We, the members of the Indian Theological Association (ITA), gathered for its XXV Annual meeting at Dharmaram Vidya Kshetram, Bangalore, from 3-7 May, 2002, studied and reflected on the theme "Christian Commitment to Nation Building". This convention, in solidarity with all citizens of this great country, was part of our ongoing effort to understand the meaning and implications of the common task of building the Indian Nation which is our Matrubhumi and Punyabhumi, and contribute towards this process. A deeper understanding of our Christian faith commitment urges us to rededicate ourselves to the task of building the nation as a communion of various communities. Each community should have a genuine freedom in realizing its legitimate aspirations and, at the same time, exercise a sense of responsibility in cherishing and fostering other cultures and religions.


I. Context

1. We are proud of our nation with its age-long history, ancient civilization and its vast and rich cultural resources. A distinctive mark of its resourcefulness is manifested in our ancient, and modem, predilection for the culture of pluralism: ethnic, cultural, religious. The struggle of our people for freedom and self-determination was indeed unique in its method and strategy: disavowal of violence and adhesion to the power of truth, abj uring of hatred towards the oppressor, and democratic in spirit. By holding social transformation, economic opportunity and literacy for all as top priority, a strong foundation has been laid for the solidity of the Indian nation. The rich humanism that shaped the vision of our founding fathers/mothers, with their advocacy of a healthy secularism, is deeply engraved in our well crafted and balanced Constitution. Today all these universally acclaimed and treasured values are under severe strain. The rise and spread of communal forces, in the name of seeking to restore the past identity and glory of our country in the comity of nations, tend to fragment it on caste, communal or racial grounds and destroy its sublime foundational values of tolerance and harmony. We take note of these self-styled patriots who with abject self-interest try to preserve and promote many oppressive systems and structures that marginalize a great majority of the people.

2. At the time of this reflection on nation building, we are pained by the irreparable damage inflicted on the democratic culture and structures of our nation: the gruesome happenings in Gujarat. Official reports state that more than 900 have lost their lives in this communal carnage and mayhem. Unofficial reports put the number of those killed in this violence at more than 2000. Beyond these cold statistics we see the dismembered and charred bodies of our brothers and sisters, mostly Muslims but also Hindus. We hear the agonizing cries of the thousands who have become homeless or orphaned, and of those who have lost their livelihood and the fruit of their labour and toil. We hear the weeping and wailing of mothers who have lost their children, of children who have lost their parents, brothers and sisters, of women who have lost their husbands, and were raped, mutilated and/or killed. We are informed that more than 500 places of worship have been destroyed and many more desecrated. Shops and hotels have been burnt down. People have been driven away from their homes and warned not to return. Protection of the lives and property of the citizens is foremost among the prime duties of the State. But this Constitutional right was denied to the affected. Millions of citizens in Gujarat, even more so nationwide, belonging to a minority community, feel betrayed by the State as well as society. The reports of the State Government's complicity in massive and selective destruction of people's lives and properties, which the State is bound by oath to protect, have shattered the faith of many in the existing system of governance. The National Human Rights Commission, in its studied report on Gujarat, expressed its distress. In fact, it is the Indian Nation that was partly mutilated, burnt or humiliated when the citizens of India belonging to the State of Gujarat were made to experience such horrible tragedies amidst total helplessness.

As Indians who profess faith in Jesus Christ and conscious of our duty as citizens of our beloved country, we have contributed much to nation building by our dedicated service over the years in many aspects of national life. The significant service we have rendered and continue to render in the field of education, health care and social transformation is recognised by all. But in recent times, the Christian commitment has been questioned especially when it serves the poor and the marginalized. Further, those who would like to perpetuate oppressive structures for their own vested interests see it as a threat. The gruesome murders of some of our priests, nuns and social activists can be seen as consequences of our commitment to build a nation of equality and justice.

At the same time, our dichotomized perception of life as this worldly and the other-worldly, matter and spirit, natural and supernatural, secular and sacred, has sometimes hindered us from fully involving ourselves in matters concerning the nation and problems challenging our people.


