A high court judge in India has refused to block the construction of a church in Tamil Nadu state, highlighting the importance of religious tolerance.
In his verdict, Judge CV Karthikeyan reminded the petitioner, Paulraj, that “one of the basic tenants (sic) to be followed by every Hindu is tolerance”.
Paulraj had urged Madras High Court to overturn a district official’s order permitting the church to be built in a residential neighbourhood of his village in Kanyakumari district. He argued that he and his neighbours would be subjected to regular nuisance, claiming that Christians used loudspeakers during prayers.
Judge Karthikeyan observed in his ten-page ruling, delivered on 10 January, that “there is also a temple in that particular residential area”.
He pointed out that the Indian constitution states that no citizen should be discriminated against on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.
“It is the duty of every citizen to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India transcending religious, linguistic and regional or sectional diversities,” added the judge.
His ruling highlighted the importance of India’s “unity in diversity” and urged Paulraj to “accept the group of people living across, and around him … [belonging to] various caste, creed and religion and given rights under the constitution”.
However, the judge called on church leaders to practise tolerance and respect towards their neighbours in relation to the use of loudspeakers.
“It is not required that a prayer should be put forth in loudspeakers for the God to hear,” said Judge Karthikeyan, adding, “Let the prayers be conducted in a gentle manner.”
The ruling, which was welcomed by church leaders, comes at a time when attacks against Christians from extremist elements in Indian society are rising.
In July 2021, the Evangelical Fellowship of India published a report documenting 145 incidents of religious persecution against Christians in the country in the first half of the year.