Stray cows sit in the middle of the road in Bangalore, India, Oct. 13, 2016. The Catholic church in India criticized growing intolerance and mob violence targeting religious minorities over cow protection July 16. (CNS photo/Jagadeesh Nv, EPA)
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COCHIN, India (CNS) -- The Catholic church in India criticized growing intolerance and mob violence targeting religious minorities over cow protection.
"The vast majority of the people of India of all communities (have) been shocked at the lynching in various states on the pretext of protecting cows," said a statement issued by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India after a July 16 meeting in New Delhi. About 40 religious leaders -- Christians along with Baha'i, Hindu, Muslim and Sikh -- attended the meeting.
The statement asked the government "to end (the) impunity ... at the root of the atmosphere of fear that stalks the land today."
Some Hindus worship the cow as a goddess and oppose slaughter of cows, with some states even running care centers for cows.
The bishops' statement said lynchings over cows threatened "the constitution and the democratic fabric of the country."
In a June report, The Times of India said that since 2014, when the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party came to power, vigilantes had killed at least 32 Muslims. It said that in most of these attacks, the premise had been allegations of cow slaughter, smuggling, eating or even possessing beef.
Mobs have killed meat and cattle traders in the name of protecting the sacred cow.
"We are going through difficult times. What we see on the TV (lynching) is frightening," Auxiliary Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas of Ranchi, secretary-general of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India, told Catholic News Service July 18.
"Hatred is being spread, and attempts are being made to divide the people. We want to create harmony by bringing people of all faiths together," he said.
The statement urged religious leaders "to assert the inherent unity of the people (to) restore public confidence and remove the mutual growing suspicion."
At the end of the assembly of the Kerala Catholic Bishops' Council June 8, Archbishop Maria Soosa Pakiam of Trivandrum criticized the federal government's move to curb cattle trade in states like Kerala, where beef eating has no cultural inhibition, even among majority Hindus.
"We will never accept a dictum on what we should eat or do," Archbishop Soosa Pakiam said.