II. The Making of our Nation

3. A nation exists where the people, though diverse, have a shared sense of identity, consider themselves as being part of a whole, to which they feel the need to belong. A nation includes all peoples, irrespective of differences of religion, caste, class, race, ethnicity or language, who-share a common. . \territory and history.

4. Becoming a nation is a process in which the struggle for livelihood is recognized as pivotal for the prosperity and' welfare of its people. It also enhances the integrity and preservation of its culture. The ceaseless efforts of people to produce sufficient resources for their daily living is central to their identity that is also shaped by their myths, folklore, festivals, history, religious beliefs, symbols, customs, institutions and social structures. The growth of science and technology, as well as progress in industry and modernization also contribute significantly to the process of nation building.

5. The making of the Indian nation began as a movement against colonialism. It was a struggle primarily for the political freedom of the country. Though it appeared that the people were knitted together against their common enemy and that the nation in the making was committed to pluralism, secularism and diversity, a narrower and exclusive understanding of nationalism was already emerging. Today that narrow understanding has grown in strength and come to full stature, even declaring itself as the legitimate alternative to the present order, to the great dismay and distress of all others.

Consequently left out of consideration or not duly acknowledged in our own times, is the contribution of dalits, tribals, women, and minorities - particularly the Muslims and Christians, and other marginalized groups. They are often made to feel by certain sections that they do not belong to the main stream of society and their legitimate perspectives, hopes and aspirations find little place in the operative vision of a united and prosperous India. Dominating-dominated relationship affects the comity of the peoples and thereby the health and integrity of our nationhood.

6. A nation cannot be strong if its women who constitute roughly half its population, are still denied equal rights. Even after being a free nation for fifty years, in India women as a group is excluded and marginalized, and are not adequately represented in the main stream of our polity. In spite of being nearly 50% of the total population, their representation in Parliament has never been more than 8%, in State Assemblies 10% and in the council of Ministers 13%. What is still worse, they are abused, exploited, and subjected to manifold forms of violence. Nation building will not succeed when the traditional and patriarchal structures continue to deny women their rightful political space. With their particular sensitivity for issues concerning life, women should be well represented in policy-making bodies. This will ensure a more just allocation of the resources of the nation and facilitate a sustainable growth. Elimination of any form of discrimination against women is central to the health of the nation.

7. Further, nation building is difficult if not impossible when 260 million dalits and tribals continue to be deprived and exploited. Not only are they deprived of the fundamental right to have their basic identity recognised and their needs met, but they are also denied access to God-given resources as well as opportunities in life. Their being subjected to physical violence, intimidation and atrocities continues unhindered. Sensitivity to the tribal heritage is scarce in developmental planning and projects, designed and implemented by non-tribals for the benefit largely of the non- tribals. Restoration of egalitarianism is essential to the integrity of the nation.

8. Nation building entails the task of community building. Community includes all and excludes none. It is the context where the principle of equality is practiced and freedom of thought, expression and dissent affirmed. It implies coexisting with and accepting varied cultures and religious traditions, and rejecting social inequality/stratification on the basis of caste, class or religion. A nation is built through peaceful, egalitarian, democratic and participatory practices of self- governance and socio-economic development, with attention to distributive justice. Concerted effort at eradication of illiteracy, poverty and unemployment, the threefold enemy of any nation's growth, should be the priorities in any planning and execution.

9. It is the responsibility of every citizen to contribute towards nation building and space must be provided for every Indian to play his/her part in the process. The process envisages the emergence of a communion of communities that reflects the larger human community. Clearly, each community in this communion has a vital role to play in this process.

10. It is a matter for rejoicing that the Indian experiment in self- governance has continued successfully for over fifty 'years. This satisfaction is due largely to the partial realization of the goals that the nation had set for itself. However, the recent upsurge of forces that threaten the integrity of the nation raises questions and forebodes ill for the future of the nation and for the continuing realization of those goals. The sacred task of building our nation encounters challenges both from within and from without. The former pertains to the formidable threat to the real secularism of our polity from the communal politics of all hues especially Hindutva. The latter has to do with certain effects of globalization that steadily and silently erode our Indian economy, culture and sovereignty through the subtle invasion of our values and interests.

