It has been over a week and violence continues to rock the city of Delhi, India resulting in the death of 46 people and injuring over 200. Some parts of Delhi have turned into ghost towns. Muslims hide in fear of further attacks, and life in the city is paralyzed. News and rumors of violence continue to create panic and paranoia.
Although this outbreak of violence is being stated that it is a result of clashes between those who support and oppose the recently passed Citizenship Amendment Bill which is now an Act (CAA), it is largely seen as a targeted attack on the Muslim minority. In the run-up to the recently held Delhi state elections, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) embarked on a polarizing campaign around the CAA. Party leaders, including cabinet ministers, freely indulged in hate speech.
The CAA makes religion the test of Indian citizenship. By excluding Muslims who migrated to India from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan during the past decades from being granted citizenship, it exposes them to the predicament of either being deported or sent to detention camps. The government says it will help non-Muslim refugees from those three Muslim-dominated neighboring countries if they flee to India because of religious persecution. But many hold that the CAA discriminates against Muslims, violates the secular tenets of the Constitution, and will have continued adverse implications to religious minorities in India.
Since the passing of the Citizenship Amendment Act by the ruling party-dominated Indian Parliament on December 11, 2019, there have been protests all over the country. Led by people from many walks of life – students, young people, academics, artists, social activists, people’s movements, political parties, etc. – these protests have attracted worldwide attention. There have also been solidarity protests in North America and Europe.
Among the many and increasing protests across the country, the one at Shaheen Bagh, a southeast Delhi suburb, has set a new trend and as such, a serious challenge to the government. This non-violent protest launched by Muslim women on December 14, 2019, to safeguard India’s secular polity and the integrity of the Indian Constitution, which rejects discrimination on the bases of religion, caste, and gender, continues and is joined by thousands of women from Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, and Christian faiths. The Shaheen Bagh protest has inspired hundreds of similar peaceful protests by women across the country. As such, the current spate of violence is largely seen as an orchestrated and desperate attempt of the government to disrupt the growing support of these ongoing protests by showing that there are also many who support the CAA. It is also seen as yet another attempt to re-kindle hatred, fear, and suspicion and to create division among religious identities – a strategy that some believe helped the BJP to win elections in 2014.
Even though the news is distressing, it is also heartening to know that these divisive politics are being rejected country-wide and a spirit of unity and solidarity have emerged, particularly in the younger generation who are taking to the streets to uphold the vision of a new, progressive, and inclusive India. There are also many stories of Hindus, Sikhs, and Christians helping, protecting, and reaching out to their Muslim neighbors in distress.
Christian churches in India, though a minority, have been responding to the crisis through statements and solidarity with those who are striving to uphold the integrity of secular polity in the Indian democracy and are reaching out to those affected. The National Council of Churches in India and the World Council of Churches have issued statements regarding the violence.
The current violence has not yet spread to other parts of India. Let us hope and pray that it soon ceases, that those who lost their dear ones and those who are injured are comforted, healed, and rendered justice and that lives and communities are not broken into pieces to satiate the greed of some for continued power, privilege, and wealth.
Prayer in Response to the Violence in Delhi, India
By Rev. Dr. Karen Georgia A. Thompson
Associate General Minister for Wider Church Ministries and Operations and Co-Executive for Global Ministries
Out of the depths, I cry to you, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications! Psalm 130:1-2
God in your mercy, hear our prayer. Our hearts are deeply burdened, overflowing with sorrow at the suffering in the world around us for the violence and deaths in India. We have few words to describe what we have seen and heard. The anguish of the cries around us say more than we ever could in these days where we once again see violence meted on the innocent, the marginalized, the forgotten, the downtrodden.
God in your mercy, see our need. We pray for communities in India and around the world where people’s lives are threatened daily. Children are dying in the streets. Men and women find themselves hurt, maimed, and killed because who you created them to be is not experienced through your love. We reach for justice for all people, knowing that your love binds us together and what affects one affects all. We cry out for change Holy One, the transformation that you can bring.
God in your mercy, lift our burdens. Holy One, relieve the burdens of those mourning in the city of Delhi. The violence in the streets is causing grief and increasing suffering. Hatred and fear are seen in the eyes of those who attack those who see no worth in the existence of Muslims and other religious minorities. Teach us to love you more. Grant us the courage to speak out for justice, to see you present in all people, and to love beyond the comfort of security in who we are as your people.
God in your mercy, guide our hearts. We pray for healing for those who mourn in India. We pray for strength for activists and advocates who are crying out and demanding change. We pray for comfort for the children who have lost parents, for parents mourning their children, for communities split apart by perceived differences in their connection to you. Forgive us the sin of silence and motivate us to love that seeks justice.
“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in God’s word I hope more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning.” Psalm 103:5-6