By Anto Akkara
Cardinal Oswald Gracias, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India, told the bishops’ biennial assembly on 1 February that the widening of the gap between rich and poor is “a matter of serious concern for the church.”
“We have two sets of Indians. One section of the people is racing ahead while the majority are limping,” Gracias said. Meeting in Bangalore, the assembly runs from 1-8 February and is being attended by 170 bishops.
Gracias, who is also archbishop of Mumbai, said the challenge before the Indian church is to be “conscience keepers to the nation,” quoting American civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr. and he urged his colleagues to “make a difference in the life of the marginalized.”
Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, reiterated the concern over the wealth gap in India in an address on 2 February.
Quoting U.N. figures, Turkson pointed out that despite India emerging as the fourth largest economy in the world, nearly 35 per cent of the Indian population lives on less than US$1.00 a day.
Turkson, who is from Ghana, noted that 80 percent of the Indian population, more than 800 million people, are surviving on less than US$2.00 a day.
“Our ability to transcend ourselves and to anchor onto Christian values of love and service of our neighbours is the pre-eminent way to social development in India,” recommended the Vatican official.
T. K. Oommen, a prominent sociologist in India, challenged the gathering to examine “on whose sides are we — on the side of the flourishing few or the sinking many?”
Though churches in India are known for their dedicated service in the field of education and healthcare, Oommen said they should also conduct a critical assessment of the number of poor students and beneficiaries in some of the elite Christian institutions.