(a) In general.
36. In responding to the threats to Indian Secularism, all are called to play their part for the benefit of every citizen in the country and to uphold the full legitimacy and validity of Indian citizenship for followers of every faith. As Indian citizens we need to engage actively in preserving human rights and civil liberties in our country, and ensure the right to protection of human life and property, the right to live without discrimination on the basis of religion, caste or class, and other related rights. We need to actively oppose the threats to individual freedom, freedom to practise and choose one’s religion, freedom of conscience and the general preservation of the freedom of individuals and groups that the Indian Constitution upholds.
37. At the same time, there is need to challenge attitudes of superiority towards other faiths within our own communities. While professing one’s own religion, there is no justification for belittling the religion of another; rather, an active and public acknowledgement of another’s religion is an affirmation that God does act in mysterious ways and reveals the Godhead in pluriform ways.
38. Programmes of education need to include short sketches of Indian history to expose the manufacturing of history by groups that support hate campaigns and stir up communal violence. Such programmes could examine critically and expose analyses of right wing economic-cum-military forces of several religions that collaborate to foster hatred in order to promote their own supremacy and selfish interests. People of all faiths and classes need to be taught how to critique and interpret media reports of communal tension, terrorism, nationalism, “development”, globalization, which promote inter-group violence in subtle ways. In this way they will understand how the economically rich classes collude with the corporate forces, namely how the economic agenda of fundamentalism whether Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Jain, etc. incites communal hatred for its own ends and how religious fervour and symbols are manipulated to serve materialism and the destruction of other groups. There is a need for interfaith groups that will deconstruct images and metaphors of cultural paranoia, challenge distorted perceptions that create divisions and contradictions, and work to create new metaphors of solidarity and love.
39. We can learn to respond peacefully when we, though innocent, become objects of hatred. We need to verbalise our kind of patriotism, our commitment to the local and the regional (not in opposition to the national) but in the hope of larger unities. Our commitment must extend to India’s peoples, to indigenous peoples, to Dalits, to all vulnerable peoples in our sub-continent, to Asian peoples in distress, to the oppressed worldwide, and to the damaged universe. We need to form ‘peace clubs’ throughout the country along the lines of Gandhi’s Shanti Sena as a viable alternative for peace-building for both majority and minority groups in order to reach beyond survival and redressing of grievances.
40. Religious groups should make it their responsibility to teach their members about other religions and the positive function they perform in society. Fostering dialogue among the different religious groups that form the Indian nation is a means of building a united India in which all are in solidarity with each other. While conflicts have taken place in the name of religion, it is really the materialist and petty interests of persons or groups that have falsified religion and stirred up hatred and violence in society. The practice of authentic religion will always be humanizing and fulfilling.
(b) In particular
41. In view of the increased risk of violence Christian communities need to be shaken out of pietistic passivity so that they do not succumb to panic but acquire competence in resisting threats and taking pre-emptive action. Training in alertness, in filing of FIRs, in legal procedures for redressing grievances as well as building connections with honest administrators, police officials, politicians and NGOs, are important measures not only for preventing violence and mitigating the impact of violence but also for strengthening Indian Secularism that the Indian Constitution upholds.
42. Engaging in interactive and effective dialogue between religions at theological and administrative levels through prayer meetings, joint community action and reparation for social and ecological injustices will help to deal with issues that tend to divide communities and create friction between them. Basic dialogue groups such as inter-faith study groups need to be formed on the pattern of basic communities. Such communities could be supported by the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI), National and Regional Catholic councils, Women’s Desks, etc. The CBCI Gender Policy 2010 states that, “The Church has a duty to promote inter-faith dialogue and discussions to ensure harmony among the religious communities as a counter to the growing forces of fundamentalism.” Inter-religious integration at the level of local self-governance is important for building harmony between different religious and class groups.
43. The fostering of community healing techniques and strategies such as that of restorative justice, conferencing, youth workshops, work camps and study circles to discuss inter-faith rivalries and build inter-faith solidarity will help deal with wrongs that are real or perceived. Conferencing is a new victim-sensitive approach of restorative justice which is used to address wrongdoing on a long-term basis. A conference is like an open forum where those invited are facilitated to tell the events of trauma, express feelings and get healed. The conference includes a wide range of people from the neighbourhood, as well as family members, police, counsellors, and those affected by the trauma or connected with it. The perpetrators of the abuse are also included in the conference and they take the consequences of their actions.
44. We need new metaphors of love which will empower us in our enterprise for creating solidarity with social groups, building bridges between communities. Jesus gave us the law of love, “to love one’s neighbour as oneself” (Mk 12:33). He preached against retaliation. (Mt. 5:38-48) Jesus said, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” (Luke 6:27-28) Mathew has “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven …” (5:44-45). Jesus also forgave, “Father forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34). We need healers and counsellors who will mediate the caring and compassion of a loving and forgiving, God.