MUMBAI, India – Religious brothers and sisters of India pledged to “engage with those on the periphery” during the 17th National Convention of the Religious Forum for Justice and Peace held in Hyderabad from September 22-24, 2022, where they called on Church leaders to do more to help.
“These times are very different and difficult, especially for those who speak and act on behalf of those kept in poverty,” said Sister Dorothy Fernandes, the national organizer of the convention.
She referred to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government, which has ruled India since 2014. The BJP is linked to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a Hindu nationalist group.
Hindu nationalists have fueled fears of ‘illegal conversion’ for years and say Christian groups use their social services – religious organizations are overrepresented relative to their percentage of the population in education, health and of charity in India – to illegally convert Hindus, especially those from marginalized lower castes.
“The fascist mindset denies [the right] speak and act differently, dissent is unacceptable: the one language, one creed, one party agenda is detrimental to democracy,” Fernandes said. Node.
She said this program involves the very fabric of the nation.
“Diversity and inclusiveness are core values enshrined in our Indian Constitution. Therefore, the challenge is immense and the urgency cannot be postponed. We need to be awakened to this new reality. Unfortunately, not all of us are aware of these dangerous movements taking place,” she said.
The Religious Forum for Justice and Peace represents 20 religious congregations from 16 states in India.
In their final statement, they said that to awaken the world, religious “must be awakened to the joys and cries of the world around us and to the call of God.”
“Where we are, what we see and how we listen, it all matters. A prophetic path is called because when we look at the world, we will not only see incredible love, kindness, beauty, and generosity, but we will also see people and the earth suffering needlessly, begging for an answer. We are called to respond,” the statement said.
The statement highlighted the plight of Indian tribal communities and members of ‘backward castes’ – including the Dalits, formerly known as the untouchables – who, in addition to being socially ostracized, often have their lands taken away from them illegally. and their livelihoods.
“As clerics committed to justice and peace, we express our concern at the deteriorating situation of our nation on all fronts,” the statement said.
“Fascism seems to have come to stay. We have reached abysmal depths on all parameters: be they social, economic or political. Recently, the “Global Human Index” placed India at a pathetically low rank of 132 out of 191 countries assessed. There are several other global indexes today that put India at the bottom. The poor in India are getting poorer every day; the rich and powerful continue to profit at their expense and amass outrageous wealth,” the statement continued.
The statement also notes that religious minorities – especially Muslims and Christians – are the target of hate speech and persecution, “by a regime that systematically and continuously denigrates and demonizes them with an agenda of division and violence.” , and claims that intolerance is on the rise.
“Unconstitutional anti-conversion laws are at the center of our concerns today. The four labor codes run counter to workers’ rights and clearly favor profiteering big business. The pitiful conditions of migrant workers came to the fore when the lockdown was announced in March 2020. Kerala fishermen [on the southwest coast] and other parts of the country are fighting against corporations that intend to destroy their livelihoods. Unemployment and spiraling inflation have had a huge impact on the lives of the poor,” the statement added.
The Forum also said it was “deeply pained” by the silence of church leaders “on issues that are destroying the democratic, pluralistic and secular fabric of our country.”
“When we speak of ‘synodality’ today, the Church leaders in India have still shown no signs of abandoning their clerical and patriarchal mentality. Caste discrimination is still practiced within the Church; moreover, Church leaders have failed to show courage and transparency in addressing certain critical issues involving bishops, priests and religious,” the statement read.