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Why Politics Should Matter to Catholics

May 29, 2016

Why Politics Should Matter to Catholics: A report of the BCS Panel Discussion on India’s Current Political Scenario 

 On Sunday, 29th May 2016, the Bombay Catholic Sabha (BCS) organised a panel discussion on the “Political Scenario in Our Country Today”. Gracing the panel were His Eminence Oswald Cardinal Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay and renowned speakers like Dr. Ram Puniyani, Chhote Bhai and Mr. Eugene Gonsalves; Mr. Gordon D’Souza, the president of the BCS, was the moderator. Members of the BCS and AICU from all over the country attended the event held at the Sarvodaya Conference Hall, Goregaon. 

 The session began at 10:30AM with the BCS anthem. After introducing each panel member, Mr. D’Souza opened the discussion with thought-provoking questions to reflect upon and hopefully find responses to, during the course of the discussion. 

 Mr. Eugene Gonsalves: Catholic involvement in politics 

Stressing the urgent need for more and more Catholics to become involved in politics and in a bid to take concrete steps towards achieving this, he suggested that the BCS and AICU organize leadership-training programs for Catholics. The Catholic sense of “unity in community” would do well in bringing about welfare for all in society. 

Dr. Ram Puniyani: Challenges to Indian democracy 

To start off, Dr. Puniyani spoke about the importance of welfare economics and the concept of the “state as guardian”. 

Economic problems aside, he felt that the country’s major concern in present times is the undermining of democracy – which, to him, is the central point where social progress can take place – by the Government. Citing instances (of both past and contemporary times), he pointed out that even after identifying the prevalent issues (intolerance in society, casteism) that pose a threat to the progress and development of the country, no concrete steps are being taken in the right direction to rectify them. He also talked about the strengthening of minorities and how they ought to be made to more secure and live all-round better lives. Reflecting on the Constitution and its ideals, he left a question for the audience to ponder over: Can we offer space in our various institutions to promote secularism and the other values that came out of the Freedom Movement? 

 Chhote Bhai: “We must be fully Indian and deeply Christian” 

He began by firing a question at the audience, the responses of which helped him support his claim that the media plays an important role in shaping our thoughts and opinions, and one must therefore be alert, given their tendency to manipulate data. He berated the lack of activity on the part of both the CBCI and the AICU; and, comparing the media representatives of both the CBCI and the BJP, criticized the latter for not doing enough and thus failing to have any effect at all. 

He concluded his discussion by leaving the audience with four steps to follow so as to avoid being easily swayed by the media: Awareness, Analysis, Reflection and Action. 

The discussion was then thrown open to the audience for a Q&A session, which helped to summarise and clear any doubts and issues arising out of the discussion. 

Cardinal Oswald Gracias 

His Eminence Cardinal Oswald then summed up the event with a closing speech, urging Catholics to not be ‘closed-minded’, but rather ‘actively involved’ in politics, while at the same time not allowing themselves to be walked over. 

The event was wrapped up at 1PM. In the spirit of true patriotism, everyone present sang the National Anthem to give a fitting end to what turned out to be a fruitful discussion with everyone having plenty to learn. 

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