WASHINGTON (February 25, 1999) -- In the wake of increasing anti-Christian violence in India, the Chairman of the Bishops' International Policy Committee has formally conveyed his concerns to that nation's ambassador to the United States.
In a February 22 letter to Ambassador Naresh Chandra, Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick expressed his dismay that until recently, "little action appears to have been taken to curb these incidents," despite public condemnations by Prime Minister Vajpayee.
"The fact that persons and groups with ties to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party have expressed support for this campaign of violence against Christians makes these lawless acts even more worrisome," the Archbishop of Newark said.
The letter highlighted a January 24 incident in the northwestern state of Gujarat in which an Australian missionary and his two young sons were burned alive as they slept in their station wagon.
"It is most unfortunate it took such a horrendous crime, one which all India and people everywhere have repudiated, to signal the need for government action to calm inter-communal tensions," Archbishop McCarrick said.
The state of Gujarat, birthplace of Mohandas K. Gandhi, has witnessed the largest number of anti-Christian attacks, with 60 recorded incidents from June to Christmas Day, 1998. From December 25 to early January, an almost equal number of anti-Christian incidents were recorded in this one state alone. Most of the attacks have been against church properties -- schools, health centers, chapels -- but houses and shops of Christians have been ransacked and looted, Bibles burned and individuals beaten.
"It is our fervent hope and our prayer that out of the present crisis may come anew day of religious tolerance among all the many diverse communities that make up your great nation," Archbishop McCarrick told the Indian ambassador.