Leaders of Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jain, Muslim and Sikh communities gathered in Margao in the western state of Goa April 5 to take a stand against exploitation of religious sentiments for political gain.
In particular, they denounced attacks on five Catholic churches in Rourkela, in the eastern state of Odisha, “at a time when the peaceful Christian community was celebrating their feast of joy—Easter.”
Alluding to pro-Hindu groups imposing restrictions on Christians, Muslims, and socially poor Dalit groups, the religious leaders said in their joint statement:
“Every Indian has his dignity and respect and the right to decide what one eats, to marry the person of one’s choice, to choose the education one selects and the freedom to practice whatever faith one wishes to profess.
“We take strong exception to anyone taking control of these individual decisions be it on the part of the state or by so-called cultural organizations.”
“We vehemently denounce mobs that go around taking law and order into their hands and appeal that the Constitutional norms and articles be respected and implemented in letter and spirit. Dalits be given their rightful place in society.”
As India prepares for general elections in April 2019, reports have emerged of religion-based tensions in the crucial states of West Bengal, Bihar and Rajasthan.
Local reports suggest tensions are politically engineered to divide people along the lines of religion and caste as rival political parties project themselves as champions of sectarian interests.
The statement strongly condemned those who are seeking to inject the poison of hatred into society. It was signed by Bishops' Conference of India Secretary-General Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas; President of Bhartiya Sarva Dharma Sansad Sushil Goswamy Maharaj; Chief Iman of India and President of Imam Umer Ahmed Ilyasi; Chairman of Bangla Sabhi Gurudwara Paramjit Singh Chandok; International Mahavir Jain Mission president Vivek Muni; and founder of Mahabodhi International Meditation Centre Bikku Sanghasena in Ladakh.
From its beginnings, the Church of Scientology has recognized that freedom of religion is a fundamental human right. In a world where conflicts are often traceable to intolerance of others’ religious beliefs and practices, the Church has, for more than 50 years, made the preservation of religious liberty an overriding concern.
The Church publishes this blog to help create a better understanding of the freedom of religion and belief and provide news on religious freedom and issues affecting this freedom around the world.