Save All Saints Church, living heritage of Bengaluru

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The Most Revd. and Rt Hon Justin Welby
Archbishop of Canterbury
Lambeth Palace, 
London, SE1 7JU, United Kingdom
                                                                                                2ndSeptember 2019
 
Most Revd. and Rt. Hon. Welby,
 
It is our privilege to welcome you to India and to the city of Bengaluru.  We are happy that you have chosen to celebrate the spirit of oneness of humanity during the festive occasion of Ganesh Chaturthi and Moharram.
 
As you are aware, All Saints Anglican Church built in 1869, was affiliated to the Church of England till 1927, then with Church of England in India till 1947, and post-independence with Church of South India.  This November the church is to celebrate its sesquicentennial (150th) anniversary. This is an occasion to celebrate a most charming living and religious heritage of Bengaluru, nested as it is in a sylvan and biodiversity rich sacred grove.  Instead, we are staring at the prospect of the destruction of All Saints Church’s sacred grove – a outcome of an egregious decision taken by the leadership of Church of South India (CSI).
 
We are deeply pained to draw your attention to the fact that CSI secretively decided to trade away a substantial part of the sacred grove to allow dumping of construction equipment of Bangalore Metro and the construction of a Metro station inside the church campus. Should this proposal succeed, the sacred grove, which has over 100 massive trees, some over two centuries old and form an irreplaceable biodiversity rich enclave, will be lost forever.  Also destroyed would be Arpana, a school for special children which was inaugurated in 1986 by Rt. Rev. Robert Runcie, then Archbishop of Canterbury.  The church is unlikely to survive the onslaught of the heavy construction that metro entails.   And even if it does survive, the church will never be the peaceful and beautiful space of prayer that it is now, right in the middle of busy, bustling Bengaluru metropolis.
 
Detailed Project Report of Bangalore Metro reveals no plans to build a station inside All Saints Church. There are clear directives from the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India and High Court of Karnataka against building any infrastructure that is violative of land use plans, particularly those destructive of designated green and open spaces, especially those of worship.
 
European citizens have co-financed Bangalore Metro through loans extended by European Investment Bank and Agence Francaise de Development (approx. 500 million Euros).  Key conditions for these loans include strict compliance with the Principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent, particularly of those directly impacted by financed projects. Besides, in congruence with European Union norms, financed projects cannot destroy living heritage, especially those that celebrate age-old cultural and religious traditions. Equally importantly, financed projects must strictly adhere to environmental and social safeguards, especially those that are necessary per local laws and regulations. The impending destruction of All Saints Church is violative of all these conditions.
 
Our multiple appeals to the CSI leadership to save All Saints Church have fallen on deaf years.  This is why we have chosen to appeal to you, and urge you to speak to the CSI leadership and encourage them to take all steps necessary to protect All Saints Church, its sacred grove and Arpana for posterity. Alternatives exist, which makes the Metro work better in the public at large whilst saving All Saints Church and its beautiful campus for posterity. 

With warm regards,