PM Modi finally speaks out against attacks on churches, promises action

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday came out strongly against attacks on churches in Delhi, while speaking at a church event in the capital.

Strongly condemning recent attacks on churches, PM Modi assured the Christian community that the government would 'act strongly' without tolerance for fanaticism of any kind.

"Government will not allow any religious group belonging to majority or minority to incite hatred against others overtly or covertly", said Modi, adding that he believed that religion was a personal choice and that everyone had freedom of religion in the country.

Perhaps in a reference to religious conversions by organisations such as the VHP, Modi said that everyone had an 'undeniable right to retain or adopt religion of his or her choice without coercion or undue influence'. Concurrently, the Prime Minister also appealed to all religious groups to exercise tolerance and mutual respect.

Invoking Swami Vivekananda, Modi said that "The principle of equal respect and treatment has been a part of India's ethos. We believe that there is truth in every religion."

Calling India the land of Gautam Buddha and Mahatma Gandhi, Narendra Modi said respect for all religions should be in the DNA of every Indian.
Modi deplored the increasing incidents of religious hostility and intolerance the world over, stating that this was now a matter of global concern.

Praising Saint Euphrasia, Modi said she dedicated her life to prayer and devotion to god. He also hailed Saint Kuriakose Elias Chavara's contribution towards women's empowerment.

Earlier, Archbishop George Alencherry expressed concern over attacks on churches in Delhi, as well as the call for an anti-conversion law.

While thanking PM Modi for taking prompt action after the attack on a Christian school on Monday, the Archbishop said he believed that making new anti-conversion laws would pave the way for creating animosity among believers of different religions. He impressed upon those present at the event that religion was a matter of personal choice and that the church was against forced conversions of any kind.

Following the event however, Alencherry said he was unsure the PM would be able to follow up on his promise of acting against fanatical elements.

"We are convinced about the sincerity with which he spoke, but he may have difficulty executing his words. Because there are forces against this who continue to create problems", said Alencherry.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who also spoke at the event, called India a liberal nation which had no place for 'unacceptable aberrations' such as the church attacks. Claiming that India was a country where all religions had prospered, he said many men and women had undertaken lifelong service of humankind after being inspired by religion. Jaitley added that miscreants responsible for one of the attacks had already been brought to book.

Modi and Jaitley were speaking at the celebration of Elevation to Sainthood of Kuriakose Elias Chavara and Mother Euphrasia.