Christian Council Chief seeks global help to stop minority persecution in India


India: July 10, 2006. Dr Joseph D’Souza, President of All India Christian Council AICC, has challenged the global community to investigate the ongoing caste abuse and to protest against the rise in anti-conversion legislation targeting minorities a

Dr D'Souza was speaking in the United States on a panel moderated by Nina Shea, Vice Chair of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, titled "A Look around the World." He outlined the challenges facing minority religions in India in the light of rising Hindu extremism. Highlighting the link between caste oppression and religious violence, he appealed to the global community to find out what was going on in India. "Your concern for the issue reflects an unparalleled concern for Human Rights and Democracy that I believe emanates from the Oval Office and energises advocates like us as we pursue equal rights for India`s Dalits," Dr D'Souza said. The aicc chief said, "I hope we could arrange a meeting with President Bush for Dalit leaders not too long after the mid-term elections. Next year is a banner year for human rights advocacy as it is the 200th anniversary of Emancipation in the United Kingdom. Giving Dalit leaders an opportunity to meet with President Bush would send a message to Dalits across India that their freedom is on the President`s heart and mind. I cannot imagine a more important symbol for Dalits, the untouchables, than a meeting with the President." Dr D'Souza said he was also trying to arrange a visit by the First Lady to a Dalit school in India. While Sonja and the rest of the First Lady`s staff have been responsive, any word you give would be appreciated. Like a meeting with the President, a visit by the First Lady to a Dalit school would send a powerful message to Dalits about her concern for their welfare. Speaking about AIDS crisis in India, he said it was worsening and there was a distinct lack of reporting on low-caste and outcaste communities. While the US did not want to offend India on the eve of new Nuclear and Defence agreements, "millions of Dalits are at risk for lack of prevention education". The event was hosted by Senator Rick Santorum, Chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, and included speeches from House Majority Whip Roy Blunt, Senator Norm Coleman, Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom John Hanford, Representative Todd Akin, Representative Trent Franks, Senator Sam Brownback, and Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton. The programme was attended by more than a hundred notable international human rights advocates, religious leaders, members of Congress and Congressional staff. In addition to Dr D`Souza`s discussion about India, a few other notable speakers, including Dr Paul Marshall, Senior Fellow at Freedom House`s Centre for Religious Freedom, expressed concern over the rise in anti-Christian and anti-Muslim legislation passed in several States of India. Dr Marshall highlighted the inherent contradictions in such legislation as they went against the international laws as well as the India`s Constitution.

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