Christian leaders in New Delhi have condemned the communal violence in the Indian capital and asked churches to open their doors to victims of the riots.
The violence that started Feb. 23 in several areas of northeast Delhi has left 27 people dead and more than 200 injured in the deadliest episode of unrest in the capital in three decades, reported ucanews.com.
"At this trying moment, when communal riots have suddenly gripped Delhi, let us come forward with our prayers and every possible effort to bring relief to the affected people in terms of shelter, food and clothing," said an appeal letter from Archbishop Anil Couto of Delhi.
In his letter to parish priests, Archbishop Couto said churches should open their premises "for this noble cause in the Lenten season. Please convey this to our people and organize them for action."
The three days of violence were the worst unrest since the 1992 nationwide riots following the demolition of the Babri mosque in Ayodhya, and possibly since the anti-Sikh riots of 1984 after the assassination of then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, media reports said.
The clashes broke out after groups favoring the Citizenship Amendment Act clashed with groups protesting it. The act, passed Dec. 11, aims to grant Indian citizenship to persecuted minorities from Muslim-majority Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan while blocking naturalization of Muslims.
Muslims see their exclusion from the law that makes religion the basis of citizenship as yet another attempt by the Narendra Modi government to marginalize them, ucanews.com reported.
Coupled with the National Register of Citizens, the community fears the moves are intended to strip millions of Indian Muslims of citizenship. People from other disadvantaged caste and gender identities as well as women are vulnerable to the national register.
"Humanity has been knocked down one more time, our houses burned, our kindred killed, our peace destroyed, and future betrayed," said a Feb. 26 statement from the National Council of Churches in India, the forum of Protestant and Orthodox churches in India.
"We appeal to members of the different Christian traditions to facilitate each other and all others of different faith traditions and ideological persuasions in their neighborhoods, to rise from the ashes," said the statement, which appealed to churches and Christian organizations in affected areas to respond appropriately to those in need.
The Evangelical Fellowship of India, the national alliance of evangelical Christians, condemned the "reprehensible violence and killing as the work of vested political interests and forces of hate."
The EFI statement appealed to the people of Delhi to "maintain peace and not to give in to vicious vitriol fed by rumors and spread through social media. We must not let hate win."
It also asked its congregations in Delhi area to open "their hearts and facilities for the afflicted and to come to the aid of the helpless and distraught. This would be our act of service unto our Lord, this Lenten season."
During the riots, hundreds of vehicles, shops and homes were burned. Some streets were deserted Feb. 26, with people peeping from the windows of their homes and a heavy deployment of police and paramilitary forces.
Bricks and stones littered the streets, while shattered glass, burned homes, offices, showrooms and vehicles clearly indicated the intensity of the violence. Delhi police said 18 first information reports were registered at various police stations and 106 people had been arrested.