11. The recently raised smokescreen of 'cultural nationalism' being pursued with a fascist strategy with the support of fascist outfits has a hidden national agenda. This narrowly conceived 'cultural nationalism' means virtually 'religious statism' or religious homogenization. Its forceful introduction seeks to halt the unfinished task of bringing about social transformation, communal harmony, economic well being and universal literacy. Further, the uplift of the dalits and tribals by means of a positive discrimination in their favour as well as recognizing and promoting gender equality and the rights of women have no place in that agenda. As a result, serious damage is being done to the nation's democratic structures, institutions and culture. Signs are clear and abundant that the nation is being pushed in a direction rejected by the ethos of the founding epoch. Divisiveness and exclusion of certain communities, heightened communalism, a fascist political culture, reprehensible subservience by certain political parties to the homogenizing Hindutva ideology in some States and even at the Centre are among the forces challenging the nation's integrity.

Injecting communalism into India's history is a sinister move from the ideologues of Hindutva. History has become a battleground in the present political scenario because the representation of the past has become a critical issue to prolong the logistics of Hindutva politics. As a result a particular brand of historical consciousness is being groomed in society without due regard for the methodical concerns of historiography. The following are some of the insidious activities that the present Hindutva political dispensation is engaged in: 1. Rereading of the past as anchored in the Ramajanmabhumi-Babri Masjid confrontation; 2. Converting the independent Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) into a body of Hindutva ideologues; 3. Rewriting of history textbooks with a political agenda; 4. Insisting on Saraswati vandana in the schools that have a multireligious composition. Communal historiography is contrived to provide historical legitimacy to a concept of Hindu Rashtra by excluding the minorities of other traditions. The implied agenda is to force-disseminate a novel but unmaintainable conclusion that the Muslims and Christians in India are foreigners, if not enemies, because of their religion. Homogenizing of regional and local cultures through Hindutva historiography is a radical challenge to the building up of the Indian Nation that is historically, socially, religiously, culturally and geographically a community with several identifiable minorities. The very make up of the nation is under assault.

12. At the same time, the existence of fanatical elements among minority groups must also be recognized. Fanatical trends in the Muslim community can be perceived as part of a worldwide movement with its own ideology. In attempting to meet the challenges of Hindutva, there is the danger that the forces in Islam become communal. The fear and anger created by the orgy of violence against the Muslim community in the recent past have exacerbated a disturbing trend - the apparent ghettoization of a large section of the Muslim community in India. Will the Muslim community retreat more deeply into a religious identity that embraces a more conservative brand of Islam that is hostile to the modern, pluralistic and secular world? Like others, the Muslim community in today's India is challenged to remain in the mainstream and be fully committed to nation building, in spite of its increasing isolation resulting from various factors and more recently the Gujarat tragedy.

The presence and activities of certain Christian fanatical groups in the country are also aggravating the situation. These manifestations of fanaticism merit unequivocal condemnation by all who stand for India's integrity.

13. India's secularism is made up of a vision and an experience of the harmony of life that respects and appreciates pluralism in world-views and ways of living. A commitment to tolerance (sahisnuta) rooted in sarvadharma samabhavana and the ideal of vasudhaivakutumbakam (total human community) are the two fundamental constituents of India's secularism. Secularism has been an operative force uniting the people of this country and enabling them to interact with their distinct heritages: 7 anthropological races, 7 religions and thousands of their denominations, 325 spoken languages, and 4600 distinct communities living in 600,000 villages. Secularism has been seen as a synonym for national integration or emotional unity sustaining the unionist culture and ethos of the Constitution.

14. Cross-cultural or inter-cultural relationship has been always a mutually enriching cultural process all through history. In recent times trade, communications, professional exchanges and other activities have been bringing nations into closer contact. With the emergence of the phenomenon of globalization, such interaction has reached a critical point so that it poses a challenge to Indian culture. From one perspective, globalization enforces a 'deconstruction' of Indian cultural values and identity and a corresponding tilt towards the western culture. Not only is there an increasing stress on individualism but there is pressure to assume a consumerist behaviour that promotes a 'throw-away' culture. In allowing ourselves to be seduced by a hedonistic life- style propagated through the media, we tend to see less meaning in the values of a simple life, austerity and renunciation. The poor and the marginalized are the worst affected victims of globalization since they are considered dispensable. An uncritical acceptance of the fruits of globalization and an abject surrender to the forces of a market -economy do not make for nation building but lead to disintegration.

