A Year of Agony for Christians

Cedric Prakash Cedric Prakash
03 Jan 2022
A Year of Agony for Christians by Cedric Prakash, Indian Currents

The Year 2021 will certainly go down in the annals of Indian history on several counts. From the second wave of COVID-19 which took a toll on lives and the livelihood of the poor and the marginalised to the Omicron that is already creating havoc. From the worlds biggest and longest protest by the farmers (they were victorious in the end) to the skyrocketing prices on every front. From the incarceration of human rights defenders to the death of Jesuit Fr Stan Swamy. From the systematic pillaging of our fragile eco-systems to the wanton looting of our forests and other natural resources. From the mainstreaming of corruption to the exclusion of vast sections of the population. India has seen it all – plummeting to unbelievable depths in every global survey on the social, political and economic front.

The worst, however, was the way religion was abused and minorities, particularly Muslims and Christians, were targeted throughout the year. The last two months saw any number of attacks on these two communities. Any thinking citizen would wince even at the thought of these attacks. India today figures in the ‘Hall of Shame’ in the international arena with some of the top print and electronic media reporting the happenings. For a democracy wedded to secularism, the year 2021 is a painful reality with an uncaring and callous Government at the helm. 

What is happening to Muslims and Christians is on face value an attack on minorities. It is, however, much more than that. It is primarily the polarisation and the consolidation of majoritarianism.  These attacks also defocus from the real problems which the country faces: abject poverty, rising prices, growing unemployment, suicides by farmers and casual labour, pollution, environmental degradation, an economy in the doldrums, lack of governance and much more. 

The attacks replete with falsehood, half-truths and ‘feku’isms are lapped up and propagated by the media, the crony capitalists and the ‘bhakts’ who have very little intelligence and objectivity. This pays rich dividends at the polls. We have seen this happening in Gujarat and in several other states. In typical Goebbelsian manner “tell a lie a thousand times, and people will start believing it!” In the end the road is clear for the destruction of the Constitution and the total establishment of a fascist state.

In 2003, political scientist Dr. Lawrence Britt wrote an article about fascism after studying several fascist regimes all over the world. He identified fourteen characteristics of fascism which emerged from his study. All fourteen exist in India today: not merely applicable but very real; five of them which need to be highlighted are:

Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights 

Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of "need." The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc. 

Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause 

The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial, ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc. 

Controlled Mass Media 

Sometimes media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common. 

Religion and Government are Intertwined 

Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology are common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government's policies or actions. 

Rampant Cronyism and Corruption 

Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders. 

A very convenient and effective strategy of fascists and dictators from time immemorial is to denigrate, demonize, divide and destroy ‘the other’. The targets are always the minorities and other vulnerable sections of the society. These groups just do not have a place in their scheme of things. This is also true when the 'other' are those who dissent, those who do selfless work which they are unable to do or simply those they are unable to deal with. At times, they are ignored and at other times, they are made to feel as though they are a major burden in the country, they are incarcerated and even killed. 

The Muslims are regarded as “terrorists” and those who indulge in “love jihad”. The Christians “are out to convert you”. These are the familiar false platitudes that are dished out. They are ‘anti-nationals’! It does not matter if there is no evidence to prove their point; their lies sell! Sadly, even so-called ‘intelligent people’ fall in this trap and of such ‘bogeys.’ It is exactly the way Hitler exterminated the Jews, the Catholics, the gypsies, the nomads, the homosexuals, the writers and the poets of his times.

The past few weeks in India have seen several examples of how these fascists have been using every possible act from their violent and dirty bag of tricks to terrorise minorities in the country. The Christians of India have always been a 'soft target’; in their ascent to power since the late 1990s the BJP and their ilk in the Sangh Parivar have systematically targeted the community in different ways and all over the country. 

Some media have carried stories on their front pages: The 'bogey' of forced conversion, the desecration of sacred objects, the attacks on Christians and their places of worship and institutions, the myriad threats, intimidation and harassments, the spreading of canard -- are all part of a wider game plan to polarize the majority community and put Christians in bad light. The month of December -- just before, on and after Christmas -- has seen a surge of this orchestrated campaign against the Christians in several parts of the country and particularly in the states ruled by the BJP.

The Missionaries of Charity (MCs -- the Sisters and Brothers Congregations founded by Mother Teresa) is high-up at the receiving end of this viciousness and vilification.
Mother Teresa is an icon today all over the world; an embodiment of charity, a Saint revered by millions all over. Her legacy which is continued selflessly by the Missionaries of Charity is the highest of Christian Charity reaching out to the dying destitute, the poorest of the poor, the orphan and widow, the unloved and rejected, the lost, the lonely, the last and least irrespective of one's religious belief. False cases, like that of conversion, are foisted on the Sisters. The latest has been the many twists and turns regarding the FCRA accounts of the MCs. Initial reports state that their accounts were frozen. However, an MHA communique states that their FCRA was 'not renewed due to non-compliance' (whatever that means). International media has given wide coverage to this.

