Christians in India demand increased security ahead of Christmas celebrations

Christians protesting against attacks on churches in Delhi in this file photo. (AFP)
Updated 23 December 2017

Christians in India demand increased security ahead of Christmas celebrations

NEW DELHI: The president of the Catholic Church in India has expressed concern over the rising number of attacks against Christians, and has urged the government to ensure their security.
“Recent incidents in some states (in India) have created anxiety among Christians,” Cardinal Baselios Cleemis told Arab News.
He and other church leaders met Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Wednesday to press for greater security for the Christian community.
“The minister assured us that immediate action would be taken to bring the culprits to justice and ensure the safety of the community,” Cleemis said.
Last week, 30 Catholic choir singers were attacked in the Satna district of the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh by right-wing Hindus who accused them of practicing religious conversion.
Local church leaders accused police of arresting the choir members instead of the culprits. “What happened in Satna isn’t an encouraging sign for minorities,” said Cleemis.
“You arrest people on the basis of a rumor, you ignore arson and assault, and you let the culprits go scot free. This worries us,” he added.
“We need the government to act immediately to ensure all possible ways of giving confidence to minorities in India,” Cleemis said.
“India belongs to everyone. If something happens to one community, it affects the entire country. We want a united India with diversity intact.”
Madhya Pradesh is ruled by the Hindu right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). “No such attack on Christians took place in Madhya Pradesh,” BJP spokesman Deepak Vijaywargiya told Arab News. “Since this is an election year, such allegations arise to serve certain vested interests.”
Christians were also reportedly attacked on Friday in the BJP-governed western state of Rajasthan, again over accusations of religious conversion, a charge the minority community in India vehemently denies.
Earlier this week, in the Aligarh district of the BJP-governed eastern state of Uttar Pradesh, a Hindu group pledging allegiance to a local BJP parliamentarian warned Christian schools against celebrating Christmas. “India is increasingly becoming unsafe and hostile to religious minorities such as Christians and Muslims,” Harsh Mander, director of the Center for Equity Studies, told Arab News.

Sri Lankan leader appoints Cabinet, state ministers

Updated 13 August 2020

Sri Lankan leader appoints Cabinet, state ministers

  • Spotlight on economy, security as 67 officials take oath in palace ceremony

COLOMBO: Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa administered the oath of office to 28 new Cabinet ministers and 39 state ministers on Wednesday during a swearing-in ceremony at the Kandy Royal Palace, a week after the Aug. 5 general elections.

“The Cabinet has been formed in a pragmatic and a realistic manner to implement the national program. Special attention was paid to national security, economic development, infrastructure, education, health and sports,” a Presidential Secretariat statement said.

While President Rajapaksa retained the defense portfolio, his brother, Namal Rajapaksa — the 34-year-old son of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa — was named minister for youth and sports.

Several senior politicians, including former president Maithripala Sirisena, were left out of the new Cabinet.

The ninth parliament is set to meet on Aug. 20.

Only two members from minority communities, Fisheries Minister Douglas Devananda and Justice Minister Ali Sabry, were appointed from the Tamil and Muslim communities, respectively.

“I’m delighted to get this portfolio in recognition of my services to the nation, particularly to the legal field,” Sabry said.

He is the second Muslim justice minister to assume office after Rauff Hakeem of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress.

The Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) party, led by PM Rajapaksa, polled 6,853,690, or 59 percent of votes, and secured a total of 145 seats in parliament, including 17 of the National List seats.

Sabry said government efforts to limit the coronavirus pandemic had “impressed the nation enough to vote them into power.”

Lawyer Razik Zarook said: “It’s a great victory for the Muslim community. The era of mistrust and suspicion is over, and the foundation is laid to build the bridges of friendship and amity.”

However, international political lobbyist Muheed Jeeran told Arab News that though the Cabinet is promising, it is “full of confusion.”

“Sabry’s appointment has disappointed the nationalist group who want to implement one nation, one law,” he said.

“But it is a joyful moment for Muslims who supported the SLPP. However, it will be difficult for Sabry as justice minister. Will he become the wooden handle of the axe to chop the tree of traditional Muslim laws as per the nationalist agenda, or will he stand for Muslim rights?”