MUMBAI, India — The Most Rev. Joseph D’Souza, moderating bishop of the Good Shepherd Church of India and president of the All India Christian Council, attended the “Bahrain Declaration on Religious Freedom” ceremony held in Mumbai, India, Wednesday, Jan. 24.
The event — which included Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs and members of other religious groups from India and around the world — was organized by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, an international human rights organization that promotes tolerance between faiths.
At the event, Bishop D’Souza commented on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. He called the speech a “noble and sincere vision,” which the prime minister must bring to “reality” in the face of rising religious nationalism in India. Full statement below:
“Prime Minister Modi’s speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos embraced the vision of an all-inclusive India and promoted democracy as a way of life. These remain the lofty goals he heralded before the 2014 elections and which many of us supported then and still support now.
“However, what India has seen lately is the steady rise of political Hinduism as a counter reaction to the rise of political Islam in the subcontinent. Prime Minister Modi knows about the violence that’s been unleashed on the Dalits (sometimes called ‘untouchables’), Muslims and other minorities due to the strengthening of political Hinduism. He must do more to bring his noble and sincere vision of an all-inclusive, democratic India to reality.
“All religions in India deserve to be respected, including Hinduism which is the majority faith and minority faiths like Islam and Christianity. However, the mixing of faith and state does not bode well for democracies anywhere, and more so in India with its vast and diverse religious communities.
“Religious freedom is essential for the economic development of any society that wants to be prosperous. This is especially true for India, whose rich domestic talent and investment opportunities have catapulted it to the world stage. If India’s leaders want to see India become an economic superpower on par with China and the U.S., they cannot allow religion to be weaponized and radicalized as a political tool.
“India needs its patriotism without religious nationalism. Religious nationalism by its very nature divides and too often results in violence against minority communities and even against those in the majority faith who disagree with those who politicize religion.
“Here, at the Bahrain Declaration on Religious Freedom ceremony in Mumbai, I’m heartened to see India’s great religious diversity represented. Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs and Lingayats from India and from other parts of the world have come to celebrate religious freedom and affirm our commitment to promote peaceful coexistence.”
Photos of Bishop D’Souza are available here.
Most Rev. Joseph D’Souza is the Moderating Bishop of the Good Shepherd Church and Associated Ministries of India. He also serves as the president of the All India Christian Council. He is the recipient of numerous awards and accolades for his work as a human rights activist. He is also the founder and international president of the Dalit Freedom Network. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Additional biographical information is available here