The MCs care for thousands of the rejected of India day in and day out without counting the cost. Stopping or even temporarily suspending the flow of funds to the MCs, in simple terms, means depriving the poorest of the poor in India -- humans whom no one cares for -- the basic humanitarian needs of shelter and food, not to mention the acceptance, warmth and love which they desperately need and which the Sisters and Brothers give them so ungrudgingly.

The Government has to reconsider this inhuman decision and restore the good name and work of the MCs. There may certainly be some laxities or shortcomings (no one is contesting that). If so, the authorities must help the MCs to rectify/address them; and above all, to ensure that those who are cared for in the MC institutions are not deprived of this basic humanitarian assistance. The good work of the MCs is there for all to see. It is an open fact. They do the nation proud.

Celebrated media personality Rajdeep Sardesai in an article (December 31, 2021)  titled ‘In 2022, a prayer for a better year for India’, which is going viral, says: He prays for “An India where no religious or political leader from any community is allowed to get away with hate speech or incitement to violence; where the atrocities of Aurangzeb in the 17th century should not determine the fate of the Indian Muslim in the 21st; where scars of past animosities can’t become the template for an India of the future; where the electoral battle shouldn’t be over who rebuilds how many places of worship, but who builds how many quality schools and hospitals; where mobs who break into church halls are seen as criminals who must be prosecuted; where the real battle is not between Hindu and Hindutvawadi but between constitutionalism and anti-constitutionalism; where the State stops intervening in personal freedoms; where what we eat and drink, who we marry, how we pray must remain a matter of fierce individual choice”.

Sardesai hits the nail on the head. What is happening in India today is not merely about Christians and Muslims but it is about the heart and soul of India: our Constitution. It is about our pluralistic fabric wedded to secularism. It is about justice, liberty, equality and fraternity. About the values and rights enshrined in our Constitution particularly in today’s context Articles 19 and 25. It is about democratic space which is shrinking day by day. Ordinary citizens are made to become reactionaries. Fear creeps in – as people wonder if they will be the next targets. This will not help in the long run: for the future of the country and for generation next.  We the people of India must come out; take a visible and vocal stand at all the rot happening in the country. We owe this to our children. Fascists thrive and succeed when the majority are silent.  

The Catholic Church authorities in India (barring a few exceptions) have been ‘officially’ very silent on these recent attacks. This is very unfortunate. It is imperative that the Church shuns all ‘diplomacy’ and   demonstrates the prophetic courage to speak out for the Constitution and the people of India.  In his message for the 55th  World Day of Peace (January 1, 2022) Pope Francis reminds us that, “As in the days of the prophets of old, so in our own day the cry of the poor and the cry of the earth  constantly make themselves heard, pleading for justice and peace,” He also gives a directive, “To government leaders and to all those charged with political and social responsibilities, to priests and pastoral workers, and to all men and women of good will, I make this appeal: let us walk together with courage and creativity on the path of intergenerational dialogue, education, and work. May more and more men and women strive daily, with quiet humility and courage, to be artisans of peace. And may they be ever inspired and accompanied by the blessings of the God of peace!”

The words of the German Lutheran pastor and theologian Martin Niemöller have come to us as a powerful reminder so often: 

First, they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist
Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist
Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist
Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew
Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me
But are we listening? Do we have that prophetic courage to act now?

(Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ is a human rights, reconciliation and peace activist/ writer. Contact cedricprakash@gmail.com)

COVID-19 Omicron Fr. Stan Swamy Religion Christians Secularsim Muslims Attack on minorities Human Rights Mass Media Fascism Love Jihad BJP Conversion Missionaries Mother Teresa Missionaries of Charity FCRA Rajdeep Sardesai Hindutvawadi Constitution Catholic Church Issue 02

Recent Posts

The economic devastation caused by the Pandemic has not affected one class of people.
apicture A. J. Philip
24 Jan 2022
There are 820 million chronically hungry people in the world and one-third of them live in India
apicture Irudhaya Jothi SJ
24 Jan 2022
India’s 73rd Republic Day celebration will be in a subdued way because of the unprecedented spread of Omicron
apicture Jacob Peenikaparambil
24 Jan 2022
The recent statement issued by a group of retired IFS officers in defence of this government is mean and intellectually dishonest
apicture Mathew John
24 Jan 2022
We need social movements to promote amity among diverse communities through cultural-educational mechanisms
apicture Ram Puniyani
24 Jan 2022
Goa is all set to go to polls on Valentine’s Day! As the most romantic day of the year, the buzz that surrounds the Valentine’s Day
apicture Pachu Menon
24 Jan 2022
There are only a few, a very precious few, who have used their individual brilliance to bring about change and usher in progress and Dr J Alexander IAS belongs to that category of people.
apicture Joyce Sebastian
24 Jan 2022
With no one speaking about the Gujarat model as the best one, the Congress has come out with a Punjab model as a cure for all the problems in the States
apicture Manoj Varghese
24 Jan 2022
In the good old days when public speaking was an art, many enrolled in classes to learn how to have confidence in themselves
apicture Robert Clements
24 Jan 2022
Mass exodus of ministers and BJP MLAs in Uttar Pradesh is a sign of frustration and negligence the leaders have been facing in the Yogi Adityanath team for the past several years.
apicture Manoj Varghese
17 Jan 2022