Lay Catholics express solidarity with Delhi Archbishop;

The persecution of Christians is at its height, in almost every state with Tamil Nadu, now in a total anarchy, the statement said.

BISHOP ANIL COUTTO

India’s largest lay Catholic organization, The All India Catholic Union, has expressed solidarity with Archbishop Anil Couto ofDelhi, who is being accused of trying to tarnish the image of India after he launched campaign to pray for peace in the country.

The Catholic union in a statement May 24 expressed solidarity with Archbishop Couto and commended “his courage, integrity and spiritual strength in calling attention to this rising tide of targeted violence against Dalits and religious minorities.”

In a pastoral letter read out on May 13 in all the national capital’s parishes, Archbishop Couto called on Catholics in his archdiocese to start a campaign of prayer and Friday fasting ahead of elections in due in April 2019.

The Archbishop’s letter sparked a political controversy after Hindu groups accused the prelate of undermining Indian interests and working with the Vatican to tarnish the government’s image.

The following is the full text of statement issued by its president Lancy D Cunha and John Dayal, its spokesman and former President.

MODI GOVERNMENT TRYING TO DIVIDE, COERCE CHURCH; AICU SOLIDARITY WITH DELHI ARCHBISHOP ANIL COUTO

The All India Catholic Union expresses serious concern at attempts by the Union government, the ruling party and its ideological affiliates as well as a section of the media, to divide the Christian churches, pitting bishop against bishop, and targeting individual religious leaders who dare speak of the multiple threats posed to India’s democracy and its secular and plural character.

This malicious exercise wants national and world attention to shift from state violence against the people as in the police sniper fire in Tuticorin which killed 11 persons, including several Catholics, inured a priest and other innocents protesting the expansion of a dangerous Sterlite plant which will poison underground water resources of the community. This plant is owned by the powerful Vedanta group, one of the several crony capitalists who have the benign support of the government. AICU demands arrest of the police officers and their trial for this unprovoked violence. Police had not fired at upper caste miscreants who burnt and looted government property during violence in Rajasthan, Haryana and other northern states. Any self-respecting chief minister would have resigned in such a situation.

As the largest and oldest movement of lay Christians in the country, the AICU is deeply concerned at the government’s failure to condemn and contain the threats to freedoms of faith, livelihood and expression in the country. Our beloved land has been ravaged by caste violence. Dalits have been beaten to death in several states of the country. Dalits and Muslims have been lynched from Assam to Rajasthan on mere suspicion of eating beef or transporting cattle.

The persecution of Christians is at its height, in almost every state with Tamil Nadu, now in a total anarchy, topping in communal violence too. State impunity and often the collusion of local police and civil officials aggravates the situation. Police routinely file cases against the victims, even against relatives of people who have been beaten to death.

As followers of Christ who taught us to love everyone as we would love our brother, we cannot close our eyes when our citizens, who are among the poorest of the poor and are ostracized for their caste origins and religious affiliations, are being targeted and often beaten or hanged to death in full public view. The killers film the murder as if were an act of valor. The police look on. Ruling party members often take out processions seeking the release of the guilty. The rape of the shepherd child in Kathua, Jammu and Kashmir state, is the most heinous such act. Government has admitted to the death of 111 persons in822acts of communal violence in 2017. As we go towards the 2019 general elections, communal forces widen the polarisation by communal violence. It is crystal clear as to who benefits from the polarisation.

The Catholic Union stands in solidarity with Archbishop Anil Couto of the Delhi Latin Catholic Archdiocese and commends his courage, integrity and spiritual strength in calling attention to this rising tide of targeted violence against Dalits and religious minorities. Archbishop Anil has been hounded since his letter to his clergy asking his people to pray for the people, and to keep a special fast every Friday seeking blessings for India and peace in the land. We demand of every Bishop in India to issue such call for prayer for the country. We hope religious heads of all communities will also join in these prayers.

The Catholic Union had, in fact, organised such a prayer meeting In Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, earlier this. Alarmed at the very large number of incidents of violence against the Christian community in India in 2017, and specially in Madhya Pradesh, religious leaders of the Hindu, Muslim and other religions had come out strongly in support of the minority community, demanding that the government take strict and urgent action against the groups responsible for such mayhem. Acharya Sushil Goswami and Indore Shahar Quazi Mohammad Ishrat Ali had then led a galaxy of religious leaders of Madhya Pradesh who spoke out against communal and extremist forces targeting the Christian and other minority groups. We hope to organise more such meeting.

The Catholic Union has heard Central tourism minister Alphons Kannanatham saying that no Christian has been persecuted in the Modi regime. Mr. Alphons has also led the government brigade targeting Archbishop Anil Couto. Ministers have their compulsions. He must answer his own conscience. As must leaders of the Church who have been coerced or persuaded to issue certificates to the central government. The Church cannot close its eyes to violence against other marginalised communities even if not a single Christian is harmed, the Catholic Union affirms.

The Catholic Union has consistently decried the growing misuse of religion, religious symbols and places in the political discourse. We note with regret the increasing tendency of religious leaders to seek votes and support for the Central government and the ruling party in elections. Religious heads must educate their communities and the citizens large on strengthening the democratic traditions, including religious freedom and human rights, participation in the electoral. Religion must infuse Truth, Morality, Ethics, in the body politic, and not be divisive, incite violence or polarize people.

