The National Council of Churches in India plus global church leaders have condemned the coordinated attacks in Mumbai, which have left more than 140 people dead.
The Indian council on November 27 urged action to defeat "all forces and all forms of terrorism in India." Indian officials blamed an Islamic extremist group for the attack.
The National Council of Churches in India groups 30 Orthodox and Protestant churches. It issued its statement after gunmen armed with automatic weapons and grenades targeted at least seven sites in Mumbai late on November 26, and stormed two luxury hotels.
"There is real panic here and the people have been stunned by the viciousness of the attack," Metropolitan Geevarghese mar Coorilos of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church told Ecumenical News International from Mumbai on November 28. "I just got a call that one of our church members serving in the Taj [Mahal Palace] Hotel is among those killed," said mar Coorilos, a former NCCI president.
He said people in the city were "getting scared of Mumbai being subjected to such vicious attacks."
News agencies reported on November 28 that Indian forces had killed two gunmen at a Jewish center in Mumbai but that up to five hostages at the Chabad Lubavitch center in the city had died.
In 1993, 13 near-simultaneous blasts across Mumbai killed more than 250 people, while as many as 170 were killed in July 2006 after blasts targeted crowded trains during the rush hour.
In addition, Mumbai, the financial nerve center of India's bustling economy, has been the scene of half a dozen more bomb blasts that have claimed many lives in recent years.
Indian commandos were reported on November 28 to have taken control of Mumbai's Trident-Oberoi hotel but battles were still reported at the site of another luxury hotel, the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel.
In Geneva, the Rev. Samuel Kobia, general secretary of the World Council of Churches, denounced the attacks. "We believe that there can be no justification whatsoever for such despicable acts of terrorism and indiscriminate violence," Kobia said in a letter to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
India's foreign minister, Pranab Mukherjee, said preliminary information indicated that "elements" in Pakistan were behind the attacks, while press reports stated that responsibility had been claimed by a previously unknown Islamic extremist group calling itself Deccan Mujahideen.
The All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat, an umbrella group of Muslim organizations in India, condemned the attacks "unconditionally," the IslamOnline.net website reported.
Writing on the website of London's Guardian newspaper, Muhammad Abdul Bari, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said, "There is no Islamic basis for murder." He urged swift action against terrorism, while adding, "We must ensure that the Muslims who constitute a significant proportion of the Indian population should not be tarred with the same brush as those who committed this atrocity."
Bari further asserted that embedded within India's Muslim community, "There are the traditions of peace and justice that have been an animating force for generations. Many of their descendants have helped make India the success story that it is today."
The Catholic Bishops' Conference of India in a statement described terrorism as an "evil", and urged the government to take strong and effective steps to check the menace of terrorism in the country. "All those involved in any terrorist activities are people working against the very foundation of human life, which is sacred in the eyes of God," the bishops said.
The Rev. Enos Das Pradhan, general secretary of the Church of North India, has appealed to churches and religious communities "to pray for peace and reconciliation." He said, "It is a national shame that tourists from other countries, who, having been fascinated by the rich heritage and cultures of India, visit our beautiful and diversified country, have been targeted."