Archbishop Machado calls for respect for religious freedom after Christians are attacked in Tamil Nadu

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Archbishop Machado calls for respect for religious freedom after Christians are attacked in Tamil NaduChennai (AsiaNews) – On Sunday, after a local official named Uthman was arrested for allegedly attacking a Christian preacher and two associates, Hindu extremists protested in front of the police station accusing police of supporting the religious conversion activities of the three Christians.

Archbishop Felix Machado of Vasai spoke out following this incident in the southern state of Tamil Nadu involving these Christians and members of Munnani Hindu, a Hindu nationalist organisation.

“The multireligious and multicultural character of India and the spirituality of the country must be upheld to defend life, promote peace between peoples, and care for creation, our common home,” said the archbishop, who is also secretary general of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India. “The freedom that our freedom fighters fought for should be the order of the day for everyone, especially to protect the weakest,” he added.

According to the preliminary investigation, Uthman attacked Spendi Labersan and two of his friends who had come to the city to visit a relative in Golden Nagar, near Nanjundapuram. Members of Munnani Hindu claim that Uthman simply interrogated Labersan while he was preaching in a public place in favour of religious conversion. In his complaint, Labersan says he was stopped, threatened and eventually attacked.

“It is a matter for the courts. If someone does not agree with the beliefs or actions of another, he is free to resort to legal remedies,” Archbishop Machado told AsiaNews. “The police made the arrests doing its duty and following lawful procedures. We have to let the law take its course."

"Religious freedom is enshrined in the preamble to the constitution,” the prelate explained. “To practise and propagate a faith is a right, and if this has been violated, the law can be applied and the courts can decide.”

Nevertheless, “There are restrictions on propagation; it is not a free field. We need to respect the freedoms of others, but no one can stop us from upholding the spirit of the preamble." More importantly, "Our religious traditions are diverse, but our differences are not the cause of conflicts and disputes, nor prejudices.”

Next week, India will celebrate 75 years of independence, “a period of time for the country to gain maturity and wisdom.” What is more, "We have inherited a great legacy. Mahatma Gandhi was an outstanding and courageous witness of truth, love and non-violence.”

Consequently, "My hope is that we will be able to avoid any kind of parochialism and restrictions on people and go beyond the narrow horizon of our own interests in order to open ourselves to a true and sincere comparison committed to the protection of fundamental rights everywhere and by everyone, remaining at all times faithful to the Indian constitution, so that everyone is accepted as a brother or sister.”

by Nirmala Carvalho