ASIA/INDIA - Final act of political elections while there is growing debate on the presence of Christians in civil and political life

Monday, 10 May 2004

New Delhi (Fides Service) - While elections in India are at the final stage since mid April there is growing debate as to whether and how Christians should be involved in political.
According to some Christian members of parliament in the previous legislature, “believers in Christ should be more present in public, political, social and civil life and make their voices heart in the media also to make known their real identity ”.
A MP in Goa, Edorado Faleiro, told Fides that “demonstrations and marches are not enough what is needed is a presence in politics with long term programmes. We must form groups of reflection, cultural institutes and research centres to prepare Christians for active political life and make them a significant and effective component”.
According to John Dayal, President of the All India Catholic Union, “it is not enough for Christians to benefit from government programmes for minority groups. They should be more courageous and take the initiative even at the cost of being a target for Hindu fundamentalists”.
One way of ebing more visible is to be seen and heard in the media. The vice president of the Indian Catholic Press Association Adolf Washington, underlined the need for the “Church to be more present in secular non Catholic media to help tackle the political and social challenges facing the country ”.
With regard to political positions assumed by Christians, Father Babu Joseph, spokesman of the Indian Bishops’ Conference told Fides “they are articulated in a plurality of political opinions. A great effort has been made to increase awareness among the people of the duty to participation in the political life of the country in keeping with and in order to promote the principles of the Church’s Social Teaching ”.
One of the principles underlined by the Catholic Church, pointed out by Father Joseph is the distinction between religion and politic: “At the national level the Bishops urged people to vote for non-religious parties which avoid mixing politics with religion and exploiting faith for partisan interests”. The local Church hopes that “the new governors called to administer the country will promote the interests of all India’s different communities. The new political class should work to see that in India the legitimate rights of every individual are respected regardless of race, religion, culture or social standing. These rights, freedom of belief and worship, freedom to engage in economic, social and cultural activities are guaranteed by India’s Constitution”.
In the meantime the long process of national elections started on 20 April ends today, 10 May, and the results are expected to be announced on May 13. More than 670 million voters were called to elect 543 members of Parliament, for a five year term. On India’s political scenario there is a bunch of 40 parties, the favourites being the Hindu Nationalist party Baratiya Janata Party (BJP) led by the Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, and Congress Party, led by Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul. During the electoral campaign 45 people were killed, most of them in Jammu and Kashmir state. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 10/05/2004 Lines: 35 Words: 345)