Adventists Join Ecumenical Coalition
Combat Political Party
Here is an interesting BBC news story out of the north Indian state of Punjab, where an ecumenical coalition of Christians have seized the initiative to organize a political party to combat harassment and persecution.
Punjab is India's wealthiest state, and is home to the Sikh religion. Sikhism is a unique faith that blends elements of Islam and Hinduism, and dates to the 16th century. There are about 13 million Sikhs in the Punjab, but the main source of harassment and persecution is from the Hindus. In 1999 the government "advised" a ban on Christian public meetings because authorities said they were unable to provide adequate security. A team of Indian evangelists visiting the region at the time was threatened by Hindus, who seized Christian literature and burned it.
The story notes that "the Vatican has withdrawn earlier restrictions on priests getting involved in politics, in view of the increasing attacks on Christians in India in recent years." This is significant, as it rescinds a strict rule for this particular situation, which the Catholic church obviously regards as a serious threat.
Moreover, the party includes representatives from the Protestant Church of North India, the Methodists, Seventh Day Adventists, Anglicans, the Salvation Army and Pentecostals, making it a truly ecumenical venture. Christians are taking the initiative by entering the political arena to combat the influence of the BJP, the dominant Hindu political party that came to power in India in 1998. The BJP's dominance has provided the conditions for Hindu harassment and persecution of Christians in India.
BBC News Online: World: South Asia
Friday, 16 November, 2001
Indian Christians form political party
It is the first time Christians have formed a party with the Church's blessing
By Asit Jolly in Chandigarh
Christians in the north Indian state of Punjab, where Sikhs form the majority, have created their own political party, the Punjab Masihi Lok Dal.
Party chairman, Father Roby Kollenchery, said the party aimed to give Punjab's minority Christian population an independent voice through political representation.
It is the first time Christians have organised themselves into a political party with the blessings of the Church.
The party will contest the state legislative assembly elections which will be held in February next year.
Party members said they were greatly disillusioned by Punjab's ruling coalition.
Father Kollenchery said the Vatican has withdrawn earlier restrictions on priests getting involved in politics, in view of the increasing attacks on Christians in India in recent years.
He said the Punjab Masihi Lok Dal party was the first Christian party to be constituted since the relaxation.
Besides Catholics, the party includes representatives from the Church of North India, the Methodists, Seventh Day Adventists, Anglicans, the Salvation Army, and Pentecostals.
The party plans to field candidates in all constituencies which have a substantial number of Christian voters.
In areas where there are fewer Christians, Father Kollenchery said the party will tie up with the Panthic Morcha, a joint front of Sikh groups opposed to the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal party.
Analysts said the emergence of the new Christian party was particularly significant because the party has the blessings of churches of various denominations.
The move could go a long way to organising the largely poor Christian voters of Punjab.
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