By Robin Gomes
India’s Catholic community has been urged “to strengthen its solidarity with the poor”, who are considered “useless objects” in the eyes of today’s economic system.
The call was made by Archbishop Felix Machado of Vasai Diocese, secretary-general of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), who inaugurated the annual general body meeting of the All India Catholic Union (AICU) in Mumbai on Sunday.
Plight of the poor
“We should not treat the poor as insignificant non-persons without any rights and an obstacle to society. It is a matter of concern and we must understand their plight and treat them equally,” Archbishop Machado said in a webinar that was hosted in keeping with the Covid-19 protocols.
Founded in 1919, the AICU is the oldest lay Catholic organization of India. In a press release on Tuesday, it noted that participants expressed concerns over the plight of the poor, the digital divide in society, attacks on minority rights and the Indian government’s “worrisome” New Education Policy (NEP).
In his address, Archbishop Machado explained, “due to globalization, millions of poor people are considered as useless objects and are used and thrown away by the economic system”. In this regard, he recalled Saint Pope John Paul II and Pope Francis who have urged that the foreign debt of poor countries, manipulated by creditors with taxes and interest, be written off.
Indian and Christian at the same time
Archbishop Machado dismissed allegations of “vested interests” that question the patriotism of India’s Christians. “We are Indians and at the same time Christians,” he said, stressing the two cannot be separated.
At the same time, the Church promotes dialogue with all, irrespective of their religious affiliations, to foster values of peace, justice and freedom so that everyone’s rights are respected.
“We need to collaborate not only with other Christian denominations but also with civil society and like-minded people of all faiths,” the AICU statement said.
The AICU meeting noted that the government’s New Education Policy has created apprehension in the country’s Christian community. The CBCI and AICU have demanded continuing consultations on the NEP and assurances that it will not violate the rights of states or religious minorities and will ensure adequate budgetary provisions for universal education.
The meeting also touched upon issues such as threats faced by the Catholic Church from religious fundamentalists, changes in laws related to the environment and the need for a concerted response from the CBCI and the AICU to the Covid-19 pandemic.