Christian leaders of the southern Indian state of Telangana have welcomed a state government gift of 100,000 rupees (US$ 1,428) each to 200 churches for Christmas.
The Telangana government on Dec. 1 announced the gift which includes each Christian church receiving 500 gift packs consisting of clothing for those in need.
“The Catholic Church appreciates and welcomes the Christmas gift from the Telangana government,” Father Joseph Arlagadda, deputy secretary of the Telugu Catholic Bishops’ Council (TCBC) of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, told LICAS News.
Father Anthoniraj Thumma, the regional director of the Commission for Ecumenism and Interreligious Dialogue, also welcomed the government’s gesture.
He said that the state is active in taking part in the celebrations of all faith groups while adding that Christmas has been declared an official festival.
“This helps promote cordial relationships and communal harmony,” said Father Thumma, executive secretary of the Federation of Telugu Churches.
Just before Dec. 25, state officials will host Christmas dinner with church leaders of various denominations.
Father Arlagadda said the Telangana government headed by Kalvakuntla Chandra Shekhar Rao is tolerant towards both Christian and Muslim communities.
Rao has distributed clothes to Christian families and hosted Christmas dinners in the past, the priest said.
Most of the independent churches are benefiting from government schemes and some of the mainstream Protestant Churches in the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad are also enlisted in the beneficiary list.
The state has other initiatives that likewise benefit Christian communities in areas such as employment and education.
The Catholic Church in the Telugu region, which includes Telangana and the neighboring state of Andhra Pradesh, have developed cordial relationships with state officials.
Receiving Christmas gifts and attending dinners hosted by the respective governments have become a bridge-building formality in the region.
“The Church looks ahead for formal talks with the governments on many key issues that affect the life and the practice of Christian charitable institutions in both the states,” said Father Arlagadda.
In the past there has been sporadic incidents of Hindu hardliners attacking some Christians but the government promptly resolved these cases, the priest said.
With the common state capital Hyderabad, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh were created in 2014. The Christian population in both states is 1.13 million, according to 2011 census.