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Indian Catholics Want Action After Lawmaker's Remarks
Anto Akkara
Source: Catholic News Service
Published: Friday, August 20, 2010
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BANGALORE, India (CNS)—Indian Catholic officials have demanded action against a legislator in Karnataka state for publicly urging people to "weed out Christianity" from the country.

"The government should take exemplary action against him. It reflects poorly on the government," Archbishop Bernard Moras of Bangalore, chairman of the Karnataka regional bishops' council, told Catholic News Service Aug. 18 after faxing protest letters to the state governor, chief minister and National Human Rights Commission.

Prahlad Remani, a legislator from Khanapur and a member of the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party, known as BJP, said during an Aug. 15 Indian Independence Day celebration: "People must remain watchful about the spread of these seeds of Christianity, and followers of any religion, including Hindus and others, must weed out Christianity. ... If these seeds spread, then our nation will be under danger."

Remani was quoted by a local daily lambasting Christianity as a "foreign" faith.

Nearly 5,000 Christians marched through Khanapur Aug. 18 "to protest the speech degrading Indian Christians and questioning their patriotism," said Father Luis Gonsalves, a Belgaum diocesan priest who coordinated the protests. He told CNS that dozens of Hindus and Muslims also joined in the nearly two-mile march to a local government office.

"Unless the government takes proper action on our complaint, we will be forced to undertake more protests," said Father Gonsalves.

In his letter, Archbishop Moras pointed out that even after the controversy broke out, Remani reiterated to the media that he "stands by his statement, and his commitment to weeding out Christians will continue by the way of a campaign against Christians."

"Christians are an integral part and parcel of this country. Nobody can question our patriotism," the archbishop said.

Christianity in India is traced to St. Thomas the Apostle, who is said to have arrived on the coast of southern Kerala state in A.D. 52 in the company of spice merchants from the Middle East.

"It is absolutely deplorable for an elected representative to make such an inflammatory speech and, too, on Independence Day," Father Babu Joseph, spokesman for the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India, told CNS.

Father Joseph said the bishops' conference was "already exploring legal and other options."

"Stringent punishment should be handed out in this case to ensure that people who swear by the constitution to promote harmony do not dare to call for weeding out a community," he added.

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