The Catholic Union has been in the forefront of the rights of Dalits and Tribals, specially those professing the Christian faith. AICU has filed a writ in the Supreme court together with others demanding Scheduled Case rights for Dalits professing the Christian Faith. We hope the courts will take a decision at an early date as this impacts the civic and human rights of a large number of people in the community.

Courtesy: UCANews

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1 Comment

  1. Isaac Gomes said,

    May 26, 2018 at 2:03 am

    The Archbishop’s reported concern in his pastoral letter about India’s “turbulent political atmosphere which poses a threat to the democratic principles enshrined in our Constitution and the Secular fabric of our nation” is understandable. At the same time it is a commentary on his in-depth knowledge of India’s Constitution. For how could he write that India’s democratic principles, especially SECULARISM is under threat, when SECULARISM is one of the basic tenets of the Indian Constitution which cannot be altered/destroyed by Parliament even by absolute majority? This stipulation is because of the historic Kesavananda Bharati case in 1973 where the Supreme Court declared that the BASIC STRUCTURE of the Indian Constitution is NON-NEGOTIABLE and cannot be tampered with by the Parliamen. Included in the BASIC STRUCTURE are Supremacy of the Constitution,Secularism, the principle of Separation of Powers, Freedom and Dignity of the Individual, Independence of the Judiciary, Parliamentary System of Government which cannot be altered by Parliament. Even if any government were to declare India a Hindu or a Muslim State by passing a unanimous resolution in Parliament, it would be null and void. The Constitution vests in the judiciary, the power to adjudicate upon the constitutional validity of all laws. If a law made by Parliament or the state legislatures violates any provision of the Constitution, the Supreme Court has the power to declare such a law invalid or ultra vires. Therefore the Archbishop’s fears about threats to Secularism do not hold water Constitutionally.

    At the Indore Indian Catholic Press Association (ICPA) held in March 2018, Bishop Salvadore Lobo, National Chairman of Social Communications, stressed on the need “to make the Constitution of India more widely known in all sectors of the Church and society”. He knew that our Church Hierarchy and its leaders, have half-baked knowledge of the Indian Constitution. In keeping with the Bishop’s timely suggestion, it is high time all parish priest, bishops, parish pastoral council. parish finance committee members (wherever they exist) and heads of Lay Associations took up a thorough study of the Indian Constitution, with expert assistance. Only then they should consider themselves worthy to guide the flock.

    Archbishop Couto has pinpointed “truth, justice and freedom, equality, liberty and fraternity” as intrinsic values of our Constitution which must be adhered to by any government. Reality check shows these hallowed principles are violated by our Church institutions without any compunction. Examples of these violations are oral hire & fire of staff, inhumane salary and work conditions, denial of Provident Fund, Medical and other benefits. Even Christian Lay Associations flagrantly violate these Constitutional values and there are several anomalies in their functioning which are not in keeping with the spirit of our Constitution and certainly not “Christian”. Hardly any Diocese/Parish has a CRISIS MANAGEMENT / CONFLICT REDRESS CELL. And here we have Archbishop Couto harping on National Crisis!

    Along with prayers, we need a team of lawyers/Constitutional experts, who would advise and help our community in times of crises. They must be centrally funded by CBCI with transparent recovery from all the dioceses.

    Regarding All India Catholic Union’s Press Statement issued on 24th May, it was not published in any mainstream newspaper like the Statesman and the Telegraph. What has Archbishop Couto’s pastoral letter and AICU Press Release got to do with the Tuticorin Police firing? This is a 100% law and order failure of the Tamil Nadu Government. Why deflect the issue and blame the Central Government for this?

    AICU’s “demand of every bishop in India to issue such call for prayer for the country” is playing to the gallery. For at every Sunday mass in all parishes all over India, the Catholic Church, in its Prayer of the Faithful, includes prayer for the country and its leaders.

    As per its website, it was established in 1919, whereas the Catholic Association of Bengal was established in 1911 (as its logo/letterhead reads). This misinformation on AICU needs to be corrected, especially when some Catholic Association of Bengal office bearers are the AICU Board.

    By trying to hog the national limelight as Messiahs to the marginalised, both the Archbishop and AICU have only succeeded in exposing Christians as future targets of attack.

    In this connection the response of Allan De Noronha (Chhotebhai) , President of All India Catholic Union from 1990-1994,to the report “Be bold like Couto, Laity group asks Indian bishops” Published on: 2:28 am, May 25, 2018 by: mattersindia.com, is given below:

    Chhotebhai
    25 May 2018

    QUOTE

    The Working Committee of the AICU is meeting in Dimapur from 25th to 27th May. What then was the need to pre-empt it by issuing a press release from Kolkata on the eve of the meeting? This is unethical.

    Those who are supporting the archbishop’s “prayer appeal” need to see the sharp reactions that have come in, including a call to close down the Papal Nunciature. What have we achieved? Nothing. To the contrary we have given political and social forces inimical to Christianity a long handle to beat us with.

    This was another bloomer after that of Abp Macwan of Gandhinagar before last year’s Gujarat elections. When will we learn from past mistakes and not repeat them?

    As President Emeritus of the AICU I hang my head in shame after reading the press release. It seems that far from being an autonomous body it has now become a lackey of the bishops, with some of their favourites calling the shots. Sad indeed.

    UNQUOTE

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