Christian devotees take part in a procession (File photo) Christian devotees take part in a procession (File photo)  (AFP or licensors)

India: Religious leaders gather in solidarity with persecuted Christians

The Archdiocese of Delhi hosts an encounter of around 300 religious leaders to show solidarity with Christians in India who are currently being asked to renounce their faith or leave their homes.

By Francesca Merlo

Nearly 300 leaders of various religions have gathered in New Delhi to show solidarity with Christians who have been forced to leave their homes in the central indian state of Chhattisgarh.

During the moment of reflection, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish and Baha'i believers lit candles and prayed together, asking the Indian government to intervene and put a stop to the violence against Christians, who have been targeted because they refuse to renounce their faith.

Ecumenical meeting

The meeting was organised by the Commission for Ecumenism and Inter-religious Dialogue of the Archdiocese of Delhi, and took place on 8 January in front of the Sacred Heart Cathedral.

Attacks against Christians, taking place mainly in Narayanpur and Kondagaon districts of Chhattisgarh, are being perpetrated by non-Christians, supported by nationalist groups as they pressure Christians there to return to their traditional animist practices.

Almost 18 villages in Narayanpur and 15 villages in Kondagaon have been attacked. An estimated 1,000 people have been displaced due to the attacks and social pressure in the region, which began in the second week of December.

Archbishop Anil Joseph Thomas Couto of Delhi assured the victims of the Church's support, and called on the local authorities and the federal government to take immediate action to bring the situation under control. Each religious leader present at the prayer meeting also spoke out, urging respect for other faiths.

Largest wave of attacks since 2021

The region has faced the largest wave of attacks on Indian Christians on record in 2021, and is one of many states in the country to have passed anti-conversion laws.

According to a local Christian leader, the attackers often tell the Adivasis, or indigenous Christians, that if they want to remain Christians, they must leave their villages or continue to be attacked.

After a lull, violence broke out again on 2 January when a mob of about 50 people entered the Sacred Heart Church in Narayanpur and desecrated the altar, crucifix and statues. So far, 11 people have been arrested by the police in four separate cases.

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14 January 2023, 10:43