Senior academics, activists, student and youth leaders and clergy across denominations and across states have called upon the Christian community, and specially its youth and students, to come together, and also work with civil society to ensure an India safe for Dalits, Tribals, minorities, and the poor – vulnerable women and children among them.
Almost 100 women and men today issued a “Solidarity Statement” seeking a Christian response on issues that face the people post-Covid , including threats to livelihood leading to starvation cum death, public Medicare, education, and targeted hate and violence against religious minorities. There is fear that the Constitution may be tampered with to seriously erode safeguards fundamental rights, secularism, cultural diversity and freedom of religion and belief.
The Solidarity Statement signatories under the name Indian Christians for Democracy include AC Michael, Virginia Saldanha, Virginius Xaxa, David Selvaraj, Walter Fernandes, Verghese Thekkenath, Roweena Robinson, Alwyn D Silva, Dorothy Fernandes, John Dayal, Cedric Prakash, Anastasia Gill, Sebastian Kallupura, Aasha Ramesh, Tony Dias, Vijayan, Joe Athialy, Anil and Prakash Louis.
The following is the text of the statement:
Indian Christians for Democracy
As Indian Christians we have always and continue to uphold the Constitutional Values of our country, as a Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic and Republic. We believe in, and practice, the Principles of Justice, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, enshrined in the Constitution. Christians as individuals and their institutions have been in the forefront in times of disasters and natural calamities.
As the Corona Virus struck India, the Christian community and its institutions collaborated with the local administration, people’s groups, NGOs, and civil society in extending relief to the affected masses. They also were at the service of the migrant labourers returning home, providing food, water, shelter, space for quarantine. Many front-line volunteers risked their lives to stand in solidarity with the people.
As citizens of this country, we are troubled by the lack of empathy for the millions rendered jobless, many returning to villages they had left to find work in towns and cities to feed their hungry families. Government schemes do not always reach the poorest of the poor, hence we are concerned that a vast segment of the excluded, marginalized are made dependent, what would be their plight in this pandemic?
We are also aware of the fact that, the Dalits, Adivasis, Most Backward Castes, poor and single mothers are the worst affected by the consequences of the pandemic, and the continuing lockdown. We know many of the vulnerable and high-risk persons and families are on the verge of starvation, some close to death.
The government says it is converting the crisis into an opportunity. The opportunity seems to benefit the same people from the skewed, unequal and exclusionary Indian socio-political, economic and cultural order, while the poor, the working class, women, rural masses, migrants contribute their lives and sweat to uphold the edifice of the country for the benefit of the privileged.
The number of citizens affected by the virus continues to grow by the day. Tens of thousands have already lost their lives. Medical and health care facilities are inadequate.
Adding to the crisis are floods in several regions of Bihar and North East, which also faced the fury of a cyclone.
This seems an odd time for governments at the centre and some of the states to be involved in religious functions such as the Bhumi Pujan at Ayodhya.
On the other hand, we are greatly concerned that the emergency Covid-19 has created has been taken as an opportune moment to exacerbate cultural policing and mob lynching by self-styled protectors of the cow. The state’s silencing of political dissent and even mild criticism of the regime on social media is deeply disturbing. Scores of students are being detained, refused bail, or targeted for their political opinion. Important laws with serious consequences for the environment, health and education have been pushed through without public interface.
In this situation, as Indian Christians,
1) We join with fellow citizens to uphold the values of the Indian Constitution.
2)We call upon government to provide food with dignity, and livelihood options to the poor, the vulnerable and high-risk persons and families.
3)We seek health care facilities for these people, both for existing ailments as also for Covid-19 related vulnerabilities.
4) We call for an immediate end to intimidation and arrest on false and unverified charges.
5) We encourage peaceful co-existence of all the citizens irrespective of caste, class, gender, religion, geography and orientations.
6) We call for ending all forms of exploitation, oppression, exclusion and marginalization at this time of crisis.
7) We demand strict implementation of existing laws to deal with and prevent violence to women which is increasing with impunity.
8) We call upon the central and state governments and the corporate sector to generate employment and empower students and youth, so they become sentient and involved citizens of our great country.
9)We stand in solidarity with the people of Jammu and Kashmir for their Constitutional rights.
10) And in particular, we call upon the religious, social, academic and institutional leaders of our own community, and as well as our youth and students, to join civil society in the common struggle to achieve these goals.
This statement emanates from interactions and two large web-based national consultations in July 2020.
Jai Hind Satyameva Jayate Jai Bharat
In Solidarity, and prayer
Virginia Saldanha John Dayal Rowena Robinson
A.C. Michael VirginusXaxa David Selvaraj
InbarajJeyakumar Antony Dias Vijayan M J
Joe Athialy Anand Mathew Anil Varghese
Goldie M. George M.K. George William Stanley
Chandra Mohan Dorothy Fernandes Cedric Prakash
Antony Arulraj K.P.Sasi Gracy Fernandes
Joe Xavier Walter Fernandes Aasha Ramesh
Ajaya Singh Vincent Manoharan A.X.J. Bosco
Paul Thelakath Sebastian Kallupura John Kumar
Allwyn D Silva Subhash Jose Paul D’Souza
Joseph Mattam Alex Ekka Valerian Mendonca
Francis Guntipilly Varghese Theckanath Anastasia Gill
Nikhilesh John Benston Johnson Vincentia Mammoottil
Denzil Fernandes Astrid Lobo Philip Vinod Peacock
Rudi Heredia Mathew Kayani Leo Saldanha
Brian Pereira Pamela Fernandes Angelo Menezes
Frazer Mascarenhas John Almeida Prisca Dias
Arvind Peter Alex Tuscano Robert Jeyaraj
Roger Samuel V.S. Roy David Judith Anne
Yesumarian P. B. M. Basaiawmoit Joy James
S. Emmanuel Clifton D Rozario Sujata Jena
Francis Rosario Manju Kulapuram Nithiyasagayam
Sujita Jayaseelan Vincent Ekka
Benny Chiramal Devasagayam Prakash Louis
The views and opinions expressed by the writer are personal and do not necessarily reflect the official position of VOM.
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