28 May 2019, The Tablet

Christian unease over Modi re-election

The Catholic Church reminded Modi of his 2017 pledge to free India from 'poverty, dirt, corruption, terrorism, caste-ism and communalism' by 2022

Christian unease over Modi re-election

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the media in New Delhi, India, May 25, 2019
Partha Sarkar/Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

The re-election of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for a second five-year term has increased anxiety on the part of India’s minorities. Electioneering focused on Hindu nationalist sentiments rather than issues such as unemployment, inflation and the agrarian crisis. Many fear that the big majority poses a threat to India's secularism and multi-culturalism. Since Mr Modi first came to power five years ago, attacks on Christians and other minorities have increased.

The Catholic Church in India on Saturday congratulated Prime Minister Modi but reminded him of his 2017 pledge to free India from “poverty, dirt, corruption, terrorism, caste-ism and communalism” by 2022. Conference president Bishop Oswald Gracias of Bombay said in a letter to Mr Modi that Catholics would be praying for “a strong and inclusive India”. He added that, “we are all eager to work together for the vision of a new India which your Excellency has spoken about - a new India which gives hope and energy to our youth, empowers our women… sustainable opportunities for our farmers and strengthens our economy while leaving no one behind.”

In mid-May Church leaders in the Christian stronghold of Kerala dismissed a BJP proposal for a forum to work for the protection of Christians from Islamic terror attacks, such as those seen in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday. “This is an attempt to polarise the peacefully living Christians and Muslims in the country,” said Fr Varghese Vallikkatt, spokesman for the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council.

India is number ten on the "2019 World Watch List" - religious persecution charity, Open Doors', annual ranking of the 50 countries where Christians face the most extreme persecution.

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