05/06/2013, 00.00
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Card. Gracias: India can not grow without religious freedom

by Card. Oswald Gracias
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has placed India among the countries where violations of freedom of religion and persecution are growing. The president of the Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI) comments on the report: "It is urgent that government agencies, laws and practical actions ensure protection of religious freedom for all, as enshrined in our Constitution."

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - "To discriminate against religious beliefs, will eventually destabilize society and is detrimental to the progress of our beloved country." This is the focus of a reflection by Card. Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Mumbai and president of the Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI), on the latest report by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). The U.S. organization has added India to level 2 of its ranking among the countries where violations of religious freedom are growing and of serious concern. The Asian country thus has left the "Watch List" to join Azerbaijan, Cuba, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Laos and Russia. Below is Card. Gracias' comment to AsiaNews.

I am unhappy that investigations have found India's religious freedom.  My immediate concern is that we must take steps to ensure that the Rights are not infringed upon in any way, that the minorities are safe guarded to practice, profess and propagate their faith freely. Right to religious freedom is enshrined in our Constitution. Spirituality is an intrinsic part of Indian culture and life and it is urgent and essential that government bodies, the laws and practices  uphold religious freedom.

India is economically a leading nation, well respected in the international community, but equally important is our Moral authority in the comity of nations, and this is possible when our most vulnerable and minorities are guaranteed the fundamental-international human right of Religious Freedom.

Freedom of religion and respect for freedom of conscience  is arguably the right most intimately connected to human dignity. No government, no group  can enter into the  sacred conscience of a person and try to impose and dominate it etc, it is a regressive rather than progressive.   A guarantee of religious freedom supports other fundamental rights necessary to all human persons; because it is grounded in the universal dignity of the human person, religious freedom encourages other related rights.

As India is gearing up for our next general elections, as President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference  I would like to caution  political parties, not to exploit religion for political purposes, and to  guarantee and ensure our Constitutionally guaranteed Religious Freedom to each and every citizen especially religious minorities throughout India.  To discriminate against religious beliefs, or to discredit religious practice, is exclusion contrary to respect for fundamental human dignity that will eventually destabilize society by creating a climate of tension, intolerance, opposition, and suspicion not conducive to social peace and  be detrimental to the progress of our beloved country."


(Nirmala Carvalho collaborated)


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