Indian religious: Stand with the marginalise in a wounded country

The Forum of Religious for Justice and Peace held their National Convention in Hyderabad. They bemoan the fact that “The poor in India become poorer every day”, while “the rich and powerful continue to profiteer at their expense and amass scandalous amounts of wealth.” The Church and her own congregations are also urged to show greater courage.

Sep 29, 2022

By Nirmala Carvalho
The Forum of Religious for Justice and Peace held its 17th National Convention in Hyderabad from 22 to 24 September.

Centred on “Deepening our identity as religious: Responding to the signs of the times”, the 63 men and women religious who attended came from 16 Indian states, representing 20 different congregations,

"Following the path traced by those who preceded us, we renewed our choice to commit ourselves to those who live on the margins,” said Sister Dorothy Fernandes, Forum convener and a member of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, speaking to AsiaNews.

In opening the meeting, Sister M. Nirmalini, president of the Conference of Religious India (CRI), cited Pope Francis’s call to the consecrated life to “wake up the world” and show that there is “another way of being, acting and living a prophetic way of life".

The Forum’s final declaration expressed deep concern for the situation in India today.

“As religious committed to justice and peace, we express our concern at the deteriorating situation of our nation on every front,” it reads. “The poor in India become poorer every day; the rich and powerful continue to profiteer at their expense and amass scandalous amounts of wealth.”

“The Adivasis are robbed of their jal, jungle and jameen. The Dalits and OBCs and other subaltern groups are still denied the dignity, equality and justice which are legitimately theirs.

“[M]inorities (particularly Muslims and Christians) are targeted with hate speech and persecution, by a regime which systematically and continuously denigrates and demonizes them with a divisive and violent agenda. Intolerance is on the rise.”

In the statement, the religious cite “The new National Education Policy (NEP), which “is clearly anti-poor and anti-minority and caters only to a small section of the rich and the elite.”

Forum participants also spoke out against widespread graft and cronyism, repression of freedom of speech and human rights violations, noting that those “who take a stand against the  regime are hauled up, false cases are foisted on them – they are attacked, incarcerated and even killed (as we have painfully experienced in the death of our brother Stan Swamy who died whilst still in police custody).”

At the same time, the Forum also questions the silence of the Indian Church. The “synodality” Pope Francis calls for at the local level is still hindered by clericalism and a patriarchal mindset, while caste discrimination is still practised.

In this context, Forum participants renewed their commitment to "continually deepen our identity as radical disciples of Jesus and have the prophetic courage to respond to the signs of the times.”

Convinced that “personal transformation is the first step towards social transformation, [. . .] we will continue to strive to build more inclusive communities, transcending the religious, caste, gender and ethnic divisions and every form of sectarianism.

Finally, addressing their congregations, they urge them, at all stages of training, “to conduct programmes on the Constitution of India and social analysis with the necessary exposure to the realities of the poor” and “take an unequivocal, visible and vocal stand and to accompany the victims of abuse both within Church and in society at large.”--Asia News

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