03/16/2009, 00.00
INDIA
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Justice and forgiveness to defeat terrorism, says Indian bishop

by Nirmala Carvalho
The Mumbai attacks and anti-Christian pogroms in Orissa are the “expression of a nihilistic mentality” that strikes at the defenceless and the innocent, says Bishop Dabre. Condemning violence is necessary but not enough; a particular commitment at the “political and educational levels” is needed. John Paul II is an example to follow: he condemned terrorism but was able to forgive his attacker, Ali Agca.
Mumbai (AsiaNews) – Mgr Thomas Dabre, bishop of Vasai and chairman of the Commission for Theology and Doctrine of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), is convinced that the only way to deal with a “complex” and “diabolic” phenomenon like terrorism a “politics of forgiveness” is needed. His inspiration comes from John Paul II who, in his message for World Day of Peace in 2002, said that “there is no peace without justice” and “no justice without forgiveness.” The Indian Church must do the same when it comes to the various acts of terrorism that have recently marred the life of the country.

In his address to a symposium on the Church’s social doctrine and the civilisation of peace, Monsignor Dabre said that the wave of violence that is sweeping the country is the “expression of a nihilistic mentality” that strikes at the defenceless and the innocent, and represents the “rejection and destruction of life itself.”

In his intervention he mentioned the Mumbai attacks of November 2008, the seven bombs that exploded on the city’s urban trains in 2006 (killing more than 200 people, 62 from the Vasai diocese), the anti-Christian pogrom in Orissa, the attacks in Malegaon and the Hindu-Muslim clashes in Godhra, all examples of violence committed in the name of religion.

But for the bishop of Vasai it is not enough to condemn these deeds. “What is needed is a particular commitment at the political and educational levels to resolve, with courage and determination, the problems that in certain dramatic circumstances can foster terrorism,” he said.

At the centre of the Church’s concern lies the human person and the dignity of every human being; for this reason “the struggle against terrorism must be carried out with respect for human rights and moral and legal norms and principles.”

Defeating terrorists, who consider “human life as an object to do with as we please,” is a task that falls on public institutions, but is also a responsibility which everyone must assume as well. 

Bishop Dabre also criticised Indian and Pakistani media for fuelling the “hysteria” that followed the Mumbai attacks. Their coverage of the event tended to ridicule the other and confuse entire religious and national communities with the beliefs held by terrorists.

Examples of how standing firm and forgiveness can go hand in hand do exist. He noted for example that Pope John Paul II was adamant that terrorism must “be condemned in the most absolute terms,” yet he was able to visit his attacker, Ali Agca, and forgive him for what he did.

For Bishop Dabre religious groups have a special responsibility to promote forgiveness. Inter-faith dialogue is a precious tool to encourage a culture of peace, rediscover “the sense of oneness of the human family,” and favour “the spirit of solidarity” on which the coexistence of the many cultures and traditions that make up India is based.

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