11th Feb., '99
TO : ALL THE CHRISTIANS IN GUJARAT
FROM : THE BISHOPS AND CHURCH LEADERS
GATHERED AT BISHOP'S HOUSE, AHMEDABAD
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
The Peace of Christ be with you !
We have been deeply concerned and shocked by the recent circular (No. D2:Hindu-Khristi 83/99 dated 2nd February, '99 (1058)) from the Intelligence Department of the Gujarat State which is designed to solicit information about Christians. This letter to you is to express our solidarity with you during these difficult moments.
Most of the questions enlisted in the above mentioned circular and the manner in which they are asked not only singles out the Christians as a community but also cast serious aspersions on the Christian community.
We regard this circular as a serious violation of the fundamental rights of every citizen very specially enshrined in Article 15(1) of the Constitution which asserts that there cannot be segregation on the basis of religion. This was the reason which prompted Hon. Justice M.R. Calla to issue a suo motu notice to the Government of Gujarat.
At an emergency meeting on 9th February, '99, we decided to request that we too assist the court in providing necessary informations in the context of this circular. The proceedings of this suo motu notice began this morning. Our application (the United Christian Forum for Human Rights (Gujarat) (UCFHR) was accepted and we were given permission to assist the court. The next hearing has been fixed for Tuesday, 16th February. In the court, the representative of the Government, was also informed by the UCFHR, that Christians would not provide any information on the basis of this circular.
In view of the above, we hereby instruct all our Christians and Christian Institutions all over Gujarat not to provide ANY INFORMATION to any authority or their representatives in the context of this circular.
Besides, we request any one who is approached for such information to ask for full particulars of the one who seeks the information which must include, after verification (name, designation, office address, telephone number, vehicle number etc.) and on what basis the questions are being asked (written proof and authorisation).
Should there, have been, at any time previous to this circular any inquiry/ interrogation, the same must be furnished in writing with complete details immediately to the coordinating office of the UCFHR (Fr. Cedric Prakash sj, SXSSS, P.B. 4088, Navrangpura, Ahmedabad --380009, Tel. (O) 7417654, (R) 7452265).
Finally, we have unitedly decided that the first days of Lent from 15th / 17th February to 24th February, be devoted as a special time of prayer and penance in all our Churches. As a token of our United Christian stand on this matter, we recommend that Unity Prayers, be held in different Churches during the Sundays of Lent. These Prayer Programmes must be decided at a local level.
We request all priests, pastors, church leaders and other lay leaders to communicate the FULL contents of this letter to their congregations.
May the Lord's Healing touch bring to everyone his love, peace, harmony and justice.
Bishop S. Fernandes sj Bishop V.
Catholic Bishop of Ahmedabad CNI Bishop of
Bishop's House, Mirzapur Bishop's
Ahmedabad - 380 001 Ahmedabad - 380