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Published in the 1-15 Oct 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

John Dayal elected All India Catholic Union National president

John DayalEminent journalist and human rights activist, Dr John Dayal has been elected National President in keenly contested biennial elections of the 85 year old All India Catholic Union, which represents the nearly 16 million Catholic laity through 120 diocese and district units. The Union has laity representation of all three Catholic Rites -- the Latin Rite, the Syro Malabar Catholic and the Syro Malankara Catholics, the last two tracing their origins from the Apostle St Thomas who came to India soon after Christiís death and Resurrection. The elections were held at the Jesuit retreat House in Mumbai on 20 September 2004.

Dr John Dayal of New Delhi, was earlier vice president, and succeeds Dr Maria Emelia Menezes, the first woman to have held the post. She was President for four years and oversaw a rapid growth of the Union. Dr Dayal is also the Secretary General of the All India Christian Council and with the late Archbishop Alan De Lastic, helped found the United Christian Forum for Human rights which first challenged the right wing persecution of the Christian community in Gujarat and other states in the 1990s. Dr Dayal is also former Treasurer of the Editorís Guild of India and has held various offices in Delhi and National Media associations.

The new vice president of the All India Catholic Union is Dolphy DíSouza, a tourism, travel and Human Resource expert and a prominent Mumbai civil society activist.

Dr Dayal appointed Calcutta management expert Eugene Gonsalves as the AICUís Honorary Treasurer and Mr. Elias Vas of Goa as its Secretary General. This is Mr. Vazís second term as Secretary General.

In his thanksgiving speech, Dr John Dayal committed the AICU to the cause of the Dalits, the Tribals and the Poor, and not just those who were Christians among them. He said the AICU would work with all Civil Society organisations and activists to uphold Human dignity and Civil Liberties. AICU would challenge and fight xenophobia and bigotry which had once again been reflected in the reactions to the recent census, as much as targeting of minority communities and religious persons.

He expressed concern at the continuing violence and coercion of the Christian community in BJP ruled states and in some other regions and called on state governments and the Central Home ministry to take urgent steps to restore confidence and peace. Congratulating the Centre, he expressed his appreciation of recent steps taken by the Central government and specially Mr. Arjun Singh for the detoxification of the Human Resource Development infrastructure in the country from communal infiltration in the last five years Dr Dayal called for vigilance against similar elements in police, judicial and other administrative units.

For the community, Dr Dayal called upon both the Government and the Church authorities to commit themselves to the poor and the Dalits, in principle and in the devolution of resources. The Church, he said, should work out Health Insurance schemes on a national level for the Christian community. Steps must also been taken to ensure that Christians, particularly Dalits and landless peasantry, got the benefits of free education. The recent census had shamed the community showing large numbers of illiterates, specially among tribal and rural Dalit women. 

Dr John Dayal may be contacted at Johndayal@vsnl.com

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