"The father of the nation brought freedom to India, freedom from British rule. Sadly, however, Mahatma’s struggle for liberation in India is not complete".
AsiaNews presents an exclusive reflection given by Cardinal Telesphore Placidus Toppo, archbishop of Ranchi, to correspondent Nirmala Carvalho. In it, the cardinal explains how the anti-Christian violence underway in many parts of the country is an attempt to keep India in the slavery of discrimination and caste division, and to block its complete liberation.
"Gandhi always preached equality", he recalls, "he never tired of saying, 'We are all children of God', and those blinded – who were unable to understand him - killed him".
"The work of Gandhiji is not complete. Today, our beloved motherland India is in a certain sense in a worse situation than in the days under the British regime. India has to be liberated from these forces - the forces of darkness which are burning Christians, raping nuns, killing innocent Christians, destroying and desecrating churches - India has to be liberated from them. These forces instigate others to choose to live their lives in the way of darkness and their deeds are death, division and destruction".
"The central government is taking certain steps in the right direction, and invoked article 355 of the constitution. The opposition to this article 355 is also politically motivated. God writes straight even on crooked lines, and something good will come out of this, truth shall prevail".
"In the words of our Mahatma: 'They may torture my body, break my bones, even kill me - then they will have my dead body, not my obedience'. And in Orissa, our priests, religious and lay people have endured this, and they are witnesses of the light of Christ". (Invoking article 355 essentially threatens the state of Orissa with Federal control of the state.)
"We are only instrument of the Risen Lord, we must look at Jesus on the Cross, forgive our enemies, and we shall see that these enemies will be defeated, overcome. The Cross is our strength, we are elected to be witnesses of the Resurrected Christ, and this has a very strong link to our symbol of freedom 'Satya Meva Jayate', meaning 'Truth Alone Triumphs', which is written below our national emblem - one of the national symbols of our freedom".
"No one lives in a vacuum, we are proud Indians. Gandhi lived the Gospel values, he conquered the British empire, so our ancestors immortalised for all eternity on the national symbol of our freedom the line 'Satya Meva Jayate'. Throughout his life, Mahatma Gandhi fought against the power of force. In Orissa and the other states ravaged by certain extremists forces, forceful powers were unleashed on the innocent Chrsitians, causing death and destruction for the minority Christian community".
"Gandhiji’s work his work is yet to be completed. His struggle was for liberty for India and it will be this strength of courage in self-sacrifice and forgiveness that will be for the benefit of all. This is the beginning of something new, for India, for the Church and for the world. Violence, terrorism and hate will be overcome: Truth Will Prevail - Satya Meva Jayate".
The situation in Orissa between Hindus extremists and Christians, is now spreading to other
Indian states. Invoking article 355, which essentially threatens both Orissa and the southern state of Karnataka with Federal emergency rule, is seen to be a response to the fact the state authorities have done nothing to stop the violence being inflicted on Christians by Hindu radicals.
Eye witness accounts speak of killings, torture, forced conversions, and millions of dollars of lost property, mostly private, but also church buildings, for which the state police have stood by and watched. The two states in question are led by the BJP, a Hindu nationalist party, which represents the largest opposition party to the ruling federal government.
Since Christians represent less than 2.5% of India's total population, some observers wonder if the Federal government will have the political will to follow through on their threat. It seems to me that this is an important question. Will a Nation/State founded on the principles of Mahatma Gandhi follow through on those principles, or cave in to political expediency?
Cardinal Toppo's observation in this article gets to the heart of the matter. Christianity's foundational philosophy of the equality of all people stands in stark contrast to the caste system of Hinduism--theoretically that is.
Within the Roman Catholic Church itself vestiges of the caste system still operate. Most of the clergy are from the upper castes, and most of the laity from the Dalits or untouchables. Some observers put this distinction in stark terms: 90% of the clergy/religious are from the upper castes, 70% of the laity are Dalits. When John Paul II addressed this issue with the Indian Bishops Conference in late 2003, only six of the 156 bishops were Dalits.
Much of the violence in India is not necessarily because of Catholicism, although Catholicism is taking the brunt of the attacks, but from the true equality practiced by Protestant evangelical sects. Catholicism as it's currently structured, doesn't pose much of a threat to the entrenched social caste system, but Evangelical Protestantism does. The reality is that in India the social caste system is changing with the increase in over all education, and the fact discrimination based on the caste system is officially outlawed in the Indian constitution.
It's tempting to look at this situation in India as purely religious intolerance, and plain old political fear mongering. Looking at it a little deeper though, there are other aspects to this fear mongering. One of them is the link the BJP maintains exists between Christianity and economic exploitation. In other words Christian evangelization brings with it a lot of poverty, to which it's leaders are indifferent, because the reward is in the next world for exploited believers, but in this world for the exploiters. That's pretty dark energy as well.
I did a little research and found you can make a very strong case for a direct correlation between percentage of a national population which claims to be Christian and the percentage of people living under the poverty line. Actually all one needs to do is take a quick look at this map and couple it with the history of Christian evangelization. It does seem that where the gospel message was brought, poverty followed and became entrenched. A de facto form of an economic caste system was part and parcel the Gospel message.
Is the US free from this notion of the linkage of Christianity and poverty? Actually it's getting worse. Here's a recent study done by a University of Utah professor linking payday loan offices with percentage of fundamental Christians. The debacle on Wall Street is being played out on Main Street, but I doubt there will be a bailout package for people being fleeced by pay day loan companies. That particular form of resurrection is reserved for the very wealthy, the rest of us get to be witnesses of the Resurrected Christ.
I think Christians, especially American Christians, need to really think about the issues of Christianity and poverty. If it's true that poverty follows the Gospel message, at least the message as it's taught by those in the service of the economic interests of the West, it may give us a few clues as to why some of the world's other religions are not keen on the spread of Christianity. It's not about the overt message of Jesus, it's about the hidden agenda of some messengers.
That's as true for us in the States as it is for Christians in India. Christians have to stop defending the messengers who twist the message for their own ends, and ask them to start living the Gospel values they espouse. A good place to start is with the Wall Street bail out. Cardinal Toppo's reference to the Truth espoused by Ghandi pertains just as much to our political parties as it does to the BJP.