03/03/2009, 00.00
INDIA
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Cardinal Vithayathil: Vote "no" on religious fundamentalism

by Nirmala Carvalho
The president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India urges voting for "a party that will ensure the sovereign democratic and secular credentials of our beloved motherland." Religious freedom, inclusion of minorities and Dalits in the life of society, attention to women and to the young generations are the Church's concerns for the elections in April.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) - The future government should "not encourage religious fundamentalism" and should promote "the freedom to profess and practice faith as enshrined in the Indian Constitution." Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), has spoken with AsiaNews about his expectations and concerns in view of the general elections next April.

About 714 million people will go to the polls to renew the Lok Sabha, the House of the People, at a time when the country is facing a critical situation on numerous fronts - economic, political, and social. 80% of the people live on less than 2 dollars a day, the global crisis is having serious repercussions on the country, and social tension is being expressed in widespread episodes of intolerance aimed mainly at the minorities and the weakest segments of the population, women and Dalits. To these facts are added the tensions connected to the terrorist attacks in Mumbai: a mixture of elements that make April's elections a decisive testing ground for the country's democratic future.

"These are critical times in the country," Cardinal Vithayathil says, "and the Church, while it does not participate in party politics, has a moral obligation to ensure that our people vote for a party that will ensure the sovereign democratic and secular credentials of our beloved motherland."

For the cardinal, the conditions of discrimination in which the Dalit Christians are forced to live, compared to their fellow caste members in other religions, is one of the points that "should be immediately rectified" by the next government. Attention should also be paid to the poor and marginalized, who must be "assimilated into mainstream society."

"I have already written to the Carmelite Monasteries," the president of the CBCI says, asking them "to pray incessantly for the Indian general elections. Prayer is the best weapon we have to build a secular India. Special prayer services will also be held all over the country, to build, protect and defend our secular India and ensure constitutional rights for the marginalized and minorities in the country."

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