15. In the face of these challenges to nation-building every citizen is asked to re-affirm the values that promote the unity and integrity of the nation as a whole and further contribute to the building of a just and egalitarian society where the basic needs of all are met and possibilities for human development are made available to all.


III. Christian Commitment to Nation-building

16. Biblical tradition reveals that Yahweh/God willed the making of nations from the time of Abraham who received God's promise: "And I will make of you a great nation ..." (Gen 12:2). As the Lord of history, God is depicted as apportioning land to the people of Israel, and ruling over them (Dt. 19:8). God extends his rule not only to Israel but also to the other nations (Amos 9:7). All the nations are invited to be partners with God in the new covenant that Israel makes visible. The 'new heaven and new earth' designed by God is the coming together of all nations. Their peoples will live in peace, justice, solidarity and prosperity for God himself will wipe away every tear (Rev 21:1-4). This is the hope we share in our efforts to build our nation.

17. The response of Jesus in Mark's gospel reminding his audience that they should be as mindful of their duties to God as they are of their duties to the emperor, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and render to God the things that are God's (Mk 12: 17) highlights two aspects of a person's commitment: one's duty to God as well as one's obligation to care for the world. A person cannot make a commitment to God neglecting the concerns of the world, or a commitment to the world without reference to God. To reduce one's commitment to anyone of these aspects is to reject the unity of all beings and to destroy communion in creation that is ordained by God. Further, usurping the power of the State in the name of religion or using religion to serve the political agenda of the State stand in the way of God's reign being established in the world.

18. The Christian vision of nation building is rooted in the very theology of creation, where there is no confusion and division regarding the Christian commitment to build up and strengthen the nation. The scope of this commitment is further etched out in Jesus' teaching in the gospel in which the reign of God is proclaimed and promoted as the creation of a society where there are no marginalized since every person finds space to realize himself/herself.. In the context of India the Christian vision of a just society is essential for the integrity and the harmony of the nation.

19. Unfortunately, in the course of history the stream of Christian theology that was influenced by the dualistic philosophy of Gnosticism and which considered matter to be evil, affected the Christian's vision of the world. Augustinian theology that seemed to affirm the total separation of the city of God from the city of man implicitly questioned the Christian's effort to build a better world of man. In contrast, the perspective of Ireneus with its acknowledgement of the world as fundamentally good and of persons being able to strive for perfection in and through the world, confirmed the Christian in his/her labour to build a better world.

20. The condemnation of this world as evil and an emphasis on an otherworldly salvation resulted in a vision of life that was too individualistic and overly spiritual. This created a fear of the world as well as a pessimistic outlook on the goal of life in this world. Such an attitude could not promote a serious commitment to nation building. But the biblical understanding of salvation is more comprehensive and balanced. It is concerned with the wholeness of human persons and the well being of all creation. Salvation as wholeness is realized in this world and finds its final (eschatological) fulfillment beyond the world. It calls for a commitment to transform the world according to God's design for humanity and for the whole world.

21. Commitment to nation building, therefore, is the bounden duty of every Christian, flowing from his/her faith commitment. It is a divine call to build up communities of justice, peace and reconciliation. It entails a discerning integration of the Christian vision of life with the aspirations of our sisters and brothers of other faiths and secular ideologies and especially, the deprived and the marginalized, so that all may experience the fulfillment of God's reign in their lives.


IV. Renewed Commitment to the Nation

22. Being firm in faith and making the Reign of God concrete in its life, the Christian community holds on to the Gospel values in shaping a humane society and in building the nation. The result has been the special concern for the poor and oppressed, the pouring out of love as service to the neighbour, fidelity to the rule of law to maintain the social order, respect for the nation's constitution and the values it enshrines as well as reverence and esteem for those belonging to other faiths.

