3rd Plenary Assembly of the CCBI
Held at Pilar Goa from 6 to 8 January, 1991
An Appeal For Communal Harmony
We, 85 Catholic Bishops, meeting in Goa for our own Agenda, also wish to address ourselves to a vital issue in our country. This statement elaborates on one previously issued on behalf of all the Catholic Bishops of India.
The tradition in our country from ancient times has been the recognition and encouragement of freedom of though and religion. Thus, impartiality and benign neutrality towards all religious has been enshrined in our Constitution. All religions are treated as equal and given freedom to preach, practice and propagate their faith subject to certain conditions demanded by the common good and the dignity of each person.
We in India are known and praised as a religious people. Recognizing God’s presence in every human being makes us respect each person as sacred because of his dignity. This respect for every human being is the solid foundation on which our democracy can be built and our national unity can be forged amidst great diversity.
Our precious culture of peace, tolerance and respect for the human person is being undermined rapidly and is being substituted by a culture of discrimination, intolerance and violence. How far this has gone is evidenced by the barbaric massacre of even children and women and those who have dedicated their lives to serve God and their fellow men/women, and by the destruction of places of worship.
Our country must safeguard the principles of our Constitution. This is no easy task and the Government alone cannot solve the problem. It needs the co-operation of the people. All of us as individuals and as communities must eschew violence of all forms and stress the respect due to each person.
The question arises: “What should our Christian response be?” We should not make our voice heard only when we are or our institutions are affected. The situation in our country calls for a concerted effort towards mutual acceptance of and respect for others, irrespective of their affiliations. Peace committees are being formed all over the country. We must help in their establishment and be active members of these committees.
Unity and harmony are fostered by a fellowship of silence, of prayers, of dialogue, of reconciling love and of common service according to the felt needs of the locality. We call upon our Christian families to take up the leadership of movements for religious and communal harmony. Our beloved lay-people, working in collaboration with our priests and religious, have a definite part to play in bringing Christ’s healing touch to our wounded humanity.
At immense volume of intercessory prayers is called for. Everyday in our families, clerical-religious communities, chapels, and churches, a prayer for constant peace and harmony should rise to God Almighty.
We pride ourselves on our schools. They offer us today excellent opportunities to inculcate into millions of children the values and the practice of respect for the human person and of tolerance. Talks, seminars, acts of compassion and charity especially towards the poor and the marginalized will help students to practice what they pledge at the daily assembly: “India is my country. All Indians are my brothers and sisters”.
We have just celebrated the Birth of Jesus, who came as the Good News. He taught us that in the presence of Father we are all equal as His children. May Jesus, the Prince of Peace, turn the hearts of all, especially of our leaders, away from discrimination, injustice, aggressiveness and violence towards the creation of an era of solidarity, fellowship, justice and peace.
Prayer for Communal Harmony and Peace.
Loving Father, Your guide everything in wisdom and love. Your create each human person in Your own image and likeness for the human race to live in peace and harmony. The love that you have placed in our hearts has been corrupted by our selfishness.
In our country the principle of respect for the human person has given place to discrimination, aggressiveness and violence.
Today we face the threat of an international war and are suffering its consequences.
Father, by the merits of Jesus and through the power of the Holy Spirit banish all hatred and violence from our hearts and make them loving, forgiving hearts, so that people everywhere may enjoy freedom and security, justice and lasting peace.
On the assurance of Jesus that Your grant us whatever we ask in His name, we make this prayer in the name of Jesus, Your Son and our Lord. Amen.
(Outside the Mass add:) Mary, Queen of Peace, intercede for us.