Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Priest Urges Expanded Rights for Indian Poor

Father Cedric Prakash, a Jesuit priest from Ahmedabad, India, issued a call for peace and respect of human rights in India during a speech in Riggs Library yesterday.

Prakash, one of India’s foremost advocates for peace, depicted his native country as a place torn by religious and class violence. He said that many of these wrongs go unmentioned in India, and that truth, which he described as “the very first step in the acknowledgment of a wrong,” can be a mediating force in a complex and diverse society.

He referred to present-day India as “a far cry from the vision of Gandhi,” specifically referencing the deadly Muslim and Hindu riots of 2002.

“Peace today remains as elusive and as distant as ever,” Prakash said. “The truth on this violence has not yet emerged.”

Expanding on the topic of truth, Prakash said that Indian children receive a biased education in schools. He cited as an example excerpts from an elementary Indian social science book that belittled the works of Gandhi and depicted Nazism in a positive manner.

Prakash said that training teachers in accurate historical accounts and encouraging tolerance are the first steps Indian society can to address some of these issues.

“People should speak out against any type of intolerance,” he said. “Speaking out is an acknowledgment of truth.”

Prakash also addressed the need for justice, love and freedom, which together with truth constitute the four dimensions of peace outlined in Pacem in Terris, the 1963 encyclical issued by Pope John XXIII calling for the recognition of human dignity. He described the need for justice in India’s stringent caste system and love to establish relationships and break down barriers.

Prakash said he was especially upset by the prevalence of violence in everyday life, evident even in children’s games imitating the struggles between Muslims and Hindus.

“Peace has to be put into practice by freedom,” Prakash said, calling attention to the many injustices most evident in the treatment of women, tribal members, low caste members and minors.

“The challenges before us are many,” he said.

Prakash said that ensuring the peaceful coexistence of various religions in India is essential to create a comfortable space in which all people can work and live.

“We need to ensure religious plurality in India,” he said.

Prakash stressed the need for peace and human rights not only for the fulfillment of human dignity but for the preservation of India’s rich cultural identity. He ended his remarks with a hopeful prayer for freedom of mind and spirit among the Indian people.

The event was the first of the year in Georgetown’s Pacem in Terris lecture series.

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