The government’s “silence” on the attacks on churches and Christian institutions in Agra and elsewhere in the country came in for sharp criticism at a dharna organised by the Uttar Pradesh Masihi Association here on Thursday.
Christian leaders expressed anguish at the “consistent” and “selective” attacks. The unwillingness of the police to register first information reports left the community worried, they said.
The representatives of the main churches of Lucknow — the Methodist Church, the Roman Catholic Church, the Assembly of Believer’s Church, the Church of North India and the Assembly of God Church — and Muslim clerics Maulana Khalid Rasheed Firangi Mahali and Maulana Kalbe Jawwad addressed the protesters.
The former Minister Ammar Rizvi, Bishop Gerald John Mathais of the Catholic Diocese and G.S. Bagga of the Uttar Pradesh Sikh Gurudwara Prabhandhak Samiti were present. All Christian institutions and the outpatient departments in missionary hospitals here remained closed in protest against the attacks, including the recent desecration at St. Mary’s Church in Agra. The meeting demanded immediate action against those responsible for the Agra attack.
Bishop Phillip Masih said Christians wanted only self-respect and security. He criticised the government’s silence and the ghar vapsi campaign.
Maulana Kalbe Jawwad, the Imam-e-Juma of Lucknow’s Asafi Mosque and a Shia cleric, demanded immediate action against those responsible for the attack on St. Mary’s Church. Maulana Khalid Rasheed Firangi Mahali, executive committee member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board and president of the India Islamic Centre, said the government’s silence betrayed a “well-planned” strategy. He called for unity among the minorities.‘Unity need of the hour’
Uttar Pradesh Masihi Association president Bishop Augustus Antony called on the minority communities to forge unity. Secretary Rakesh Chattree said the gravity of the attacks could not be minimised by the Central and the State governments by calling them “sporadic” or “stray” incidents.
He was upset at the “painful silence” of the “topmost authorities” in the government to condemn such attacks.
In a memorandum to Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, the Masihi association demanded the immediate arrest of those behind the Agra attack and security for churches and other Christian institutions in the State.