Escalation of Persecution:
The reported incidents of violence against Christians in India have surged from 147 in 2014 to a concerning 687 in 2023, raising alarm among the Indian bishops.
The increasing acts of persecution have prompted a strong response from the bishops, who have urged political leaders to preserve the fundamental principles of the constitution, emphasizing the importance of maintaining India’s identity as a “sovereign, socialist, secular democratic republic committed to justice, equality, and fraternity.”
Political Backlash and Constitutional Debate:
Amid the rising incidents, leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have advocated for the removal of the terms “secular” and “socialist” from the Indian Constitution.
This move has triggered a political and constitutional debate, with the issue reaching the federal Supreme Court.
The bishops’ statement underscores the critical need to uphold the constitutional values that form the backbone of India’s democratic framework.
Concerns Over Weakening Democratic Institutions:
Expressing concerns about the weakening of democratic institutions, the bishops highlighted the strain on the federal structure and perceived shortcomings in the media’s role as the fourth pillar of democracy.
The statement draws attention to the overarching perception that essential democratic elements are under threat, emphasizing the urgency of addressing these challenges to safeguard the democratic fabric of the nation.
Call to Action for Citizens:
Amid the turbulent political climate, the assembly of bishops from 174 dioceses in India has issued a call to all citizens to actively participate in the democratic process.
Emphasizing the sacred duty to vote wisely, the bishops urge Christians to enroll as voters and elect leaders committed to constitutional values and the welfare of the marginalized and underprivileged.
Archbishop’s Call for Voter Motivation:
With general elections on the horizon, Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli, apostolic nuncio to India, urged Christians to be motivated to cast their votes.
The nuncio stressed the importance of choosing representatives who respect religious freedom, uphold human dignity, and foster the democratic process.
As an estimated 986 million eligible voters prepare for the upcoming general election, the call to exercise the right to vote becomes pivotal.
Socioeconomic Challenges and Digital Divide:
The bishops’ statement addresses the socioeconomic challenges faced by India, noting that economic development has primarily favored a small percentage of the population.
Rising unemployment rates and large-scale migration have contributed to widespread suffering.
Additionally, the assembly points out the digital divide, where scientific and technological advancements have not reached rural areas, exacerbating disparities.
AI Benefits and Risks:
Discussing the theme “The Church’s Response to the Current Sociopolitical Situation in the Country and the Benefits and Challenges of Artificial Intelligence,” the bishops acknowledge the benefits of artificial intelligence in various sectors.
However, they caution against the potential misuse of AI technologies, emphasizing the role of these tools in spreading hatred, violence, manipulation, and social bigotry.
Regulating AI for Privacy Protection:
Highlighting the risks associated with the collection of human data by digital platforms and AI, the bishops call on the government to regulate the development and use of AI.
The aim is to encourage best practices and prevent abuses, particularly concerning privacy.
The bishops emphasize the dual nature of AI as a tool for progress and a potential source of harm, urging proactive measures to mitigate risks.
Urgent Call for Advocacy:
In light of the critical challenges outlined in the statement, a senior archbishop underscores the urgency of speaking up against the prevailing issues.
The bishops’ strong and critical stance reflects a collective call for advocacy and action to address the multifaceted concerns impacting India’s sociopolitical landscape.