Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached out to all minority communities across the country on Tuesday assuring them that ``his government would stand by individual’s right to freedom of faith.’’
Breaking his silence and speaking out for the first time after a >series of attacks on churches and a >Christian school in the national Capital, Mr. Modi said: ``Fanaticism will not be tolerated….My government will give equal respect to all religions and will not allow any form of violence against any religion.’’
The PM’s message at a function organised by the Catholic Church at Vigyan Bhawan to celebrate the elevation to sainthood of Kuriakose Elias Chavara and Mother Euphrasia – both from Kerala – was instantly interpreted as a signal to extremist groups, and welcomed by many. Mr Modi’s silence on divisive campaigns such as ghar vapasi was widely criticised, including by international media. US president Barack Obama also lamented increasing religions violence in India, on two occasions recently.
Mr. Modi was as unambiguous as he could get, on Tuesday. His government believes ``that there is truth in all religion,’’ the PM said. ``We consider the freedom to have, to retain, and to adopt, a religion or belief is a personal choice of a citizen.”
Assuring religious freedom for all, the Prime Minister noted that religious intolerance is a global concern. ``Today we are celebrating the sainthood of two Indians. Spiritualism is rooted in India’s culture and our openness to new idea is present even in the Rig Veda,’’ he said.``Religion is a personal choice and I appeal to all religious leaders that they should follow restrain, mutual respect and tolerance of all religion. We will not allow any minority or majority group to propagate hatred against any community overtly or covertly. Equal respect for all religion should be part of the DNA of all Indians,’’ said the Prime Minister. The PM said his mantra was `development’.
Watch: Reactions to Mr.Modi's assurance on religious tolerance
Also speaking out against the recent attacks on Churches and a Christian school in the Capital, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitely said: ``These attacks are unacceptable aberrations and there is no space in India for such incidents and people.’’
Among the dignitaries present at the function were Cardinal George Alencherry, Archbishops Andrews Thazhath, Kuriakose Bharanikulangara and Anil Couto. Senior political leaders including Union Minister for Minority Affairs Dr. Najma Heptulla and P.J. Kurien, Deputy Chairman, Rajya Sabha, were also present on the occasion.
Meanwhile, extending the support of the Christian community in nation building, Major Archbishop of Syro-Malabar Church Cardinal George Alencherry said: ``Conversions can not be done by false means. Government’s alleged plans to bring in new laws in this regard will create animosity and destroy the peace and harmony in the country.’’
Stating that Christians are peace loving people, he noted that ``this should not, however, be used to trample us. We also appeal to the Prime Minister to look into the issue of Dalit Christian rights.’’
The previous incidents where churches were found vandalised in Delhi are:
All you need to know about 'ghar wapsi'
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