Punjab Christian Community Condemns Attacks on Churches, Calls for Peace

AMRITSAR: Amid rising cases of attacks on churches and community gatherings, the Christian community in Punjab on Thursday called for strict measures against the perpetrators of such attacks, in addition to seeking appropriate security measures for the community and to appeal for the maintenance of peace and harmony in the country. .

The community was represented by the heads of the Roman Catholic Church, the dioceses of Amritsar and Chandigarh, the Church of North India (CNI), the Salvation Army and the Methodist Church, who gathered under the banner of “Masihi Maha Sabha” and held a meeting at Alexandra High School in Amritsar on Thursday.

The meeting came two days after a group of people from the Tarn Taran district allegedly broke into a local church and vandalized 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 in the respective churches of these denominations on September 3 to pray for peace and harmony.

Community leaders said a confrontation unfortunately occurred due to religious issues. They also called on the Center and state governments to take these attacks seriously, which they called a flagrant violation of the Christian community‘s constitutional right to freedom of religion, and to ensure that the perpetrators of these attacks be brought to justice. .

Speaking about the Tarn Taran incident, Archbishop Agnelo Gracias, Apostolic Administrator of Jalandhar Diocese, said he visited the spot to get an update on the situation.

“We have always created an atmosphere of peace in these neighborhoods, but at the same time we criticize the vandalism of our parish,” he said.

Reverend Danzel People, Bishop of Chandigarh Diocese, urged people to maintain peace and harmony in society.

“The church must take steps to ensure the unity of the Christian community,” he said.

Major Makhan Masih of the Salvation Army and Reverend Ilyas Masih of the Methodist Church also reiterated a similar view.

Reverend PK Samantaroy, Bishop of the 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 Constitution of India allows every Indian to pursue the religion of his choice. These attacks are a clear violation of this constitutional right of Christians, which we strongly condemn. If anyone is caught engaging in any illegal activity, action must be taken in accordance with the law. We urge people not to take justice into their own hands,” he said.

Calling the attacks a clear attempt to divide the people of Punjab, Samantaroy said any divisive voice is dangerous and must be dealt with with an iron fist.

Stating that Indian Christians are a peace-loving community fully devoted to the welfare and development of their nation, he said this is evident from their contributions in different fields including education, health, etc. over the years.

“The church in India is fully dedicated to the cause of nation building. It is the curator of various interfaith social awareness initiatives aimed at tackling social ills that affect most sections of Indian society. We are as Indian as anyone else born and bred in India, regardless of belief, therefore we have the right to profess our faith as freely as any other Indian,” he added. .

Stating that Christianity is not a European religion as believed, Samantaroy said it was brought to India in the first century CE by Saint Thomas, a disciple of Jesus Christ, long before it was introduced to Europe. .

“Jesus Christ taught us to practice love, forgiveness, peace and reconciliation, which promote human dignity, which is why the faith and its adherents should be considered with the honor they deserve,” did he declare.

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