ASIA/INDIA - Bishops meet Christian members of parliament: religious discrimination must stop; India’s Catholics have a role in society

Friday, 16 July 2004

New Delhi (Fides Service) - Efforts to eliminate religious discrimination, offer equal opportunities to all religious communities, lift pressure on India’s Christians, promote development of poorest people: these were the main points discussed at a meeting between Christian members of Parliament and some of the country’s Catholic Bishops on July 14 at the offices of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference in New Delhi.
A report on the event was sent to Fides. In his address of welcome Cardinal Telesphore Toppo, President of the Bishops’ Conference, congratulated the MPs on their success in the recent general election and wished them God’s blessings and grace in their valuable service to the people of India. Underlining that the Church “is a friend of the Indian nation and people”, Cardinal Toppo recalled that Church has a God given responsibility to carry forward the mission of Jesus to love and serve the nation and he added that in this mission “the Church looks to members of Parliament for guidance and cooperation”.
Also present at the meeting Archbishop Vincent Concessao, Archbishop of Delhi, Bishop Donald D’Souza General secretary of the Bishops’ Conference, several other Bishops and members of the National Commission for Minorities. The MPs present were seventeen including Oscar Fernandez newly appointed Minister of Statistics and Programme Implementation. Archbishop Concessao congratulated the new Minister and wished him success in his new role.
The matters discussed during the meeting included the important question of assuring social and economic development of the poorer groups of the population Dalit and Tribals. Cardinal Toppo said that the Church demands equal rights and opportunities for all people regardless of their religion. He reiterated that discrimination based on religion is certainly contrary to the letter and the spirit of India’a Constitution: Tribals or Dalits who are Christians have the same rights as non Christian Tribals and Dalits.
Another topic discussed was the question of increasing pressure on Christian minority institutions from various quarters chiefly from some of the state governments and Hindu extremist groups. However they took note of the positive steps taken by the present Central Government in addressing some of the urgent matters concerning minority communities in India. Such efforts should be intensified so that the Christian community could continue to contribute to the task of nation-building. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 16/7/2004 lines 38 words 365)