12/18/2006, 00.00
INDIA
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Minorities Rights Award for 2006 goes to Fr. Cedric Prakash

by Nirmala Carvalho
The Jesuit priest, who heads the Prashant Centre and has already collaborated with AsiaNews in the past, receives the award in recognition of his work in favour of human rights in the country, especially in Gujarat.

Delhi (AsiaNews) – India’s National Commission for Minorities has chosen Cedric Prakash, director of the Jesuit-run ‘Prashant Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace’ as the 2006 recipient of its “Minorities Rights Award” for his work in favour of human rights in the country.

The Jesuit priest, who was also honoured this year with France’s Legion of Honour for his action on behalf of victims of the 2002 Gujarat massacre, told AsiaNews that he accepted this award, “with humility”.

“I consider it [the award] above all recognition that minority rights are a problem and that they are being violated in the country,” he said. “The constant efforts by the Gujarat government to steam roll minorities in the state and the introduction of a draconian law against religious freedom are reasons enough for citizens of this country to keep fighting for human rights for all”.

Father Prakash dedicated this prize “to Aminaben Rasool, a Muslim mother who saw her son murdered during the 2002 massacre and has not been able to find his body. Every request she has made with the Gujarat police has been refused.”

“I am very happy that a fellow Jesuit brother, who fought for years against discriminations, was given the award,” Mgr Stanislaus Fernandes sj, secretary general of the Bishops’ Conference of India, told AsiaNews.

“In a way, it [the award] is an affirmation and recognition of the work of the Catholic Church in her ministry of justice and peace,” he said.

The prelate, who is archbishop of Gandhimagar in Gujarat, said that “the Church in Gujarat has constantly battled the serious and sustained violation of minority rights. Any human society, if it is to be well-ordered and productive, must respect the rights of every individual, especially those who live on its periphery.”

These rights are “universal and inviolable. They cannot be surrendered or traded. They are essential to man’s dignity and an integral part of the development of individuals and society. Any denial of these rights harms people and hurts the whole of humanity.”

Also speaking to AsiaNews, human rights activist and All India Catholic Union chairman John Dayal said: “I have known Father Prakash for about 15 years. Because of his work he has received threats and been subjected to violence, but he has never given up. He was able to convince the Church in Gujarat to stand up with courage to difficult times.”

For instance, Dayal points out, “it is thanks to his example that convents opened their doors to Muslim women fleeing the violent nationalist fury and that people expressed their outrage at the massacre. He opened the eyes of the Church which might have otherwise retreated into a neutral stance”.

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