The All India Christian Council (AICC), an ecumenical advocacy group, has urged the Indian government to expedite the passage of a bill which can "effectively curb communal violence and bring justice" to victims of religious intolerance and violence.
The AICC, along with other Christian groups, has made a nationwide call for a prayer campaign in favor of the bill, a draft of which is in circulation ahead of being introduced in the Indian parliament.
The bill titled Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparation) Bill 2011, was introduced in July at the National Advisory Council (NAC) chaired by the Prime Minister.
"We have appealed to every church to take up this cause earnestly as it is vital to uphold communal harmony and peace," said John Dayal, AICC secretary general and NAC representative.
In a press statement, the AICC pointed out that the bill would help curb "communal violence that has plagued this country since Independence in 1947."
More than six million Hindus and Muslims were slaughtered in sectarian violence when the Indian subcontinent was divided into Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan in 1947.
The press statement also cited some of the worst attacks on religious communities, such as the massacre of Sikhs in New Delhi and other cities that left over 3,000 dead in 1984, anti-Muslim pogrom in Gujarat of 2002, and the orchestrated anti-Christian violence in Kandhamal in Orissa state in 2008 that left over 100 Christians dead and 56,000 of them homeless.
"The proposed Bill seeks to secure justice for victims and end the climate of impunity by bringing the guilty (government) officials to book," said the AICC.
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council) has criticised the proposed communal violence bill, claiming its aim is "to annihilate the Hindu community."
Nearly 80 per cent of India's 1.2 billion people are Hindus, 13 per cent are Muslim, 2.3 per cent Christians, and 1.5 per cent are Sikhs, in addition to Buddhists, Jains and Parsis.
[With acknowledgements to ENInews. ENInews, formerly Ecumenical News International, is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Communion of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]