All India Catholic Union National President  Lancy D Cunha has listed the long-pending restoration of scheduled rights for Dalit Christians, Targeted hate and violence against religious minorities, and the skewed National Education Policy as the chief concerns of the Christian community in the first year of the third decade of the 21st Century.

Speaking at a webinar organized by the Syro Malabar Rite of the Catholic Church, Mr. D Cunha said the AICU had protested the promulgation of the Presidential Order 1950, which later became Article 34 Part 3, right at the beginning. The AICU is among those who have challenged the provision in the Supreme Court. It is strange, the AICU president said, that converts to Sikhism and Buddhism from the former untouchable, or Dalit, communities have been included in the SC category whereas Christians from the identical communities have been kept out. This has deprived a large number of people of their political rights, and their children of the opportunities of reservations in professional institutions etc. The Catholic Union has been demanding an abrogation of Article 3541 part three since 1950. It remains it top demand.

He listed the other concerns as:

2. Tribal Christians have been severely impacted in various states including Jharkhand and Orissa by the alienation of their homes, lands and resources because of mining and other projects. Now, they are being targeted by communal forces who are inciting polarization in villages and communities. This must end.

3. It is 12 years after Kandhamal, but justice is still not fully given to the victims of the worst pogrom in the history of the community. “We salute he resilience of the victim-survivors, including a nun who was gang-raped and is today a lawyer leading the struggle for justice,” he said. The violence in 2008 saw over 60,000 people displayed, over 6,000 houses burnt, 40 villages ethnically cleansed of the minority population and close to 400 churches and institutions distroyed. Despite supreme court orders, many still suffer.

4. TARGTED HATE: National and state governments must take strong action to end Targeted hate inciting violence, and incidents of attacks on churches and individual. pastors. The Collectors and District superintendents of police must be held accountable for such acts of violence in their districts.

5. FCRA: Government must consider applications asking it to renew the FCRA [Foreign Contributions Regulation] permissions of many Christian organizations which had been cancelled in the last five years. In the recent Covid situation, the people saw how Christian groups in general, and catholic organizations and churches in particular, fed lakhs of people across the country, including those suddenly rendered jobless, the migrants seeking to go home, and especially the women and children. FCRA money is used for the public good, for the poorest of the poor, and the government must understand this.

6. The National Education Policy must be discussed threadbare once again with all major stakeholders. The Church and the Christian community are the single biggest stakeholder, not just as founders of nearly 40,000 academic institutions by congregations, foundations and individual Christian groups, but also as teachers. a figure which also runs into lakhs. The policy does not even acknowledge our specific existence. The governance mechanisms can open Christian schools to the pressure of powerful vested interests in states and districts under the new NEP.

7. Many states do not have Minority commissions. The National Minorites Commission is also moribund. Religious minorities need a national helpline so that matters of violence, victimization, pressure from political groups and panchayats and issues of social ostracization etc. are addressed immediately. This will also make the local police and administration more accountable. It will end impunity.

8. The Central government must withdraw its decision to dissolve the two seats reserved for Anglo Indians in the Lok Sabha. There was no reason to suddenly abrogate this provision. This had indeed further disempowered the religious minorities.

9. The Centre and State government must increase number and amount of scholarships under religious minorities category given through National minorities commission and other schemes. There must be weighted criteria as a child from rural areas going to a local school cannot be compared in marks with a child of the same age in an urban setting. The father’s annual income limit must be raised to at least Rs 4 lakhs for h4 purpose of scholarships. Similarly, government finance must be available for Christian children under the EWS schemes. This has become crucial in v8ew of increased e-learning which requires electric supply, Wi-Fi and at least a tablet sized device for every school going child in the family.

10. Fishermen, Boatmen and people living coastal areas, many of whom ae Christian, require a special economic package in view of the Covid situation and changes in the fish populations in coastal areas.

As All India Catholic Union, a century-old umbrella to the laity of every parish, diocese, region, and the nation at large, covering the Latin, Syro Malabar and Syro Malankara Rites, it is our endeavor to work with the hierarchy in as seeking these demands as full partners and the people who suffer infirmities and sometimes violence , but will benefit if the government and the hierarchy work with it in unison, the AICU president said.


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