We the Leaders of the Indian Churches, at a meeting at Nagpur on the 11th of July 2000 jointly convened by the National Council of Churches in India and the Catholic Bishops Conference of India at the NCCI Campus, have taken a serious and a close look at the continued atrocities against the Churches, Dalits and other minorities. Having analysed the facts and having discerned serious threats to the democratic, secular fabric of our Nation, we make the following Statement hereinafter referred to as the Nagpur Statement of the Churches in India.
WE RE-AFFIRM the fact of history that we are a religion which is 1950 years old in India. In these years we have not only respected other faiths in our country but have also adhered to the democratic principles of mutual respect and co-existence with them. The Churches in India have always upheld and abided by the principles of dialogue with people of other faiths in this land, which has served as the cradle of ancient civilizations and major religions of the world.
WE RE-AFFIRM that we have always identified ourselves with the poorest of the poor in our country and have served the nation in the fields of education, health, poverty-alleviation programmes, emergency-relief, gender and social-justice programmes for the dalits and tribals, and have also contributed to the development of literature and grammar of several Indian languages. Our actions speak louder than words. We have furthermore worked selflessly towards the eradication of child labour and promoted ecological consciousness and other emancipatory programmes. In all this we have contributed to the task of nation building. Inspite of the fact that we are a meagre 2.5% of the entire population, we have contributed much through our service.
WE RE-AFFIRM that our numerical strength has remained below 2.5% of the entire population, which disproves the malicious theories of forced or coercive conversion raised against us. What we have achieved through the programmes of service and proclamation is the emancipation and the empowerment of the socially oppressed, the marginalised and the excluded in society, and their liberation from an evil caste system which discriminates against Dalits and tribals. The task of the Churches has always been to be obedient to Christ's calling to empower and build communities based on the values of Love, Justice and Peace which are the fundamental pillars of the Christian Faith. We affirm that our service to humanity is in obedience to Christ's calling to affirm Life in all its Fullness to all people.
WE DISCERN that violence against the minorities and the poor is the handiwork of a fundamentalist ideology which is based on intolerance, cultural exclusivism and domination. The atrocities against Christians and other minorities and the call for debates on conversions have marked the ascendancy of the fundamentalist forces. There has been a serious design to communalise the political processes. We also see the unhealthy nexus between political parties and right-wing formations which has resulted in the empowerment of the fundamentalists, as well as the increase in intimidation, organized violence and hate campaigns against the minorities. The recent utterances by several fundamentalist religious leaders have heralded a new form of violence against Christian and minorities. We also discern with alarm the increased intimidation of the minorities through the use of bombs giving the criminals a degree of invisibility and legitimacy thus widening the scope and range of attack.
WE DISCERN that the State has responded very feebly to the demands of the minorities for justice, protection and security. The past thirty months have witnessed several hundred criminal cases ranging from rape, loot, arson, bombing, murder, molestation, and exhumation of graves to the desecration of places of worship. We are appalled at the way the cases have been handled and we are deeply disappointed to note that not even one single case has been solved, or the culprits brought to book. This is a serious contradiction to the statements made by several government officers and officials describing the acts as merely problems of law and order.
WE DISCERN that the present environment is not conducive to serious dialogue with fundamentalist groups. We appreciate and acknowledge the solidarity shown by the majority of the Hindu community and other minority communities who have extended their support, solidarity and understanding. The hate literature produced by the fundamentalist forces points to their intentions and methods. Their rhetoric of cultural nationalism through the process of intimidation exposes their agenda.
WE DEMAND that:
WE RE-DEDICATE OURSELVES:
We call upon all secular and democratic forces to unite in the common struggle against forces of fundamentalism and subjugation.
(Endorsed by forty-four participants)
11th July 2000, Nagpur