Christian community in Punjab condemns attacks on churches, appeals for peace
Amritsar: Beset by the increasing cases of attacks on churches and community gatherings, the Christian community in Punjab on Thursday sought strict action against the perpetrators of such assaults, besides seeking apt security measures for the community and raising an appeal for upholding peace and harmony in the country.
The community was represented by the heads of the Roman Catholic Church, the Dioceses of Amritsar and Chandigarh, Church of North India (CNI), the Salvation Army, and the Methodist Church, who came together under the banner of ‘Masihi Maha Sabha’ and held a meeting at the Alexandra High School in Amritsar on Thursday.
The meeting came two days after a group of people in Tarn Taran district allegedly forcefully entered a local church and vandalised a statue of Jesus and Mary. They also set fire to the pastor’s car.
At the meeting, it was unanimously decided to hold a candlelight prayer service at the respective churches of these denominations on September 3 to pray for peace and harmony.
The community leaders said a face-off has unfortunately occurred due to faith-related issues. They also appealed to the Centre and state governments to take a serious note of these attacks, which they termed as a clear violation of the Christian community’s Constitutional right to freedom of religion, and to ensure that the perpetrators of the same are brought to the book.
Talking about the incident in Tarn Taran, Bishop Agnelo Gracias, Apostolic Administrator, Diocese of Jalandhar, said that he visited the spot to take stock of the situation.
“We have always created an atmosphere of peace in those areas, but at the same time we criticise the vandalisation of our parish,” he said.
Rev Danzel People, Bishop, Diocese of Chandigarh, urged people to maintain peace and harmony in the society.
“The church needs to take measures to ensure the unity of the Christian community,” he said.
Major Makhan Masih from the Salvation Army and Rev Ilyas Masih from the Methodist Church too reiterated a similar view.
Rev P.K. Samantaroy, Bishop, Diocese of Amritsar (DoA), who is also the President of the Masihi Maha Sabha, said that the Christian community in Punjab condemns these attacks.
“The Indian Constitution allows every Indian to pursue the religion of his/her choice. These attacks are a clear violation of this Constitutional right of the Christians, which we strongly condemn. If anyone is found indulging in any unlawful activity, action should be taken as per law. We urge people not to take law in their hands,” he said.
Terming the attacks as a clear attempt to divide the people of Punjab, Samantaroy said that any divisive voice is dangerous and should be dealt with with an iron hand.
Stating that the Indian Christians are a peace-loving community, completely dedicated to the welfare and development of their nation, he said that this is evident from their contributions to different fields, including education, health etc. over the years.
“The church in India is completely dedicated to the cause of nation building. It is the curator of various inter-faith social outreach initiatives aimed at combating social evils that ail most sections of the Indian society. We are as Indian as any other person born and bred in India, irrespective of his creed. Therefore, we have the right to profess our faith with as much freedom as any other Indian,” he added.
Asserting that Christianity is not a European religion as it is believed to be, Samantaroy said it was introduced in India in the first century AD by St Thomas, a disciple of Jesus Christ, long before it was introduced in Europe.
“Jesus Christ taught us to practise love, forgiveness, peace and reconciliation, which promote human dignity, which is why the faith and its adherents should be regarded with the honour that they so deserve,” he said.