Church bats for indigenous people

Cardinal Telesphore Toppo speaks to the reporters in Shillong on Friday.

Shillong, Nov. 12 : The Church feels that the rise of Maoist activities in the country is because of the subjugation of indigenous rights.
Stating that it was depressing to see young, educated indigenous people joining the Maoist struggle, Cardinal Telesphore Toppo, Archbishop of Ranchi, today said, “The rise of Maoist activities is a question of justice. The indigenous people have been victims of injustice for a long time. They have been exploited far too long by others.”
The cardinal, a former president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, was speaking to journalists at the Archbishop’s House here. Cardinal Toppo arrived on Wednesday to inaugurate the Northeast Catholic Mission Congress, 2011.
“Maoist activities would not have flourished had there been justice for the indigenous people,” he said.
Asserting that the government should create employment avenues for the indigenous people, Cardinal Toppo, also a native of Jharkhand, said, “Many young people are not getting jobs. It is time that avenues should be created for such youths to join the mainstream.”
Asked about the role of the church in mitigating violence in conflict zones like in the Maoist belt, the cardinal said, “The church is a miniature group and it does not have the requisite resources to create employment avenues for the youths. It has been playing a role in the social sector, especially in education and health.”
However, when asked whether the church was approached by the government to help alleviate violence, he said, “To my knowledge, nothing of that sort has happened till date.”
On the larger issue of indigenous communities in the country, the cardinal said, “In a situation where only the fittest can survive, where will the indigenous communities and other marginalised groups stand? The indigenous people and the less privileged should be given benefits so that they can be at par with others.”
He said the abundant resources in the country should be judiciously used to improve the condition of the citizens, especially the marginalised.
The cardinal said the Church could utilise its educational institutions to propagate about the ills of corruption that was plaguing the country.
“People are more conscious now about corruption although there is no simple solution to the problem. The Church can play an important role as it has invested manpower and resources in education. Through educational institutions, the Church can enlighten the people about the issue,” Cardinal Toppo said.
On the use of “money power” in electoral politics, the cardinal said as long as the electorate was not enlightened about the democratic system, such plagues would recur.
He also informed that the general body meeting of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India next February would discuss such crucial issues. The meeting on The Church’s Role for a Better India will be held from February 1-8 in Bangalore.
“We will be discussing such vital issues confronting the country and we will try to come out with suggestions,” the cardinal said.
Before signing off, Cardinal Toppo said, “People with goodwill cutting across all barriers must all work together to make India a better country.”