23. In that process, creative interaction with the liberative and the humanizing elements in the diverse traditions take place. Thus dialogue in action and fellowship among religions become actual. In this process, almost as the first requirement, we need new mindsets to redesign our togetherness as a nation. For instance, the new mindset could be constructed on considerations like 'the other is me,' 'the person beaten by the police is me,' 'the child crying for food is me,' 'my selfhood is only a part of a wider selfhood'. These considerations are life - affirming and since life itself is of supreme value, any life-damaging or life-destroying tradition, institution, value or ideology needs to be rooted out.

24. As the fundamental and inalienable rights of a person constitute the firm foundation for individuals, families and communities, any violation of these by the State or any religious or ideological group must invite condemnation by all citizens. It is our solidarity with one another and the conviction that pain - joy, hunger - satisfaction, need - fulfillment, quest for meaning and realization are the same for all that bring about a deeper communion among all citizens of our country. Such convictions will enable us to reach out to all humans in the world beyond the boundaries of our nation.

25. Next in importance is the need to affirm that citizenship, and not communal or caste identity, is accepted as the basis of all our committed actions for the well being of society. The latter is divisive and fragmenting; the former is cohesive and unifying and provides a common platform for persons living in this land. On the bedrock of common citizenship every form of plurality receives recognition and contributes to the richness of the nation.

26. All Christians should endeavour to express solidarity with their fellow citizens. They must feel their pain and express their protest whenever a person of any faith or culture or race or profession, is made to suffer deprivation or violence anywhere in the country. They need to register promptly their concern at the destruction of ethnic, cultural, or religious symbols like sacred books, sacred temples, sacred places, and the disrespect shown to these.

27. As responsible citizens we need, next, to make the Directive Principles of State Policy the framework of our service, along with the Constitution. Against the background of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, these normative documents function as reference points for inspiration, planning, implementation and evaluation. The dignity, rights and freedom of every Indian citizen become the concern of every Christian. If these in anyway or anywhere interfered with anywhere, repressed or deprived by any agency, civil or State, the Christian as a responsible citizen must, along with other concerned citizens, alert society to intervene and to restore them. As every right has its corresponding duty, every citizen has the obligation to fulfill these duties.

28. In our life as citizens and as members of the Church we should work to promote structures that enable the participation of all, upholding the value of transparency, so vital to democracy. Our national motto Satyam eva Jayate has to be normative in every transaction, from the Indian President to the common man/woman in the street. Hence seeking additional gratification when one has merely performed one's duty is to be condemned as immoral and harmful to the interests of the nation and to the integrity of our culture. The cancer of corruption that has been eating into the social ethical fabric of our society needs immediate treatment.

29. We, belonging to the Christian community, reaffirm the culture of pluralism with in the framework of the nation that is pluralist in its conception. We regard the diversity of races, cultures, religions and languages as richness bestowed on the nation, and reject any effort to do away with such diversity as a step towards its impoverishment.

30. Every citizen needs to be reminded of the implied meaning of the social contract: the mutuality of one's relationship with the society on which he/she patterns his/her existence. While the State is expected to honour the rights and freedom of the individual citizen, he/she, in turn, has an obligation to contribute to the make up and well being of the State, i.e., civil society as a whole. The commonly invoked 'rule of law' and 'law and order' need to be given far greater respect and adhesion than these receive today, in order to make our society more livable. Care is to be taken that such laws will be enacted only after taking into account the multicultural make up of India and the authentic interest of all citizens. If ignoring, by-passing, violating and subverting the rule of law has become more common today, there is a greater need to restore the just and egalitarian social order envisaged in our Constitution so that healthy freedom and sound social inter-relationships are enjoyed by all. As members of the Christian community, it is also our responsibility to practise and, further, to promote its compliance.

31. Harmony and contentment in society will ensue when the State strives to satisfy the legitimate needs of all its citizens. Such striving will be the primary and chief duty of the state. Accumulation of grievances consequent upon neglect of the basic needs or abuse of power that leads to violation of justice and denial of rights are among the reasons for the manifold violence that irrupts in many sectors of society: race, gender, caste and religion. Distress and forms of violence mostly spring from a total or partial dereliction of this duty by the State or wielders of power. An important contribution to nation building will be our effort to reshape the State or administrative apparatus capable of listening to grievances.

