In a rare display of solidarity, leaders from Christian, Muslim and the Sikh communities in Lucknow came together on Thursday to protest against the recent surge in attacks against minority communities across the country.
Over a hundred Christian schools in 10 districts around Lucknow remained closed on Thursday, apart from OPDs of a few hospitals — including Fatima and St Joseph — in a protest called by Uttar Pradesh Masihi Association (UPMA) following vandalism at a church in Agra last week.
UPMA secretary Rakesh K Chattree said: “Over the last eight months, over 10 attacks have taken place across the country against Christians — be it the rape of a 72-year-old nun in West Bengal or vandalism of a church in Agra. We request the Prime Minister to conduct a CBI inquiry into any incident as that way it will be clear who is behind these attacks, as the motive remains the same in all cases.”
Accusing the state government of washing its hands off the Agra incident by saying that communal or anti-social elements are behind it, he added: “Had it been a minister’s house, the guilty would have been caught immediately… If they don’t heed to our demand and if the attacks continue, we will first call a statewide protest and then a nationwide agitation.”
While a delegation of Christian members met Governor Ram Naik on Thursday, a team from Agra had met SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav on April 18 in this regard.
Reverend Bishop Augustus Anthony, who has established the Assembly of Believers’ Church in India, said: “Imagine the urgency you feel if your home or your family is attacked. But this is more than that, this is about our Jesus.”
Several churches, including Methodist Church, Church of North India, Roman Catholic Church and Assembly of God Church and members of the community — whether Catholic or Protestant — protested side by side. Later, they were joined by leaders from the Muslim and Sikh communities.
Sunni cleric Maulana Khalid Rasheed Firangi Mahali, addressing a crowd of about a thousand, said: “The service of Christians in the fields of health and education has been exemplary… Nonetheless, like other minorities, they are being targeted. If minorities have to survive, they have to join hands.” Shia cleric Maulana Kalbe Jawwad too urged the minorities to forget their differences and come together.
UP Sikh Pratinidhi Mandal president Rajender Singh Dua said: “Christians are peace a loving people and the recent attacks are very unfortunate.” Ammar Rizvi, president of All India Minorities Forum for Democracy, announced a national convention for minorities in the coming months to “discuss the recent attacks”.