01/03/2014, 00.00
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Card Gracias: The Message of Peace is a recipe for India's development

by Oswald Gracias*
The archbishop of Mumbai reflects on AsiaNews about the importance of the theme chosen by Francis for World Peace Day. "Only fraternity can save our beloved country from the evils of discrimination and social inequality. We are all brothers and sisters; we must live as a family to make the world a better place."

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - Pope Francis's theme of "Fraternity as the foundation and pathway to peace" and his message for peace are very relevant to India today. Fraternity is urgently needed to herald sustainable peace, development and progress in our country.

Following India's national pledge, we pledge that "All Indians are my brothers and sisters. As the Holy Father indicates, 'the Fatherhood of God can be seen as the basis of fraternity, this is our national pledge. All Indians are brothers and sisters and we are all children of the same father. Regrettably, the prevailing ethos of mass culture enshrines money as the supreme value. This results in mass poverty and social inequality.

The Holy Father cautions against the "globalisation of indifference" that makes us blind "to the suffering of others and closed in on ourselves."

This speaks directly to the situation in India, where the gap between the rich and the poor and between rural and urban society is increasing. It is a matter of utter shame that over 250,000 farmers have committed suicide in India since 1997.

The same is true for women, whose inferior status leads to increasing female foeticide and horrific practices and abuses against the girls and women, and other despicable evils against life.

Our sense of fraternity extends to Dalit Christians and all our brothers and sisters in India, under the Fatherhood of God, so that discrimination may end and they may receive the privileges that others have. We are concerned about this and hope that with God's grace everything will come right.

In 2014, we have general elections, and the pope's call for fraternity becomes even more significant. We are all Indians, and we share a common heritage with our common Fatherhood in God. Our politicians must place the well-being of the whole nation before their personal, party and petty interests. 

The Holy Father states that indifference brings with it "offences against fundamental human rights, especially the right to life and the right to religious freedom."

Spirituality is an intrinsic part of Indian culture, yet religions laws seek to stifle the right to religious freedom, which is enshrined in the Indian Constitution.

To discriminate against religious beliefs, or discredit religious practices is tantamount to exclusion contrary to respect for fundamental human dignity that will eventually destabilise society by creating a climate of tension, intolerance, opposition, and suspicion, which are not conducive to social peace and can become detrimental to the progress of our beloved country.

Seen in this light, fraternity is the foundation and pathway to peace. Whatever traditions we belong to, we are brothers and sisters of the same family; therefore, the importance of understanding, dialogue and trying to reach out to others can make a better world. It is essential for us in India to fight the three evils of communalism, the caste system and corruption, which pose a constant threat to our beloved motherland India.

For each of us brothers and sisters of our great motherland India, I, as President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India, pray that each one of us Indians has the spirit of fraternity and be led, in the words of the Upanishads, 'from untruth to truth, from darkness to light, and from death to immortality" (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, 1.3.28).

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