India Must Remain Vigilant Against Religious Intolerance, Says Patriarch

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By Express News Service
Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II, the supreme head of the global Syrian Orthodox Church, arriving at the Cochin International Airport on Saturday | Melton Antony
KOCHI:Though a country known for its religious tolerance, India must be watchful in the wake of increasing incidents of violence and extremism, said Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II, the supreme head of the global Syrian Orthodox Church.

The Patriarch, who reached here on Saturday for a 11-day visit to India, was addressing the media at the Patriarchal Centre, Puthencruz, the regional headquarters of the church.

‘‘A permanent solution for the dispute between the two factions of the Malankara Church is not possible through legal means. Since a reunion is impossible, both sister churches should coexist with mutual respect and recognition.

A majority of the faithful are dissatisfied with the ongoing conflict between the two groups. We cannot make anyone follow suggestions. A solution is possible if there are sincere efforts.’’ A solution on peace within the church has to be worked out at the ground level here and the Patriarchate cannot impose anything on anyone,’’ he said. On the attack against churches in New Delhi, the Patriarch said authorities should be vigilant to ensure that such untoward incidents, which will affect India’s reputation as a country of religious tolerance, are not repeated. Places of worship, of any religion, are holy places. They have to be protected,’’ he said. On the situation in Syria, he said violence against various communities continues. Both the Christian and Muslim communities are under extremist attacks.

‘‘The world should react on the development in Syria. It is unfortunate that many countries are maintaining silence over atrocities against Christians in Syria. The Patriarch said he would convey his gratitude to the Government of India for taking a stand favourable to the people of Syria in their times of crisis. ‘’Apprehension over attacks against churches in India will also be conveyed to the President and the Prime Minister,’’ he said.