India’s Prime Minister Voices Concern About Targeting of Christian Churches

A protest outside the Sacred Heart Cathedral in New Delhi on Feb. 5. Roman Catholics said they felt insecure after a series of attacks on local churches. (Sajjad Hussain/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images)
A protest outside the Sacred Heart Cathedral in New Delhi on Feb. 5. Roman Catholics said they felt insecure after a series of attacks on local churches. (Sajjad Hussain/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India expressed concern on Friday about a series of episodes at Catholic churches in New Delhi that have raised fears among Christians here about a deliberate campaign of violence.

Mr. Modi’s remarks, part of a conversation with the police commissioner of the Delhi region and relayed through the commissioner, came after President Obama called for religious tolerance during a visit to India last month.

The latest suspicious incident, what appeared to be a robbery at a Catholic girls’ school in the capital, was reported on Friday morning. At least five Catholic churches in and around Delhi have reported various attacks, including suspected arson, burglary, vandalism and stone throwing.

An official statement from Mr. Modi’s office did not explicitly mention the episodes at churches, which began in December. Instead, the prime minister expressed his “deep concern and anguish” over the rising crime rate in Delhi.

At a meeting on Friday, he expressed concern specifically about the church episodes and asked the police commissioner, B.S. Bassi, to investigate the incidents of vandalism, Mr. Bassi said.

“He has instructed me that the Delhi police must take effective measures so that people who commit such incidents are caught and, apart from that, such incidents are not repeated,” Mr. Bassi said.

Mr. Modi’s message was an eagerly awaited, if indirect, acknowledgment for Christian leaders who have feared pressure from right-wing Hindu activists since the election victory of his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party last May.

Some Christian leaders and human rights advocates have speculated that the cases were part of a coordinated attempt by right-wing Hindu groups to intimidate India’s Christian minority, which makes up about 2 percent of the population.

The announcement of the prime minister’s meeting with the police commissioner came after reports on Friday of the episode at the Holy Child Auxilium School in Delhi. Sister Lucy John, the school principal, said that 12,000 rupees, a little less than $200, had been stolen from the school and that no religious items had been touched.

“We are certainly grateful that the P.M. has finally broken his silence and invited the police commissioner,” said the Rev. Dominic Emmanuel, a spokesman for the Delhi archdiocese. “We had been always hoping right from the first attack onward that such things would not be repeated.”

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SOURCE: The New York Times
Nida Najar

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