While only 147 incidents of violence against Christians were reported in 2014, the UCF pointed out that incidents have spiraled steadily since then to 687 in 2023.
In response to the rising incidents of persecution, the bishops’ statement said: “We appeal to our political leaders to make all attempts to preserve the basic structure of the constitution, particularly the preamble, which declares India to be a ‘sovereign, socialist, secular democratic republic committed to justice, equality, and fraternity.’”
Meanwhile, there has been a chorus of protest across the political spectrum amid BJP leaders calling for the removal of the words “secular” and “socialist” from the Indian Constitution as Hindu nationalists have taken the issue to the federal Supreme Court.
Catholics urged to vote
“There is widespread perception that the important democratic institutions of the country are weakening, the federal structure is under stress, and the media are not fulfilling their role as the fourth pillar of democracy,” the Indian bishops lamented.
The assembly of bishops of India’s 174 dioceses urged “all citizens to enroll as voters and exercise their sacred duty to vote wisely so that we elect leaders who are committed to constitutional values and to the uplift of the poor.”
According to the Election Commission of India, an estimated 986 million people in India are eligible to vote in the general election that is expected to take place this spring.
“With general elections coming up, all Christians eligible to vote should be motivated to cast their votes as it is an important duty,” Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli, apostolic nuncio to India, urged in his inaugural address to the CBCI assembly on Jan. 31.
In casting their votes, the nuncio said, “one has to keep in mind that the representative will respect religious freedom, uphold human dignity, and foster democratic process.”
While India is “acknowledged as an emerging economic power in the world,” the CBCI statement pointed out, “economic development in the country seems to have benefitted only a small percentage. Rate of unemployment has vastly increased. Large-scale migration has caused untold misery to many.”
“So also, scientific and technological development has not reached the majority of our people especially in the rural areas, resulting in a digital divide,” noted the statement of the CBCI assembly, which discussed the theme “The Church’s Response to the Current Sociopolitical Situation in the Country and the Benefits and Challenges of Artificial Intelligence.”
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While acknowledging the “tremendous benefits of artificial intelligence in the fields of health care, agriculture, education, and research,” the assembly cautioned that “the same technologies can become tools that spread hatred, violence, manipulation, and social bigotry.
Pointing out that “human data collected by digital platforms and AI can be misused to undermine the privacy of individuals and family,” the Indian bishops urged the government “to regulate the development and use of AI so as to encourage the best practices and prevent abuses.”
“If we do not speak up now, when are we going to do it?” a senior archbishop told CNA when asked about the strong critical tenor of the statement.
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