Catholic Bishops in India Stand Firm Amidst Rising Attacks, Affirm Commitment to Serving the Marginalized

Featured & Cover Catholic Bishops in India Stand Firm Amidst Rising Attacks Affirm Commitment to Serving the Marginalized

Christian institutions and individuals in India are facing an escalation of attacks and harassment, yet the Catholic bishops affirm their unwavering commitment to serving the marginalized. The 36th biennial meeting of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), attended by over 170 bishops from the country’s 174 dioceses, concluded with a resolute statement emphasizing their dedication to the nation despite adversities.

In their final statement, the bishops affirmed, “As loyal citizens of India, we will continue serving our country whatever be the cost, walking in the footsteps of Jesus our Master.” The conference, held from January 31 to February 7 at Bengaluru’s St John’s National Academy of Health Sciences, deliberated on pertinent themes including the Church’s role in the current socio-political landscape and the implications of Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Acknowledging India’s strides in various domains, the bishops expressed pride in the nation’s achievements while highlighting persistent socio-economic disparities. They lamented that the benefits of development have disproportionately reached a small segment of society, leaving many grappling with unemployment and rural-urban migration, exacerbating the digital divide.

The bishops voiced concern over rising divisive tendencies, hate speech, and fundamentalist movements eroding the secular fabric enshrined in India’s Constitution. They deplored attacks on Christians and their institutions, citing incidents of violence, property destruction, and harassment under the pretext of allegations related to conversions.

During the bishops’ gathering, several arrests occurred in Uttar Pradesh, where a Catholic priest, five Protestant pastors, and a layperson were detained over accusations of engaging in conversion activities. Despite a denial of bail by a lower court on February 7, efforts are underway to secure their release through legal avenues.

The meeting also addressed the protracted violence in Manipur, condemning clashes between the Meitei and Kuki ethnic communities, with a significant Christian population among the latter. Expressing dismay at the loss of lives and livelihoods, the bishops urged for lasting peace and reconciliation in the region.

Highlighting concerns about democratic institutions’ integrity and media responsibility, the bishops emphasized the need to uphold constitutional principles and combat religious polarization. They called upon political leaders to safeguard India’s secular and democratic ethos, urging citizens to actively participate in the upcoming elections.

Reiterating longstanding demands, the bishops urged the government to grant Scheduled Caste status to Dalit Christians and other marginalized minorities while safeguarding the Scheduled Tribe status of Christian tribal communities. Additionally, they reaffirmed their commitment to fostering interreligious dialogue and community solidarity.

Despite facing challenges and setbacks, the Catholic bishops in India remain steadfast in their mission to uphold democratic values, promote social justice, and advocate for the rights of the marginalized, demonstrating resilience and determination in the face of adversity.

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