Christian leaders from different denominations in the Indian capital have condemned the latest communal violence that erupted in New Delhi and asked their churches to open their doors to the victims of the riots.
The three days of violence, which erupted on Feb. 23, has killed at least 32 people, in the deadliest violence in the city since the 1992 nationwide riots following the demolition of the Babri mosque in Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh, and possibly since the anti-Sikh riots of 1984 after the assassination of then prime minister Indira Gandhi, media reports said.
An uneasy calm reigned on the city on Thursday, with a heavy deployment of security forces kept watch.
“At this trying moment when communal riots have suddenly gripped Delhi, let us come forward with our prayers and every possible effort to bring relief to the affected people in terms of shelter, food and clothing,” appealed Archbishop Anil Couto of Delhi in a letter.
He urged his parish priests to open their premises "for this noble cause in the Lenten season. Please convey this to our people and organize them for action.”
Riots broke out as supporters of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) clashed with its opponents.
The government’s CAA, passed on Dec. 11 last year, allows minorities from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan who settled in India prior to 2015 to obtain Indian citizenship but excludes Muslims.
Coupled with the proposed nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC), Muslims fear the moves are intended to strip millions of their community members of citizenship. People from other disadvantaged caste and gender identities, as well as women, fear they are vulnerable to the NRC.
“Humanity has been knocked down one more time, our houses burned, our kindred killed, our peace destroyed, and future betrayed,” said a Feb. 26 statement from the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI), the forum of Protestant and Orthodox Churches in India.
“We appeal to members of the different Christian traditions to facilitate each other, and all others of different faith traditions and ideological persuasions in their neighbourhoods, to rise from the ashes,” said the statement signed by Rev. Asir Ebenezer, NCCI general secretary.
The statement condemned "the dastardly attack on the vulnerable and the weak in different locations of Delhi, the explicit or implicit complicity and tacit approval of those in power and authority.”
The NCCI also appealed to churches and Christian organizations in affected areas to respond appropriately to those in need.
The Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI), the national alliance of evangelical Christians, condemned the “reprehensible violence and killing as the work of vested political interests and forces of hate."
The EFI statement signed by its general secretary Rev. Vijayesh Lal appealed to the people of Delhi to “maintain peace and not to give in to vicious vitriol fed by rumours and spread through social media. We must not let hate win.”
It also asked its congregations in Delhi area to open "their hearts and facilities for the afflicted and to come to the aid of the helpless and distraught. This would be our act of service unto our Lord, this Lenten season.” (Source: UCANEWS)