Attacks on Christians: Lay leader welcomes Supreme Court move
New Delhi, June 29, 2022: Leader of an ecumenical forum that monitors attacks on Christians in India has welcomed the Supreme Court’s willingness to hear a petition on such incidents.
“I hope the court takes note of the rising incidents of violence against Christians and directs concerned authorities to initiate criminal investigations and prosecute the criminal offenders in accordance with law,” says A C Michael, national coordinator of the United Christian Forum.
He was reacting to the apex court on June 27 terming as “unfortunate” if what is said in the petition is right. A bench of Justices Surya Kant and J B Pardiwala then listed the case for hearing on July 11.
The petition was filed by Archbishop Peter Machado of Bangalore along with the National Solidarity Forum, and the Evangelical Fellowship of India.
“In May, 57 cases of violence happened and more attacks are anticipated,” said Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for the petitioners, and sought an urgent hearing.
The petition urged the court to stop the “targeted hate speech” against the Christian community and attacks at their places of worship.
Michael says it would be good if the court asks each affected state “to provide police protection for prayer meetings, and to let the believers practice their faith in peace by enforcing the law of the land.”
The petitioners have said that their plea is against “sinister phenomena of violence” and “targeted hate speech” against the Christian community of the country by vigilante groups and members of right-wing organizations.
The petitioners alleged that the federal and state governments have failed to take immediate and necessary actions against groups that have caused widespread violence and hate speech against the Christian community, including attacks at their places of worship and other institutions run by them.
Earlier on June 13, the United Christian Forum demanded urgent judicial and government intervention to check rapid rise in incidents of violence, coercion and false arrests that traumatize the community.
The persecution is most acute in states such as Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Karnataka; the UCF said, citing data collected from its National Helpline Number 1800-208-4545 and human rights groups.
The helpline received 207 cases of violence against Christians in the first half of 2022. Just in May, it recorded 57 cases. In 2021, the forum documented 505 cases, with Christmas seeing 16 acts of violence, including desecration and breaking of statues of Jesus Christ at a historic church in Haryana.
The forum’s national president Michael Williams said the data refutes the claims of federal and state government functionaries and leaders of the ruling parties that that dismiss the violence as “only a few stray incidents by fringe elements.”
Michael, the forum’s national coordinator, laments that many culprits film their acts of vandalism and physical violence on unarmed women and men.
In all such cases, the police is either a mute spectator, or an active participant in the persecution. Despite our appeals to senior officials and administrators, the police have failed to follow protocol, rules, and investigations, said Michael, a former member of the Minority Commission of Delhi.
More than one incident has taken place each day so far in 2022. January recorded 40 incidents, February 35, March 33, and 40 in April. Uttar Pradesh recorded 48 incidents, Chhattisgarh 44, Jharkhand 23 and Madhya Pradesh 14.
Other than physical assaults, incidents include brutality against women, vandalism, forcible closure of churches, disruption of Sunday prayers and social ostracization which is most visible in small towns and villages, the statement adds.
UCF toll-free helpline number: 1-800-208-4545 was launched January 19, 2015, with the aim of upholding fundamental freedom and promotion of values of justice, liberty, equality and fraternity of India. The helpline helps people in distress, especially those who are not aware of the law of the land and the system by guiding them how to reach out to the public authorities and by providing the way to legal remedies.
This article was first published in https://mattersindia.com/