj, President – AICU Tamil Nadu

72.Fr P R John, SJ, Principal, Vidyajyoti College of Theology, Delhi

73.Sr. (Dr.) Pauline Chakkalakal, dsp, Biblical Theologian & Coordinator of Interfaith Partnership

74.Pramod Singh, Advocate

75.Fr. Prashant Olekar, Educational Activist

76.Fr Raju Alex, Secretary – Catholic Council of India

77.Raphael D’Souza, AICU Maharashtra State President

78.Sr. Rita Puthenkalam, scn

79.Robin Ratnakar David, Advocate

80.Fr S. Emmanuel, AICUF National Adviser

81.Prof S V Antony, Educationist

82.Sr. Sabrina Edwards IBVM, Social Worker

83.Shibu Thomas, Minister of Jesus & Founder – Persecution Relief

84.Sr. Stella Kaiprampatt

85.Fr. Stan Fernandes, Educationist

86.Dr. Sunil Gokavi,  Executive Director, Emmanuel Hospital Association

87.Sunil Mallick

88.Sunil Nayak

89.Fr. Sunny Jacob, SJ, Secretary, JEA, South Asia

90.Fr. (Dr.) Suresh Mathew, Chief Editor, Indian Currents

91.Fr. T K John, SJ, Theologian

92.Mrs. Tehmina Arora, Advocate

93.Fr. Tom Mangattuthazhe, Secretary, UCF of Karbi Anglong District, Assam

94.Dr. Varghese Manimala, Philosopher, Theologian, Teacher & Activist

95.Rev Vijayesh Lal, Secretary General, Evangelical Fellowship of India

96.Vijay Russel, President, New Delhi YMCA

97.Vinay Stephen, Dalit Leader, Delhi

98.Fr. Vincent, Church Personnel

99.Virginia Saldanha, Former Secretary, CBCI Women’s Commission & FABC Laity Commission

100.Walter Cyril Pinto, Business Development Associate, Udupi

101.Walter J Maben, Chairman, Karnataka Missions Network Mangaluru, Karnataka

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