32. The nation, for the most part, has gratefully acknowledged the Christian contribution to it through education. The existing social order is seen by perceptive analysts as unjust t and even sinful since it is structured hierarchically and operates unjustly with regards to the economic resources and disregards the needs of vast sections of society. In this situation our commitment demands reorienting education to render it capable of removing these evils and serving the needs of the marginalized in society and to empower them. Should not those who pass from Christian institutions become the champions of those values that build a just society?

33. Participatory culture that is found operative in India's heritage is the very soul of a healthy democracy. The current phenomenon of several and varied people's movements has this culture as its main component. However, a culture based on caste or shaped in the colonial past or deriving from an uncaring ecclesiastical hierarchical structure poses obstacles to the growth of a participatory culture. The Christian community has the responsibility to critique those cultures that stifle or inhibit the growth of genuine participatory processes and structures, and promote a genuine participatory culture in and through our institutions.

34. A renewed commitment to the marginalized would also call for identifying with the dalits of the dalits, the adivasis of the adivasis, and the poorest of the poor. Support and encouragement must be extended to them very specially so that they find their strength in solidarity with all peoples. A discerning support for people's movements, especially for the subaltern movements, ideologies, and associations will help to strengthen the campaign for a better human social order.

Implications of our Commitment to Nation-Building. 35. Our commitment to social transformation demands that we prioritize our goals. Sarvodaya through antyodaya is the very essence of the biblical work of restoration. And so we join and struggle with those who are oppressed by the caste- system and patriarchal structures, namely, dalits, women and tribals, and all those economically deprived, so that they can take their legitimate place in the mainstream of Indian society.

Commitment towards nation building in the present context of violence and division calls for a vibrant and focused action plan for the youth, laity, clergy and religious, so that they are able to join forces with those who seek justice and peace.

36. National issues, concerns of social justice and human rights should have a prime place in the catechetical formation of the Christian community especially of the youth. Respect for other religions is another key component of their formation especially in our multi-religious situation to promote interreligious fellowship and interfaith communities. Christians, especially the youth, should be encouraged to participate in the festivals of other religions with respect and reverence.

37. Christians have to realize that participating in civic and political life is an essential expression of Christian faith. This will call for a faith formation that stresses and encourages participation in the civic-political life of the nation, openness to people of other faiths and promotion of human rights. Gramsabha, Panchayatraj, collaboration with NGOs, and people's movements are the new arenas for rendering effective Christian service in the process of nation building.

38. Lay leaders, the clergy and the religious should be equipped, on a priority basis, to participate in the process of nation building from the early stages of formation. National issues related to culture, politics, economics and society should be given due importance in the syllabi drawn up in institutes of theology and other formation houses. Importance is to be given to .studies concerning dalits, tribals, women, and deprived members of society and subaltern religions.

39. A new theological framework and focus are needed for such a comprehensive and effective participation in the task of nation building. To be competent and equipped in this new task, a theology must be developed that takes its origin from God and is firmly grounded in the world (In 3:16). In this theology the nation with the history, classical cultures, the economic struggles of peoples, the social processes at the regional and national levels, becomes the key coordinate in the process of theologizing. Discerning and articulating how God has been and is active in our nation's history and civilization becomes an essential element of this new theology. It also demands that together with the Christian community at large, theologians make special efforts for an evolution of Christian liturgical worship that emerges from the life struggles of the people and that is genuinely immersed in the local culture and traditions.

40. To participate pro-actively in nation building the Christian community as a whole is called to reconsider its vision and task. In this regard, Christian living and ministry should include primordial insights, symbols and archetypes like Sarvodaya through Antyodaya, Vasudhaivakutumbakam, Dhamma through Sangha, that have emerged from the experience and insights of the people in India. The envisaged Christian praxis would include collaborating and networking with the people of other faiths, neighbourhood communities and specifically chosen people's movements. This new praxis will be centred on and oriented towards the people for whose benefit a nation's agenda is drawn up. It will also entail taking a firm stand against the forces that exploit the earth and its resources for their selfish purposes. We need to work in solidarity with all those movements and groups which are committed to the preservation of the earth and its environment.

