Jaipur (AsiaNews) In an interview with AsiaNews, the newly-appointed Bishop of the newly-created diocese of Jaipur, Oswald Lewis, said that despite fundamentalist violence the Catholic mission in India must go on. God shall guide us because we are his instruments. He was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI last Wednesday to the post of bishop of India's 152nd diocese.
Bishop Lewis, who until his nomination was Auxiliary Bishop of Meerut, said: "I thanked God on hearing the news. Yet, at the same time, I realized the immensity of the task ahead of me. Rajasthan, like a few other states in India, is a state, where the Church is going through a crisis".
"Here, too, an anti-Conversion bill (requiring individuals to inform the authorities should they convert to religions other than Hinduism) has been placed before the State Assembly by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)," he said. The BJP favours a fundamentalist view of Hinduism.
"There have been recent, well-known cases of violence against Christians and it is no mystery that the state administration is favourably disposed towards the extremists who carry out such violence," he said.
For Bishop Lewis, "even though the Catholic Church and its representatives have good relations with individuals in power on a one-to-one basis, when it comes to administration and legislation, we are always, the 'others'. They presume we are 'diametrically opposed' to them. Somehow, they feel threatened, and compelled to respond with intimidation and strong-arm tactics."
The Bishop is however clear about his tasks. "Despite everything, the mission has to go on," he said. "We will deal with them [the fundamentalists] with the eyes of Christ, with patience and tolerance, with the hope that one day, they realize their grave mistakes".
But the problems facing the Church are not limited to Hindu extremism alone.
"In Rajasthan, in particular", Bishop Oswald noted, "Hindu fundamentalists are always active and vigilant for any conversion and mobilize their forces to disrupt meetings through violent means. However, they fail to distinguish between the Catholic Church, institutionalized Protestant Churches and the new threat to the Catholic Churchthe evangelical sects. Often, we are at the receiving end of their ire and frustration, because of others".
To change the situation, the prelate said one of his priorities will be "networking with other bishops in neighbouring dioceses."
"We already have had ecumenical meetings [with other Churches] but, although invited, Pentecostals declined to participate," he said.
"We shall cope as the Gospel teaches: with patience, prudence and respect for all," he stressed.
"For my appointment, I must thank God. It is He who sent me here and it is He who must direct my life because we are but His instruments", he said further.
His motto as Auxiliary Bishop of Meerut was 'Service in Humility' and it shall stay the same. "Now, in Jaipur, I shall have a chance to concretely put into practice".