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Rising intolerance in India is causing anxiety, says cardinal

Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai (CNS photo)

Cardinal Oswald Gracias, newly elected president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, has expressed “anguish” over increasing threats to pluralism in the country.

“Intolerance is causing a certain amount of anxiety to us,” Cardinal Gracias said in Bangalore, while addressing a news conference at the end of the assembly of Indian bishops.

“Diversity is one of the strengths of India. It is known world over for its diversity of culture, language and religion. Any attempt to divide people by certain sections will be harmful for the nation,” cautioned Cardinal Gracias, responding to a question on how the bishops’ assembly viewed the increasing threats to diversity in recent years.

Human rights groups have expressed concern over religious-based crime in India, and the government has confirmed an increase in violence based on religion.

Auxiliary Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas of Ranchi, secretary-general of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, said attacks on pluralism were “not only against Christians, but all Indians”.

“You cannot allow a few rabid elements to spoil the harmony. It is a question of upholding constitutional values and rule of law,” the bishop added.

A bishops’ statement from the meeting said: “No one should doubt our loyalty or our commitment to the nation,” amid Hindu nationalists branding Muslims and Christians as foreigners.

“True nationalism can lead our motherland to genuine peace, harmony, progress and prosperity,” the bishops said. They appealed to all people “to shun mob culture and vigilantism in favour of peace”.