18 National News

posted Aug 10, 2017, 9:22 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Aug 10, 2017, 9:22 AM ]

New Delhi
Prominent Christians urge Church leaders to raise voice against growing intolerance

Prominent Christians belonging to various denominations wrote an open letter to the Church leadership on August 4, asking them to support the civil society in its struggle to safeguard India's cultural and religious diversity.

"We must save India's religious diversity." The writers shared their concerns over the steady shift "in our country from a pluralist, secular, democracy to a Hindu Rashtra."

"What used to be fringe has now become mainstream. There is a systematic design to undermine the Constitution. Official machinery often seems to be working in tandem with the vigilantes. Street lynching, victims charged as accused, stage-managed trials—all on the basis of one's religious and caste identities. Media seems mute, silent in self-censorship, coerced by the State, or leashed by its corporate owners. Fake news is the final straw," read the letter.

It added that a new coercive culture is destroying lives and families. "Fear stalks the land. The anger is as much over the killings as it is over our collective silence. The government's double-talk is apparent," said the letter.

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Childcare scandal widens

A court has denied anticipatory bail to a female member of a Catholic Secular Institute over allegations of child cruelty, that are part of an ongoing scandal involving two childcare homes she managed in northern India.

The allegations made by the two teenage girls are part of broader allegations involving the childcare centre which opened in 1994 with 14 children. The trouble started when the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) held successive raids on the childcare home in Gurgaon past November. Investigators found children living in poor conditions in the centre.

From those investigations, charges have been made against Lily Baretto (a member of the Maids of the Poor Institute) that include child trafficking and breaking adoption laws by giving two girls, aged 5 and 7, to a couple in Mangalore, southern India last year without consulting the CWC.

The centre was subsequently shut down in February 2017, and the 20 children it housed were moved to other orphanages. The charges of child trafficking and illegal adoption against Baretto are still under investigation.

Shakuntala Dhull, CWC chairperson, wrote to the Gurgaon Deputy Commissioner in January, stating that "the conduct of the home in connection with the two minor girls has raised suspicion of child trafficking or the use of children for sexual exploitation, as they did not provide any document about who adopted the children."

Baretto's driver was also arrested in July for allegedly raping a girl at the home several times. The victim complained to the CWC in March about the sexual assault.

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Gujarat
Archbishop calls for continued advocacy on behalf of Dalits

A retired archbishop called for continued advocacy on behalf of members of the lower Dalit castes, formerly known as untouchables.

Archbishop Emeritus Stanislaus Fernandes, the apostolic administrator of Baroda, told the National Council of Dalit Christians that as "atrocities occur against Dalits, and [members of] minorities are lynched, we must show them our solidarity."

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Maharashtra
Law against social boycott a turning point for Dalit Christians

After the 2016 Maharashtra Prohibition of People from Social Boycott (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act received presidential assent, the state became the first in the country to adopt a law that seeks to enforce strict rules of co-existence among members of different castes.

The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) welcomed the new state law, because it bans abuses by informal village councils. This is "a step in the right direction to stop the oppression of some categories of people like Dalit Christians," GCIC President Sajan K George said.

The law takes into account all human rights issues and bans discrimination on the basis of moral and social acceptance, as well as political orientation and gender. It even makes it an offence to impose clothing or language requirements on people.

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AUC's National Office Bearers

At the recently held National Assembly of the Apostolic Union of Clergy (AUC) held at the Jalandhar Bishop's House from August 1-4, 2017, new office-bearers were elected for a three-year term.

Fr Donald De Souza of Lucknow Diocese was re-elected as National President, while Fr Lawrence Rayappan of Meerut Diocese was elected as the National Treasurer.

There were 26 participants from all over India in the National Assembly, who took upon themselves the task of disseminating the AUC in their own and neighbouring dioceses, with the leitmotif 'A priest does not need an invitation to share in the life and ministry of a brother priest'!

It was a gathering of great joy, brotherhood and camaraderie, ably guided by the AUC Patron Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar and Msgr Giuseppe Magrin, International President of the Apostolic Union of Clergy (AUC), who had specially flown in from Rome, the International Headquarters. 

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