Wednesday, August 15, 2007

CBCI President's Independence Day Message 2007

Message of the President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI)

On the 60th Anniversary of Independence of India

Your Eminence/Grace/Excellency,

“Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge...At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance" (Jawaharlal Nehru )

These historic words of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru heralded a new era for India that had long been under the British colonial rule. Under the able and dynamic leadership of our great Statesmen who steered the destiny of our free nation, India began its long march on the road of progress and development.

Successive Union and State Governments carried on with the vision of the founding generation for building India as a sovereign republic, democratic, modern, progressive and strong nation. It is a matter of great pride that we as a nation have achieved many feats in agriculture, industry, science, technology, health and education. We have built up a strong defense force, a just judicial system, an expansive media that has raised the level of public consciousness, a network of academic centers and research institutes and, of course, an army of skilled work force that has been the bulwark of all these achievements over the years.

In this great venture of nation building, the Christian community in India has been making its small but noteworthy contribution towards the development of our country through its network of education and health institutions, social and economic development programs.

All these are legitimate reasons for us to celebrate the 60th anniversary of our Independence. On this cherished occasion, we salute with grateful admiration those heroic men and women and pay fitting homage to all of them and to tens of thousands of unknown soldiers who have sacrificed their lives on the altar of Freedom, with sheer dedication and commitment for the great cause of Independence of India

While being proud of the economic, social and political achievements made over the last six decades, we cannot in all honesty turn a blind eye to the hard realities of our country. Our economic prosperity has certainly earned us a membership in the global economic club, but it has terribly failed to percolate down to those living on the peripheries of society. It is a matter of serious concern that India still houses nearly 300 millions of people living below poverty line. Although we may have created world-class education and health institutions, we still have a long way to go before we can ensure quality education and health services to large sections of the population, particularly to the poor and the marginalized. Let us have no illusion. There can be no peace without justice and no development without peace.

Creation of Panchayati Raj institutions was a step in the right direction of decentralizing planning process, and that women constitute 50% of the elected representatives in such institutions is a matter of considerable achievement. However, we are still wrestling with the age old problems of corruption, mismanagement of resources and neglect of the real deserving groups from the ambit of development. Coupled with this is the escalated communal divide that we have witnessed over the last decade, reflected in many a riot in different parts of the country causing huge loss of life and property. In particular, the religious minorities have been feeling a growing unease and deep anxiety, as they have been repeatedly targeted by certain socio-political organizations.

India has a lead role to play in the modern world that is struggling to come to terms with multi-cultural and multi-religious ethos that has been our hallowed heritage for millennia. India has always been an inclusive society with different cultures, languages, religions and philosophies that co-existed, creating great confluences of minds and hearts, values and traditions. And to preserve this unparalleled heritage is the supreme duty of each one of us, citizens of Independent India.

On this joyful occasion, let us pray that God Almighty bless our country abundantly, keep it united and strong, prosperous and peaceful, and above all bring cheer and well-being to the least of our brothers and sisters. May our sages’ wisdom of “Vasudaiva Kutumbakam” where every citizen feels included in the process of development and progress of India come true in letter and spirit as we, as a nation, march ahead.

With grateful hearts, let us keep in all our families, institutions, parishes and Dioceses a Day of Special Prayer for Our Country as we celebrate 60th Anniversary of our Independence. May Mother Mary, whose Feast of Assumption into heaven we celebrate on the very day of our Independence, show us the way to live out our Freedom through a dedicated life of love and generous service.

"Into that haven of freedom, O Father, let my country awake" (R. Tagore)

Yours sincerely in Christ,

† Telesphore Cardinal Toppo
Archbishop of Ranchi & President, CBCI

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