24 December 2017
Christmas in India tarnished by ‘climate of hate’
There is a sense of unease leading up to Christmas celebrations in India, according to Christian groups.
“There are open letters being written to schools in Uttar Pradesh asking them not to celebrate Christmas. What is going on in this country? This is not about Hindus, Christians, Muslims or Sikhs. It is about our beloved India,” Reverend Theodore Mascarenhas, general secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference, told Al Jazeera.
Earlier this month, radical Hindu groups allegedly assaulted a group of carol singers and set their empty car on fire in the state of Madhya Pradesh. Members of the right-wing Bajrang Dal said they had “proof to show how Christian priests were forcibly converting poor Hindus”. The group has direct links with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
On the evening of December 14, state police in Madhya Pradesh arrested the group of carol singers, including two Catholic priests, for several hours in the city of Satna after members of the right-wing Hindu group accused them of forcible conversions to Christianity. At least 30 seminarians and two priests from St Ephrem’s Theological College in Satna were arrested, according to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference.
Meanwhile, the Hindu Jagran Manch, a right-wing Hindu group with close ties to the ruling party, warned Christian schools in the state against celebrating Christmas this year, claiming that the holiday was a step towards “forced conversions” and that the gifts exchanged during Christmas “may lure children to convert to Christianity”.
Eighteen years after Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two pre-teen sons were burned to death by violent Hindu groups in one of the worst hate crimes recorded in the country, Christians in India are reliving some hateful moments.
Staines and his sons, 10-year-old Timothy and eight-year-old Philip, were burned to death by a crowd of Hindu fanatics as they slept in their vehicle outside a church in the state of Odisha in January 1999. A mob had prevented the missionary and his sons from trying to escape the flames in their burning car.
Courtesy: Al Jazeera
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