Hindu nationalists openly called for a Christian-free India, accused Christians of supporting terrorism and trampled an image of Pope Francis in a recently published online video.
The group, led by Hindu leader Om Swami Maharaj, chanted “Pope Francis murdabad,” translated as “down with Pope Francis,” after Maharaj called for the forceful expulsion of Christians from India, according to Crux Now. Hindu nationalists spread the video online in response to Delhi Archbishop Anil Couto’s appeal to India’s Catholics to fast and pray in the lead-up to 2019’s elections.
“We are witnessing a turbulent political atmosphere which poses a threat to the democratic principles enshrined in our constitution and the secular fabric of our nation,” Cuoto’s appeal read.
“It is our hallowed practice to pray for our country and its political leaders all the time but all the more so when we approach the general elections. As we look forward towards 2019 when we will have new government, let us begin a prayer campaign for our country from May 13.”
Cuoto also attached a written prayer to the appeal.
“May the ethos of true democracy envelop our elections with dignity and the flames of honest patriotism enkindle our political leaders. This is our cry, Heavenly Father, in these troubled times as we see the clouds eclipsing the light of truth, justice and freedom,” Cuoto’s prayer read.
Several leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party objected to Cuoto’s appeal and to his prayer, calling it divisive and accusing him of meddling in India’s politics.
One BJP member of parliament even called for the Indian government to sever diplomatic relations with the Vatican.
The PM must direct MEA to scrap the diplomatic relations with Vatican and seal the its Embassy in Chanakyapuri because the Archbishop is a formal nominee of the Vatican
— Subramanian Swamy (@Swamy39) May 23, 2018
Cuoto responded that he and fellow Indian Catholics pray and fast regularly and that his appeal was in no way an attempt to meddle in India’s government.
Hindu nationalist attacks on Christians in 2017 doubled from those recorded in 2016, coming to a total of 736 attacks compared to 2016’s 348.
Shibu Thomas, founder of Persecution Relief, said the attacks follow a growing trend among Hindu nationalists of accusing Christians of committing acts of sedition and thereby portraying them as threats to India’s national security.
The trend “is a clear indication that those opposed to Christians want to portray them as serious threats to the nation’s safety and security,” Thomas told UCA News.
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