- (Photo: AP Images / Mahesh Kumar A.)
Christian leaders in India have called on all political parties to bring justice for the Indian Christian community ahead of a new general election in the country.
N. Gopalaswami, the Chief Election Commissioner of India, announced this week that a five-phase parliamentary election would take place from April 16, with polls ending on May 13.
Just before the announcement both Catholic and Protestant leaders released a memorandum, which they plan to give to the leaders of political parties, stating, "All political parties must put the security of all religious minorities, and especially of the Christian community at the top of their electoral agenda," according to UCANews.com
It also called upon political parties to bring to justice the “culprits of crimes” committed against Christians, notably in Orissa, where over 60 Christians were killed and 50,000 displaced by anti-Christian violence last year.
During a press conference to announce the memorandum, some of the Christian leaders spoke of how the perpetrators of anti-Christian crimes in Orissa were still free because they have political support.
Archbishop Vincent Concessao of Delhi said that “hate campaigns” against Christians and Muslims were continuing in parts of India in order to gain votes for Hindu political parties.
He added that he wanted political parties and their supporters to denounce violence and promote justice and human rights, especially for Muslims and Christians.
The memorandum also requested that political parties make plans to promote the economic progress of Christians, who are often among the poorest in India, and to set up a judicial commission to assess the loss of rights that they had suffered. It also said that the rights of Christians from lower castes should also be restored.
Christians from lower castes often lose out from quotas meant to help the socio-economic development of lower caste people, as Christians themselves do not accept the Hindu caste system.
Auxiliary Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Delhi said the memorandum would make "the electorate more alert and will be heard by all."
He urged people to vote in the upcoming elections and said that the church believed in democracy and the secular principles of India.
The leaders also said that they would form an ecumenical delegation and meet the leaders of all political parties ahead of the election and present them with the memorandum.