Guwahati (Agenzia Fides) - Ethnic and cultural diversity, pluralism, different languages and origins are a wealth that must be spent to nourish dialogue, mutual exchange, individual and community growth, openness to vast horizons of peace, justice, development, well-being, prosperity: it is with this spirit and with these feelings that the youth of the Indian Catholic Youth Movement (ICYM) launched their fifth national conference at a very significant venue, the city of Guwahati, in the Indian state of Assam, in northeastern India. As Archbishop Emeritus Thomas Menamparapil reported, Assam is seeing strong echoes of the conflict in the neighboring state of Manipur, which is plagued by inter-ethnic violence. Five months after the start of the conflict, which broke out on May 3 between groups of the Kuki and Meitei ethnic groups, an estimated 200 people have died and 60,000 people have been internally displaced. Local populations raise justice issues, which are the source of the outbreak of violence, which remain in the background and can still generate tensions and clashes.
Young Indians from different states, ethnic groups and cultures, with their testimony of coexistence and harmony, want to send a message of peace in the tormented region of North-East India. 450 diocesan delegates from 132 dioceses across India, representing 14 regions of the nation, are actively participating in the convention. They are accompanied and led by the Archbishop of Guwahati, John Moolachira, and the Bishop of Bareilly and Chairman of the Youth Commission of the Latin Bishops' Conference of India, Ignatius D'Souza. As Father Stephen Alathara, deputy secretary general of the Latin Bishops' Conference of India, pointed out, the youth immediately highlighted their unique traditions and cultural diversity, striving to engage local youth and “contaminating society with their enthusiasm, bringing an atmosphere of peace and joy throughout the country.” In fact, the 15 dioceses of the North-East region of India are the protagonists of the meeting, which also intends to offer a message of hope, of a social and political nature: in the presence of the political representatives of the territory, the young Catholics have demanded a serious and lasting commitment to protect the greatest good, peace. This message touches the Indian nation, but also, by widening the gaze, the whole world: the conference will in fact end on October 27 and the young people, in communion with the Pope and the universal Church, will join in prayer for peace in the Middle East, committing to being, in all circumstances, "artisans and builders of peace" and deeply sympathizing with the young people of Israel and Palestine. Northeast India is a very unstable region, crossed by numerous conflicts, notably between different tribes and ethnic groups, but also by ferments of rebellion against established forms of government. The Indian federal government is often accused of exploiting local resources (minerals, tea, timber and oil) without giving anything in return to local populations. In this region, which today includes the seven states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura, as well as Sikkim and the northeastern part of Bengal Western, the Catholic Church is organized into 15 dioceses, with a total Catholic population of approximately 1.2 million baptized people. The “Peace team”, created by Archbishop Emeritus Thomas Menamparampil, is a presence which has gained importance in the region and which is recognized as such. In more than 20 years of activity, the group has played a mediating role in numerous cases of ethnic, tribal, religious, political and social conflicts. (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 25/10/2023)