Christian and Muslim leaders in India have united to speak out against the increasing hate crimes against religious minorities in the country and find ways to address the issue.
The National Council of Churches, which holds around 30 Protestant and Orthodox churches in India, has brought together 50 Christian and Muslim leaders for a consultation on hate crimes on Sep. 5â€“6 in New Delhi. The religious leaders talked about the problems concerning freedom of religion under the administration of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Vatican Radio details.
Father Z. Devasagaya Raj, who serves as the secretary of the Indian Catholic bishops' conference for Dalit and indigenous groups, highlights the violence that religious minorities in the country are currently facing. He says these groups are struggling with "physical, symbolic, and structural violence" at the hands of local Hindu extremists.
"Every Indian should have the right to practice and promote their religion peacefully," Fr. Raj asserted.
Since Modi sat in office, several of his ministers have spoken out against Muslims and have asked them to leave India. An anti-Muslim riot erupted in Uttar Pradesh in June, killing three Muslims and injuring 30 others. In a separate incident, an orthodox Hindu mob attacked a Muslim family and beat a father to death for allegedly eating beef, as Hindus view cows as sacred creatures.
Christians, on the other hand, have endured the torching of churches, forced conversion to Hinduism, threats of physical violence, rape, murder, and destruction of Christian sites among many other forms of religion-motivated violence.
Earlier this year, an alleged Hindu mob attacked a Pentecostal church in Chhattisgarh in the middle of their prayers and broke the chairs and musical equipment inside, Christian Today.
Sociologist T.K. Oommen urged Catholic and Protestant leaders to involve Muslim leaders in their fight against religiously motivated violence, since they are the largest religious minority in the country. He suggested that instead of speaking as a minority group, they should demand their rights as citizens of India.