February 22, 1999
His Excellency Naresh Chandra
Ambasssador of India
2107 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20008
I write as the Chairman of the Committee on International Policy of the Catholic bishops' conference of the United States to register our concern and dismay at the increasing number of violent anti-Christian attacks carried out by extremist groups in India. The fact that persons and groups with ties to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party have expressed support for this campaign of violence against Christians makes these lawless acts even more worrisome.
The statements of the Prime Minister, Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee, have been forthright in condemning these attacks, but until recently, little action appears to have been taken to curb these incidents, especially in the State of Gujurat where scores of anti-Christian incidents have been recorded just since last Christmas Day.
In the case of the most heinous of these anti-Christian acts, the 24 January immolation of Australian missionary Graham Stewart Staines and his two young sons, burned alive as they slept in their station wagon, the government now appears to be moving swiftly and decisively. It is most unfortunate if it took such a horrendous crime, one which all India and people everywhere have repudiated, to signal the need for government action to calm inter-communal tensions, tensions many believe the BJP itself has helped to inflame.
It is our fervent hope and our prayer that out of the present crisis may come a new day of religious tolerance among all the many diverse communities that make up your great nation. I would be grateful if you would communicate these sentiments to Mr. Vajpayee and other leaders of your government.
With sentiments of esteem, I am
Most Reverend Theodore E. McCarrick
Archbishop of Newark
Chairman, Committee on International Policy
United States Catholic Conference