Jesuit priest urges fight against India's culture of death
by Nirmala Carvalho
The Archdiocese of Mumbai gives an award to Fr Cedric Prakash, director of the Prashant Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace, and to the Sisters of Mother Teresa orphanage in Mumbai for their pro-life work. For the Jesuit priest, Christians must defend life from "abortion, the death penalty and euthanasia."

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - "As Christians, we have to be aware that Jesus is life and that he came to give us life in all its abundance. We therefore have to do all we can to be promoters of this life, to propagate a culture of life in its many dimensions. However, none of us can be selective in our pro-life approach. We certainly have to take a stand against the abortion of the unborn child but at the same time, we have to take a stand also against the death penalty. It does not matter how 'bad' the criminal is and what evil he has done, if we believe that only God is the author of life and death, we have to be crystal clear and consistent on our stand of all wrong forms of "death": abortion, the death penalty and euthanasia."

The aforementioned remarks come from Fr Cedric Prakash, a Jesuit priest in Gujarat, who was one of two recipients of a Human Life Award given by the Human Life Committee and the Family Commission of the Archdiocese of Mumbai, on March 23, the Day for Life. The Nirmala Shishu Bhavan Orphanage, which is run by the Missionaries of Charity, was the other recipient. More than 300 people from 70 parishes attended the event.

"Every year, we give the Sr Annunciata Pro Life Award and the Lily and Rose Award to those institutions or individuals who worked in favour of life," said Bishop Agnelo Gracias, who chairs both the Human Life Committee and the Family Commission.

Fr Prakash, who received the first award, heads the Ahmedabad-based Prashant Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace. The Sisters of Mother Teresa orphanage, which received the second award, is in located in the Mumbai neighbourhood of Vile Parle.

Accepting the prize on the latter's behalf, Sister Rahanna cited Mother Teresa. "I do not know what success will is," she said, "but if the Missionaries of Charity brought joy into" one "unhappy house, if they made sure that one innocent street kid is preserved pure for Jesus, if they helped a dying man die at peace with God, don't you think, Your Excellency, that it is worthwhile to offer everything for just that one, because that one would bring great joy to the Heart of Jesus."

A veteran fights for human rights, Fr Prakash, along with the Prashant Centre, has tried to help victims of clashes between Hindus and Muslims in Gujarat in 2002, which saw Muslims suffer the most losses.

"In many ways, the 2002 carnage ushered in a culture of death, not only in Gujarat but in the entire country," the priest said in his acceptance speech.

"Nowadays many in India seem to legitimise it," he added. In fact, "A section of society backs someone as a candidate for prime minister who presided over this bloody chapter in the country's history."

Yet, "there can be no greater tragedy than" when it no longer matters "what happens to 'the other'," when "it does not matter if we burn and loot, rape and kill, if we destroy life in all its sanctity."