The Catholic Bishops' Conference of India has castigated a Christian sect for burning an image of a Hindu deity and the Indian national flag in the northeastern state of Mizoram.
On Sept. 21, members of a Christian sect in Lunglei district reportedly poured petrol on the image of Hindu's elephant-headed deity Ganesha and set it on fire. The group also burnt the national flag they were holding. The incident caught the attention of local media after a video of the act was posted on social media, according to First Post.
One of the sect members reportedly said that Mizoram is the land of Jesus and that the group would not allow it to be converted to Hinduism.
Before setting the idol on fire, one man reportedly shouted: "We have long been under the Hindus. We have long been under India. Now, we want to declare ourselves independent."
Six youths have been arrested by the authorities in connection with the incident, UCA News reported.
In a press statement, the bishops' conference described the incident as "unfortunate" and upsetting. "Those who have committed these acts cannot and should not profess to be Christians," the bishops stated in a media release signed by secretary general Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas.
"We are shocked that anyone could show disrespect to members of another religion in the name of Christ," the bishops added.
The bishops' conference contended that the Catholic Church, as well as other Christian churches, always stood for national unity, peace and harmony among all peoples.
"We must stand up against all sorts of fundamentalism, no matter from which religion it comes from," said Mascarenhas, noting that the youths involved in the incident belong to a neo-Christian sect.
The bishops stressed that Christianity is meant to build bridges of peace between people, and should not be used to spread hatred.
Mizoram, which lies between Bangladesh and Myanmar, is one of three Christian-majority states in India. Around 90 percent of the state's 1.1 million people are Christians, while eight percent are Buddhists and 2.7 percent are Hindus. Christians also comprise a majority of the population of the northeastern states of Meghalaya and Nagaland.
Christian missionaries have been accused by Hindu groups of trying to turn India into a majority Christian country modeled after the three northeastern states.
Surendra Jain, the international joint general secretary of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (world Hindu council), said that the latest incident in Mizoram is a demonstration of how Christian missionaries spread hatred against other religions in the guise of love and harmony.
He noted that no Vishwa Hindu Parishad leaders have made any derogatory remarks about Jesus or Mary.
"We do not do it because we respect other religions. But these Christian missionaries wherever they go, do not tolerate other religions and try to wipe them out. Mizoram is not a land of Jesus but the land of India. So, India's culture, tradition and values will prevail there," Jain said.