Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on Tuesday, strongly asserted that his government’s commitment to ensure equal respect to all religions in India.
Speaking at a function held by the Syro-Malabar Church to celebrate beatification of Saints Kuriakose Elias Chavara and Mother Euphrasia, Modi said, “My government will ensure that there is complete freedom of faith.”
“Everyone has the undeniable right to retain or adopt the religion of his or her choice without coercion or undue influence. Government will not allow any religious group, belonging to majority or minority to incite hatred against others overtly or covertly,” he said amid thunderous applause.
“Unity strengthens us. Division weakens us. I sincerely request all Indians and all of you present here to support me in this huge task,” he said.
The PM’s strong statement on religious freedom in India assumes significance as it came in the backdrop of a spate of attacks on Churches in Delhi.
The PM said ‘Mother India’ has given birth to many religious and spiritual streams, with some of them having even travelled beyond Indian borders.
Quoting ancient Vedic texts, the Prime Minister said, “The tradition of welcoming, respecting and honouring all faiths is as old as India itself.”
“As Swami Vivekananda said – We believe not only in universal toleration but we accept all religions as true,” Modi said, adding that what the great saint said a century ago stands true even today.
“This principle of equal respect and treatment for all faiths has been a part of India’s ethos for thousands of years. That’s why it became integral to the Constitution of India…Our Constitution has roots in the traditional beliefs of India.”
The PM also mentioned Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, saying his words had inspired us to dream of a land where the mind is without fear and the head is held high.
Expressing concern over growing religious intolerance in the world, he said, “The world is increasingly witnessing division and hostility on religious lines. This has become a matter of global concern.”
“The ancient Indian plea of mutual respect for all faiths is now beginning to manifest in global discourse,” the PM added.
Refereeing international interfaith conference on “Faith in Human Rights” held at The Gauge in 2008 where religious leaders representing every major world pledged to uphold the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and freedom of religion or belief, the PM said, “My government stands by every word of the above declaration and my government will ensure that there is complete freedom of faith and that everyone has undeniable right to retain or adopt religion of his or her choice, without coercion.”
The PM added that fanaticism won’t be tolerated and said, “My government stands for personal freedom. Religion is a personal choice.”
“Mine will be a government that gives equal respect to all religions. India is the land of Buddha and Gandhi. We cannot accept violence against any religion in any pretext and I strongly condemn such violence,” the PM said.
“I appeal to all religious groups to act with mutual respect as has been the tradition of India,” he added.
Reiterating his mantra ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’, the PM said, “I have a vision of a modern India and I have embarked on a huge mission to convert that mission into a reality.”
The Prime Minister paid glowing tributes to Saint Chavara and Saint Euphresia, saying that “their life and deeds are an inspiration to humanity as a whole.”