Church Attacks And Govt Responsibility

| February 3, 2010

BANGALORE, Feb 3 — The Church has no affiliation to any political party. The Church wishes good governance just like any common citizen would wish for. The government cannot be blamed for the Church attacks, but it cannot shirk its responsibility either.

Now that the Justice B.K. Somashekara Inquiry Commission has come out with its over 500-page interim report, it is for the government to take it from there. Thankfully, a long and anxious wait for Christians in Karnataka has nearly ended.

Archbishop Bernard Moras of Bangalore and every member of the Christian community have been deeply concerned over certain issues. First, never in the history of Karnataka have there been attacks on churches or acts of vandalism or desecration as we had experienced in the last 16 months. Second, the Church is concerned about the rather callous statements made by the government over the Church attacks with a subtle attempt to dilute the incidents into something not serious'. Third, the Christian community has had to wait over 16 long months for the Inquiry Commission's report.

But dismally, we have yet to hear a single result from any of the investigations on the church attacks across Karnataka. No culprit has been pinned down yet.

India has known Karnataka to be one of the most peace-loving states that accommodates people of all religions and cultures without any bias. The present scenario is depressingly different.

Chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa has openly indicated that the church attacks are politically motivated' and intended to defame and destabilise the BJP government. He has also mentioned on several occasions that the acts of vandalism have been carried out by "organised groups" and vowed to even "chop off the hands" of those who indulged in such acts.

On one occasion, he even informed the media that the culprits have been booked. Sadly, we have no information yet as to who the "culprits" are. Several Christians have already been dragged into inquiries by the Justice Somashekara Commission which in effect has only harassed the Christian witnesses, as some felt. They were summoned even on days closer to Christmas.

I have been witness to some of the proceedings of the Commission in Bangalore where the "testimonials" (lawyers representing Hindu organisations) were literally pounding upon Christian witnesses. They have been doing much of their homework on the Bible with no knowledge whatsoever on the sitz em laben' or background and context of the Scriptures, just to prove it as a mandate against non-Christians.

I have seen a deliberate attempt by the "testimonials" to discredit, demonise and de-legitimise the activities of Christians".

I think it less relevant to comment on home minister V.S. Acharya's repeated and callous response that these attacks "have been exaggerated". His statements to the press and his responses in the wake of attacks on churches do not seem to reflect that he is seriously concerned with the minority community whether Sikh, Buddhist, Muslim or Christian. He has mentioned that the media has exaggerated the issue of church attacks and even went on to mention that statues were broken in the process of thieves trying to steal hundis' (dumb-boxes).

When we speak about the Church response, we are not just speaking about the response of Christians, but also about the Christians who are able to influence public opinion (implying, the Church ability to influence the opinion of the larger society). The Church may be a minority, but the influence that Christians have on opinion-generation among the majority is unimaginable, but also invisible. One right-mined and focused Christian can influence a hundred non-Christians in his vicinity (read: constituency).

Those indulging in such activity may be fundamentalist groups that are against Christians and Christianity or they could be enemies from within the BJP who are working to discredit the present government or could be non-BJP groups working to tarnish the image of the government, as the CM himself alleges.

Be it politically motivated, a theft (with desecration as a fallout), or a malicious attempt of "organised groups" to create disharmony and discord, the government cannot shirk responsibility from brining the culprits to book. The Church will certainly condemn anybody indulging in such activity, no matter which "group" or "political party".

 

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