'Hidden Agenda': Bengaluru Archbishop Condemns Attacks on Karnataka's Muslims
Archbishop Peter Machado asked the BJP government to rein-in the fringe elements which target minorities.
The Quint DAILY
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Metropolitan Archbishop of Bengaluru Peter Machado minced no words, “The Karnataka government seems to have an agenda, and is going after the religious minorities.” In a first, the archbishop, who represents the Catholic church, extended solidarity to Muslims, who are facing persecution, in the state.
Archbishop Machado was speaking on the occasion of Good Friday, the day that marks the commemoration of Christ’s crucifixion, to The Quint, “The government is complicating matters by not stopping the fringe groups from harming the Muslims.”
‘Both Christians and Muslims are Targets’
The archbishop, who has been at the forefront of protests against Karnataka’s anti-conversion bill, or Karnataka Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Bill, 2021, said that the Bharatiya Janata Party government should do good governance, “taking everyone, including the minorities, along.”
The archbishop had earlier said that the anti-conversion bill infringes on the fundamental rights of Christians in the state.
“It looks as if the present government is not only against the Christians but also the Muslims. First they went after Christians, and now they are going after the Muslims.”
The archbishop stressed that the government should take into confidence not just the majority, but also the minorities, who are “jewels of the society.” The archbishop further said, “We have told the Muslim leaders, at least those who are in touch with us, that we are with them. We are all minorities. We are all together in this.”
The archbishop said that efforts to target the minorities could affect Karnataka’s diverse social milieu.
'Christians in Solidarity Over Right to Choose Food’
Pondering over a campaign to boycott halal certified products, that had gripped the country in the beginning of April, the archbishop said, “Food is the basic right of every person. No one should dictate what, when or how we should eat.”
Banning meat on specific days, is like “asking for a boycott of Christmas cakes because they are considered a Christian delicacy,” Machado added.
The archbishop said that food preferred by a community can be had even by another communities. “The mentality that one community’s food should only be for that community, is damaging. It is sad.”
Taking the solidarity forward, the Catholic church of Karnataka will hold an iftar for the Muslims in the month of Ramzan. The iftar will be held at the archbishop’s residence on 26 April.
“Festivals are pious and joyous occasions. Festivals send the message that when we are happy, God and community are happy,” Machado said.
If it is not nipped in the bud, communal boycott calls on food could extend to other basic necessities, the archbishop rued.
“Tomorrow, what if some says medical care should not be taken at hospitals run by certain communities. What if there is a call to boycott blood donated by people of certain communities. Where will this end?”
Christians will not support campaigns that intend to polarise the society, he added.
‘We Have No Problem with Hijab’
The archbishop said that women covering their heads “out of respect for God” is a prevalent practice among Muslims, Christians and some Hindus.
“I am sorry that children’s education is getting affected. This is part of the hidden agenda to deny education to Muslim women,” the archbishop said.
Similarly, the government had earlier tried to deny education to Dalits and the poor by attempting to prevent Christian educational institutions from giving financial support to the socio-economically backward sections. The anti-conversion bill allows the government to scrutinise charitable contributions, including scholarships, to the poor, he added.
“Personally, I think that we should not make an issue out of the tradition of women covering their heads,” he clarified. The church, however, respects the High Court order and “will obey the order,” archbishop Machado said.
The need of the hour is to stress on “unifying factors between religions, and not the differences between religions,” the archbishop said. Different communities should mingle, to iron out differences. “Allow the youth to mingle with everyone,” the archbishop said.
What Should the Government Do?
The government, which has declared 25 December or Christmas day as a day for good governance, should govern well and take people in the right direction, the archbishop insisted.
“It is the duty of the government to lift up the small and weak ones. The government should be with the minorities too. The government should protect the minorities and instill confidence in us.”
The government should control the communal fringe elements, he added. “The government is abandoning its governance by ‘outsourcing’ matters to the fringe groups.” The archbishop said that the constitution should be placed above differences which the fringe elements have been trying to exploit.
“The constitution is our rulebook. Whether you are Hindu, Muslim or Christian, constitution is our book,” archbishop Peter Machado said.
Christians would continue to have dialogues with all sections of the society, the archbishop said. “What we uphold is the right to dignity. We advocate dignity for all.”
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