Catholic Union condemns Election Commission notice to Gujarat Archbishop, asks why Pope not invited to India?
The following press statement was issued on 3 Dec 2017 at a press conference in the Tiruchirapalli, Tamil Nadu by Mr Lancy D Cunha, the National President of the All India Catholic Union, and Dr John Dayal, Official Spokesman and former President. The 98 year old AICU celebrates its 100 years in 2019 and is holding its Working Committee meeting in Trichy.
TRICHURAPALLI: The Christian community in India is aghast at the manner in which state and non-state actors are harassing the Archbishop Thomas Macwan of Gandhinagar, Gujarat, for his call that people pray that narrow nationalist forces do not overwhelm the secular and democratic character of India. While the Election Commission of India has served him a notice, fundamentalist and religious nationalist groups have launched a media campaign against the Bishop and against the Catholic community.
Archbishop Thomas Macwan has replied to the EC notice. AICU however wants to know if the Election Commission gave similar notices on prominent priests of various other religions in Gujarat. Some head priests have directly told people to vote for the ruling party and the Prime Minister.
The Catholic Union has consistently decried the growing misuse of religion, religious symbols and places in the political discourse. 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 questioned the government on why the Pope was not invited to visit India during his south Asia tour.
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 freedom of expression in the country. The ugly controversy over films and the open threats to kill the artistes and director of the period drama film Padmawati, writer Prof Kancha Iailiah, and social media threats to activists Kavita Krishnan, Kavita Srivastava and others, reflect a speedy breakdown in the rule of law.
We are shocked that elements of the ruling party are also issuing such threats. The lynchings of Muslims and Dalits in the name of the cow, are a shame for the nation. Religious minorities are being coerced, threatened and targeted by self styled cultural-nationalists.
The Catholic Union has heard Central tourism minister Alphons Kannanatham saying that no Christian has been persecuted in the Modi regime. Ministers have their compulsions. He will have to answer his own conscience. Christians and Muslims are routinely persecuted in most states, with the police and political elements complicit in the crime. Government has admitted this in the Lok Sabha. Complaints have also been filed with the National Commission of Minorities, and the United Nations Human Rights Council. AICU calls upon the government, and the National Crime Records Bureau to publish this data and not minimize it by registering targeted and communal violence under "other" heads.
This does not augur well for the freedom of religion in India. The situation is aggravated by several recent steps taken by the government, including the enforcing of the NEET admission tests which deeply impact the future of minority students seeking admission in professional education institutions. The proposed National Education Policy continues as a threat with reports of rewriting curricula, and the corporatization of education.
A small example of government's indifference to the sentiments of religious minorities is the 12 % tax imposed on Coffins, Crosses and Rosaries, the prayer beads used by Catholics as part of their religious practices. We demand the GST be removed on all religious artifacts. On GST, we also support women's demand on Zero Tax on items of personal hygiene.
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.
Released by the official spokesman, Dr John Dayal. He may be contact at firstname.lastname@example.org