Bhopal Archbishop joins intolerance debate, holds Modi govt responsible for it's rise

Expressing concern over incidents of rising intolerance in the country, the Archbishop said people should respect each other's views. 

Bhopal: Ahead of Christmas, Archbishop of Bhopal Father Leo Cornelio on Monday said intolerance has grown in the recent times, especially after the BJP came to power at the Centre last year.

Expressing concern over incidents of rising intolerance in the country, the Archbishop said people should respect each other's views on any issue without resorting to violence, as he cited the examples of the Aamir Khan episode and the alleged attack on a group of Christians reciting the Bible in Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh.

"I think intolerance has grown in the recent times, especially after the new government came at the Centre. Take an example of actor Aamir Khan, who had shared concerns of his wife on the issue, but the way it was protested by those associated with politics is not fair," the Archbishop said addressing a press conference here.

"Everyone has the right to freedom of speech in the country and we should not oppose it just for the sake of opposition," he said.

When specifically asked if as head of the Christian community he had ever encountered any kind of intolerance in the BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh, Cornelio highlighted the incident at Jabalpur where the community people reciting Bible were allegedly attacked by right wing forces in March this year.

"It was an avoidable incident. If you are not happy with something like loud voice on speaker or getting disturbed by anything, then you can always request them to lower it.

You are not supposed to resort to violent means," he said.

Expressing anguish over delay in action to rein in such elements, he said, "The government has not taken any prompt action in the matter. Some people were arrested but still a number of them are not yet apprehended."

On the MP government's plan to introduce lessons from the 'Gita' in the curriculum, he said, "Gita does have many good things in it. But other religious texts also have many good things, therefore efforts should be made to incorporate best of all religions in the school syllabus."

Condemning violence in the name of religion in Syria, Iraq and Libya, he said no religion has any place for violence in it.

On the charges that Christians were involved in religious conversions, he said, "We have never intended to convert anyone. If someone embraces Christianity by getting impressed with our services, then it is his/her individual choice. We never forced anyone."

Asked about his plans for spreading education in the state, he said, "Sometime back we had given a proposal to the government to handover few government primary-level schools to the missionaries to improve the education standard, as it is very poor at present. By doing so we will demonstrate how things can be improved. Though Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan had agreed to it, nothing happened afterwards."

On the release of a juvenile offender in the December 16 Delhi gang-rape case, Cornelio said, "If a minor is involved in a heinous crime, then he is a threat to the society. Government must take corrective measures in such issues."

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