41. Our commitment to nation building also demands that we support all who advocate as well as work towards good neighbourly relationship with Pakistan, China, Nepal, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. As ministers of reconciliation, Christians will endeavour to bring about a culture of dialogue, mutual understanding and cooperation. Being aware of the nefarious intentions of nations that instigate conflicts and actively engage in the arms trade for monetary gain, we denounce the anachronistic culture and institution of war and uphold and re-affirm the highly ethical- spiritual 'weapon' of non-violence so effectively practised and so convincingly preached by Gandhiji, the father of our nation.



42. We are proud of this holy land of ours that gave birth to many religions, welcomed others, and nurtured many cultures and languages. We are proud of our many sages and prophets of the past who preached universal love, compassion and respect for others. We are proud of our freedom fighters and national leaders who are shining examples of total dedication to the cause of our nation. We relive the history of our nation in which the divine presence was intensely sought and deeply experienced. However, at this juncture of history we accept the challenge posed by the evil forces working to destroy the very fabric of our nation by fueling communal tensions, sowing the seeds of disintegration, propagating a mono- culture, a false and mischievous understanding of nationalism and re-establishing the systems of oppression and injustice. We are deeply affected by the sacrifice of hundreds of our sisters and brothers at the altar of religious fanaticism and inhumanity. In this context we realize that our commitment to our nation must be reaffirmed as we share in the pain and sufferings of the victims of this violence and destruction. We all share a common sense of belonging. Therefore, as Indians and as disciples of Christ, we reaffirm our commitment to our nation by working in solidarity with all citizens of our country to create a just and harmonious society "where the mind is without fear and the head is held high, where knowledge is free, and where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls". This is our hope. And, our prayer is that of Tagore: "Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake." (Gitanjali, XXXV)


A Letter sent to the President of India by the Members of the ITA on the Carnage in Gujarat

Our idea of nationhood is defined by our Constitution.
We reject completely the perverse, destructive idea of an India that is non-secular, the sort of India that religious fanatics are trying to foist upon us. We dismiss altogether the idea of an India that is narrowly defined by adherence to any one religion, faith or belief .

We are deeply distressed by the brutal and depraved violence perpetrated by human beings against human beings, by one Indian against another, in the hallowed land of Gandhiji. The pain and horror will haunt the nation for generations to come: 12 and 13 year olds, stripped, gang raped and burnt alive in front of their parents, neighbours and other children; women sexually assaulted before their families; children torn from their mothers' arms and thrown to death often while the guardians of law callously stood by.

The complicity of those who are responsible for upholding the Constitution in this carnage fills us with a grievous sense of shame and dread. Democratic structures from the highest to the lowest have failed, and elected representatives were engaged in divisive activities violating their oath to enforce the Constitution. Enforcers of law and order abandoned their responsibilities. Citizens of India stood powerless against a State machinery gone terrible awry.

The massacres in Gujarat have negated the idea of India as a nation.

We believe in the brotherhood of all humankind and we condemn in the strongest terms the grossly violent divisiveness that is being fomented in Gujarat and elsewhere in our country.

We denounce the desecration of the idea of our nationhood. We state that what has taken place in Gujarat earlier this year and continues even today, defiles our country and does us grave dishonour as Indians.

We find divisions that are sought to be made, deeply distressing. We regard India as indivisible. We say that to attempt to divide India on the basis of religion, caste, and creed and class is to be anti-national, anti-Indian and treasonable.

As Indians we have to hang our heads in disgrace at seeing the wanton destruction that is being wrought in our country. But we would rather hold our heads up and say even now, even against this, we shall overcome. Hum honge kaamayaab. For we are proud to be Indians.

We demand that the President, the guardian of our nation, take immediate steps to ensure the effectiveness of the democratic process in Gujarat by installing in Gujarat a government that truly governs all its citizens.

We demand that the guilty be brought to book and punished.

We demand that the victims of the recent atrocities in Gujarat be rehabilitated and guaranteed their rights as enshrined in the Constitution.

We demand that the total annihilation of the economic base of the minority community be rectified by sufficient compensatory assistance so that the affected can rebuild their ruined sources of livelihood.

We demand that the cultural heritage monuments destroyed by the rioters with the assistance of the State machinery are restored and those responsible traced and punished.

We demand that the organisations responsible for diffusing poisonous propaganda and creating divisions among the citizens of India be named and banned.