Wednesday, November 27, 2002

NGOs' Predilection for 'Pre-election Duty' in Ahmedabad

Several non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Gujarat have donned a new role - of alerting citizens about their rights and duties as voters and helping them to get their names entered in the voters' list, etc.

Citizens' Initiative, a consortium of about 40 NGOs, has also decided to make this kind of service its "thrust area" for December and up to the forthcoming Assembly polls in Gujarat.

The consortium held a meeting November 18 to chalk out plans to pool resources and to mobilise volunteers to help create awareness about Hindutva, which according to them is destroying the secular fabric of the Indian Constitution.

Representatives of about 20 organisations present at the meeting decided to go about their task ward-wise, divided by the civic administration of Ahmedabad. They also discussed plans to help "displaced and affected citizens of the minority communities and anyone else who feels scared of voting" by arranging for security points or booths close to their residences.

Since their resources are limited, the NGO representatives said they planned to work primarily in the affected pockets.

Citizens' Initiative will work in tandem with other organisations like Gujarat Election Watch Committee headed by the former Chief Justice of Gujarat High Court, Justice B. J. Divan, which has been formed to keep track of the "criminal activities of MLAs and MPs; candidates who had lost against current MLAs and MPs; and other likely potential future MLA/MP candidates".

Meanwhile, Salamat, a Delhi-based NGO, has also come forward to work to help voters exercise their franchise. The group will camp in Ahmedabad for "the next 20 days" "to create awareness among voters by holding meetings and discussions with as many people as possible."

Prashant, a Jesuit-run centre for justice and peace, is working on "exposing the ills in the State in the present setup, and helping eligible citizens to get their names enrolled in the voters' list. It will also organise seminars for Christian organisations on the unabated atrocities on the members of the community and its institutions.

'Masihi Mahotsav' Celebrates Church Contribution to Nation-Building

'Masihi Mahotsav' - the festival of Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace - was celebrated here, November 15-17, to commemorate "Christian faith in Jesus Christ and Church's service to the nation."

The Mahotsav was jointly organised by the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI), the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI) and the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI). The ecumenical celebration was inaugurated by the Catholicos of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, Baselios Marthoma Mathews II.

"The whole atmosphere of common celebrations was indeed a sign of cooperation and collaboration between the different Churches in India," said Deputy Secretary General of CBCI, Fr. Donald De Souza, on behalf of the organising committee.

EFI chairman, Rev. Dr. C.V. Mathew, said, "The Christian community in India has been a band of servants of the nation. The Church has been a blessing to our country and our people through the centuries."

Expressing his concern at the present situation in the country, Dr. Mathew said, "India is a wounded nation.there are lot of hurt feelings. A culture of hatred is unfortunately emerging and inflicting deep wounds in our psyche," he said. "A national experience of reconciliation is the need of the hour for us to survive as a nation," he added.

The ecumenical celebrations, the organisers said, were aimed at "a new vision for the nation by strengthening the youth in nation-building, by enhancing women's participation in Church and society, by solidarity with the Dalits, by networking among Christian denominations and among the people
of other faiths."

Rallies and seminars on Dalit issues were some of the important features of the ecumenical celebrations.

A United Christian Service was held Sunday, November 17, at St. Columba's School grounds in New Delhi, where around five thousand people from all parts of the country participated.

Masihi Mahotsav is the brainchild of the Ecumenical Consultation held in Nagpur, December 2001.

Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Church Condemns Attack on Temples in Jammu

The Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI) in a press conference in Delhi 25 November, condemned the attacks on Raghunath and Rupiyowala temples in Jammu on Sunday, November 24, in which nine people are reported to have been killed and several others injured. The Bishops of India are pained the statement said, at the killing of innocent people and urge the State and Central Governments to book the culprits of this crime.

Expressing his deep anguish at the increasing number of attacks on our people, the President of CBCI, Archbishop Cyril Mar Baselios said, "It is hard to believe that sacred places where our people come to pray and find spiritual strength and solace are becoming easy targets of attacks by terrorists. I appeal to those involved in such senseless violence to
respect the sacredness of holy places and the dignity of the people who come there to pray."

The Secretary General of CBCI, Bishop Percivel Fernandez, expressing his concern said, "We are confident that all conflicts and disputes between different groups and governments can be resolved through dialogue and peaceful means without resorting to violence and killing of people. We appeal to those responsible for such methods to examine their hearts and work for a society where people can express their faith freely and
live without any fear."

Stressing the need for peaceful solutions , the press statement issued by deputy secretary general of CBCI, stressed that various groups in the country solve this problem.The CBCI called upon the Governments to work toward a concrete solution and to use every opportunity to make people give up arms and terrorism and resolve conflicts by love understanding and dialogue.