India: churches welcome election of secular government

President Sonia Gandhi

President Sonia Gandhi

Church groups in India have welcomed the election results which return to office a secular alliance, for a second five-year term, UCA reports. During the election campaign there had been fears that parties supporting a Hindu theocratic state in India were gaining power. In recent years Hindu radicals have attacked Christians and Muslims in several parts of the country.

But the Indian National Congress Party led the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) to victory in the poll in what is being seen as a triumph for Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

In a press release, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India said it was pleased voters had made the right choice. The ecumenical All India Christian Council (AICC) also saluted the Indians' "consummate and decisive" rejection of divisive and sectarian political forces in the elections. The Catholic bishops said they were confident the new government would keep its promise to safeguard the country from sectarian and divisive forces and restore confidence among all people, especially religious minority groups.

Fr Cedric Prakash SJ, who manages a human rights centre, says the results were "unprecedented and totally unexpected." He hailed the election as the "triumph of Indian democracy."

Fr Hector D'Souza, who heads the Jesuits in South Asia, said he was happy that the people had opted for stability. He also hoped the new secular government would stop atrocities and persecutions of religious minorities, such as last year's attacks on Christians in Orissa and other states.

Fr D'Souza was also overjoyed that more young people were elected this time and wants the government to fulfill people's aspirations for development and care for the poor.


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