The Archbishop of Mumbai has asked whether India’s constitutional guarantee for people to freely ‘profess, practise and propagate religion’ actually applies to the Christian community in light of the treatment of those protesting in Delhi on 5 February against the fifth attack on the city’s churches in recent weeks.
On behalf of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India the Archbishop, Cardinal Oswald Gracias accused the police of ‘manhandling’ the protesters, who included women and children. Dozens of protesters were detained by police after they tried to march peacefully on the Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s home.
Shortly after the protest the Home Minister met Christian leaders, some of whom had been detained, at his office. Responding to their demand for an urgent review of security measures to protect churches, Singh ordered police to investigate as a hate crime the recent vandalism at St Alphonsa Church in Delhi, according to the Evangelical Fellowship of India.
A second Catholic leader, the retired Auxiliary Bishop of Mumbai, Agnelo Rufina Gracias, compared those attacking India’s churches to Nazis.
‘On the surface, such attacks look like a campaign against a small, peace-loving minority that would scarcely pose a threat to anyone. Are these isolated incidents or are they part of a systematic plan?’ he said.
‘Today, it is an attack on Christians, a soft target, but will it stop there? Or will it move soon to other targets? The Nazis had followed the same tactics — the isolated attacks that moved on to another attack. We will soon see that happening here. There is an attempt to make India a homogenous unit — the home of one religion.’