National Catholic Register | Anto Akkara | January 29, 2020
The Catholic Church has joined in the widespread civic protests against new legislation that, according to critics, strikes at the root of the harmony and equality of religions that is a hallmark of secular Indian democracy.
Hundreds of parishes in Goa in the west of India, Kerala in the south and Kolkata in the east Jan. 26 joined protesters who have been publicly reciting the Preamble of the Constitution of India, which affirms “liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship.”
The unprecedented protests began in Indian universities in early December, when India’s BJP government, which is known for pursuing a Hindu nationalist agenda, used its numerical strength in the Indian Parliament to enact the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
The legislation is widely seen as an assault on the constitutional guarantee against discrimination based on religion, as it singles out Muslim refugees, excluding them from citizenship even if they faced persecution in neighboring Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
“Religion should never be a criterion for citizenship of a country,” Cardinal Oswald Gracias, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), said in a Dec. 28 statement.
The Syro-Malabar Catholic Church also joined in protesting publicly against the discriminatory legislation.
“The government has to convince the people that it is enforcing secularism and equality before law [to all religions],” said a statement from the worldwide synod of the 64 bishops of the Syro-Malabar Church, which is based in the Kerala city of Kochi, during its Jan. 7-15 assembly.