Christian leaders in Kerala have issued a Lenten pastoral letter denouncing the efforts of Hindu fundamentalists to make Hinduism the sole religion of India, sidelining Christianity and Islam as foreign religions, according to The Tablet.
    The letter is a strong, though rare, display of solidarity in the face of what Christians regard as a threat to them all. Among those who issued the letter were Archbishop Varkey Vithayathil, apostolic administrator of the Syro-Malabar Church; Archbishop Daniel Acharuparambil of Verapoly, head of the Latin hierarchy in Kerala; Archbishop Cyril Mar Baselios, head of the Syro-Malankara Church; Baselios Mar Thoma Mathew II, Catholicos of the Syrian Orthodox Church; Dr Alexander Mar Thoma, Metropolitan of Mar Thoma (Reformed) Church; and Bishop Sam Mathew, Moderator of the Church of South India.
    The bishops say that attacks against Christian churches and missionaries in various parts of the India have struck at the freedom of religion guaranteed by the country's constitution.
    They emphasise that Christianity has been established in India since the time of the Apostles, and is not a foreign religion. Their pastoral states that the right to profess, practise and propagate one's faith is enshrined in the constitution. The use of force or fraud to bring about any change of religion is contrary to Christian religious teaching, they affirm, as well as being against the law.
    The bishops draw comfort from the fact that most Hindus as well as the mainstream media are opposed to the fundamentalists and support the constitution and freedom of religion.
    The letter was read out in churches on 21 March. It provoked a comment from the ruling Indian People's Party (BJP) that it was part of a grand design to destabilise the BJP-led central Government in Delhi.

9:38am 15/4/99 / The Tablet


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