02/15/2019, 00.00
INDIA
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John Dayal: Our campaign to keep religion and politics separate

Ahead of the general elections, the Council of lay people of the Indian Bishops' Conference is organizing meetings throughout the territory. It wants to make local communities more involved in issues of freedom of worship in India. In March it will present a report to the bishops. John Dayal: "A poisonous context of regional nationalism undermines the secular roots of our republic".

New Delhi (AsiaNews) - "We Catholics continue to fight so that religion and politics remain separate" says John Dayal, general secretary of the All India Christian Council.  He is speaking to AsiaNews, ahead of the general elections held in May.

Dayal reiterates that "India is a secular democracy. The upcoming elections represent a serious threat because the majority political parties are creating a venomous context of regional nationalism that undermines the secular roots of our republic ".

The opinion of the Catholic leader comes as the Council of lay people of the Indian Bishops' Conference (CBCI) launches a series of conferences to outline a political line of the Church. The product of these conferences, which are held throughout the territory, will be a report that will be presented to the bishops on March 10th. Subsequently, it will be up to the ecclesiastical hierarchy to formulate an official position and, possibly, suggestions for the development of the country and freedom of worship.

In any case, John Dayal explains: "Politics is not part of the Church. The Catholic Church remains a spiritual and moral guide. It can comment, give advice, persuade, but not order. Rather, it is the lay leaders, and not the Bishops' Conference, who have a direct role in the civil and political arena. For their part, Catholic bishops of India have been encouraging or suggesting to the Christian community to vote in a careful way, to use wisdom in choosing public officials involved in democracy, in supporting non-violence and pluralist society, for at least 25 years. India, with its many religions and cultures ".

The Council of the Laity is one of the consultative organs of the Indian Church. Its initiative responds to the desire to make the Christian minority more involved in matters concerning religious freedom in India. Recently, in the lead up to elections, Hindu radical attacks have intensified against the faithful and pastors, often accused of forced conversions of tribal and dalit, against the schools run by the Church and the blocking of funds from abroad to Christian NGOs who operate on Indian territory. The fear of sectarian attacks and of being victims of gratuitous and indiscriminate violence is common among the faithful.

The topics that will be discussed include the following: violations of the constitutional rights of the minority; the deprivation of work subsidies and in the field of education (such as the quotas reserved for disadvantaged castes), useful for encouraging the inclusion of Christians in society and the improvement of living conditions.

The Council of the Laity, highlights Dayal, "remains a motivational agency. I hope that in the future it will have the necessary resources to train, educate [people] and also communicate at the political level. This remains the long-term goal not only of the commission for the laity, but also of the All India Catholic Union that I presided from 2004 to 2008 ". Therefore "the bishops should involve Catholic unions and associations at the parish level to a greater extent. The CBCI should create a research office or think tank on politics, society and the economy".

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