Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a departure from past practices, welcomed a representation of the Christian community to his official residence in New Delhi on Christmas Day.
This marks the first time since assuming office in 2014 that Modi has hosted a Christmas celebration, showcasing the government’s commitment to fostering inclusivity and interfaith dialogue, according to reports from AsiaNews.
The event was organized in response to a proposal by the Indian Minority Foundation, and it brought together prominent personalities from the Christian community across the country.
Notable attendees included Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Metropolitan Archbishop of Mumbai; Anil Joseph Thomas Couto, Metropolitan Archbishop of Delhi; Thomas Mar Anthonios Valiyavilayil, Orthodox Bishop of St. John Chrysostom of Gurgaon; Kevin J. Kimtis, the second secretary of the Holy See embassy; Reverend Paul Swarup, bishop of the Anglican diocese of Delhi; John Varghese, principal of St. Stephen’s College, and other representatives of civil society.
During the gathering, Modi highlighted the shared values among different faiths in India, drawing parallels between the teachings of the Bible and Hindu Upanishads.
He emphasized the importance of truth, saying, “In the Holy Bible, great importance is given to the truth, and it is said that only the truth will show us the way to salvation.”
Modi underscored his commitment to moving forward by focusing on shared values and heritage, promoting cooperation and a spirit of ‘Sabka Prayas’ (everyone’s efforts) for the progress of modern India in the 21st century.
“For modern India in the 21st century, this cooperation and spirit of ‘Sabka Prayas’ will take the country to new heights,” he said.
The Christmas celebration marked a shift in the relationship between the government and the Christian community. Since 2014, incidents of violence and arrests against Christians have seen a steady increase, reaching 687 in November 2023.
Despite this, Modi referred to his meeting with Pope Francis in 2021 as a transformative experience, citing the pontiff’s Christmas messages that resonated with the principles of inclusivity and shared effort.
Cardinal Oswald Gracias expressed gratitude to the Prime Minister for his presence, noting that the day also commemorates the birth anniversary of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
He drew parallels between Vajpayee’s passion for good governance and Jesus Christ’s teachings on working for the development and progress of others.
“Today’s celebration is a positive step towards fostering unity and understanding among different religious communities,” said the prelate.
Monsignor Anil Couto, while expressing appreciation for Modi’s gesture of organizing Christmas celebrations at his residence, emphasized the significance of making the holiday not only a celebration for the Christian community but a national occasion.
He concluded with a message of peace, love, and unity, extending his hopes for the well-being of all citizens of the country.
“This gesture ensures that Christmas is not just a celebration for our community but becomes a celebration for the entire nation, promoting a sense of inclusivity and national unity,” he said.