New Delhi: Two major Christian organisations have come out in opposition to the Citizenship Amendment Act, even as the Christian member of the National Commission of Minorities asserted that the legislation had been welcomed by the community.
NCM vice chairman George Kurian, in a statement on Tuesday, said that he had received messages from Christian leaders welcoming the Citizenship Amendment Act.
“They tell me justice has finally been done to Christians who are victims of draconian blasphemy laws, religious conversions and abductions,” said Kurian, who is a BJP leader from Kerala.
The new Act will approve citizenship for members from six non-Muslim religions – including Christians, if they had been persecuted in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh and had migrated to India before December 31, 2014.
Kurian asserted that if justice is done to certain communities, it should be welcomed by all. “Those who are vociferously advocating for minority rights in India are silent on the persecution of minorities in Pakistan,” he said.
On the same day, Nagpur-based National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) issued a statement saying that the Act polarised communities and contravened the fundamental principles of the constitution.
Asserting that the council was strongly against religion-based citizenship, NCCI stated that any attempt to homogenise religion, culture, language and practices will polarise communities. “Any law which goes against this principle will harm the Indian living system,” it said.
NCCI, which describes itself an ecumenical forum of protestant and orthodox churches in India, noted that the Act has been projected as a measure to safeguard persecuted people from three neighbouring states. “However, instead of persecution and suffering of people as a criterion, the Act has given special preference to people who belong to different religions including Christians”.
The statement said that the while Christians were included, the exclusion of other categories was polarising communities based on faith and creed. “Moreover, the Act underlines the message that religion is the criteria to remain a citizen in this country”.
The council, which claims to represent 30 churches and 14 million people, said that the ‘message’ was in contravention of the constitution and would concern all minorities. “As the core spirit of the Constitution is being challenged, the minorities will face even more anxiety and fear”.
Pointing to the protests in North East, the NCCI said that it proved that indigenous people were sceptical of the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens. “We affirm the demands of indigenous communities to retain and celebrate their distinctive cultural and linguistic heritage and traditions. While the government is keen on a nationwide NRC exercise as a tool to build a ‘New India,’ many continue to live in fear of exclusion. Assam, which became the first demographic laboratory for the testing of NRC, is witnessing a lot of protests”.
The NCCI also expressed concern that the student protests and counteraction by security forces was creating havoc in society. “We are concerned about the psychological trauma of the grooming generations who witness the result of ruthless violence charged with communal spirit”.
Further, the council asked the government to “end any end any action of othering of the minorities” to make sure that peaceful atmosphere prevails in India.
“NCCI assures our prayers and support for maintaining peace in our country. Also, we request our Churches and organizations to take efforts locally to ensuring peace,” it stated.
Similarly, the Evangelical Fellowship of India said that that it shared the concern of the “terrifying impact of the enactment of amendments to citizenship law which threatens to radically change the status of a large number of lndian citizens”.
“The eruption in lndia’s many universities by students – who are the antenna and the conscience of the people. and future decision-makers – is an indication of this,” said the statement issued on December 16.
It said that the “dangerous experiment” of the NRC in Assam and the government’s assurance that illegal migrants from faiths other than Islam would be given citizenship “exposes the motives and the political agenda”.
“The breaking of covenants that the Constitution and founding fathers of the nation had made with the people began with Kashmir, took the course of the NRC and the Citizens Amendment Bill (CAB), and now we have the threats to do away with the two seats reserved for Anglo-lndians in Parliament and Legislative Assemblies,” said the EFI statement.
All these have roused fears among minorities, tribals and Dalits about their status as full citizens, said the fellowship. “While the Prime Minister and the Home Minister keep on assuring that the citizens need not fear: the pronouncements of political leadership and their frontal organizations. on the contrary aggravate the fears”.
Asserting that the NRC and CAA were unnecessary, EFI said that the legislation seems to have been rushed through to take focus away from “burning issues of the day which remain. education. the price of domestic consumer goods, food and above all massive and increasing rural and urban unemployment”.
EFI, which is an umbrella group of evangelical Christians with more than 65,000 churches, stated that government should focus on restoring peace and taking urgent steps to stabilise the economy, reduce prices and revive employment.
“That will be a positive message that the Government would be sending to the nation and the people of the world. We too would rejoice. if that were to happen and hopefully the bitter happenings of the winter of 2019 will become only a bad memory.
We assure the government of our cooperation and prayers in all this,” it said.