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Press Release

September 21, 2004

         John Dayal Elected All India Catholic Union National President; Dolphy DíSouza is Vice President 

Catholic Union calls on Church and Government for Educational, Employment and health security net for all Indian Christians 

            Two of Indiaís best known Human Rights activists, Dr John Dayal and Mr. Dolphy DíSouza were elected National President and Vice President respectively in keenly contested biennial elections of the 85 year old All India Catholic Union, which represents the nearly 1.6 crore Catholic laity through 120 diocese and district units. The Union has laity representation of all three Catholic Rites -- the Latin Rite, the Syro Malabar Catholic and the Syro Malankara Catholics, the last two tracing their origins from the Apostle St Thomas who came to India soon after Christiís death and Resurrection. 

Dr John Dayal of New Delhi, was earlier vice president, and succeeds Dr Maria Emelia Menezes, the first woman to have held the post. She was President for four years and oversaw a rapid growth of the Union. Dr Dayal, an eminent Journalist, author and occasional documentary film maker, is also the Secretary General of the All India Christian Council and with the late Archbishop Alan De Lastic, helped found the United Christian Forum for Human rights which first challenged the right wing persecution of the Christian community in Gujarat and other states in the 1990s. Dr Dayal is also  former Treasurer of the Editorís Guild of India and has held various offices in Delhi and National Media associations. 

Mr. Dolphy DíSouza, a Tourism,, travel and Human Resource expert, is currently vice president of the Bombay Catholic Sabha, the Unionís largest unit, and a prominent Mumbai Civil society activist. 

Dr Dayal appointed Calcutta management expert Eugene Gonsalves as the AICUís Honorary  Treasurer and Mr. Elias Vas of Goa as its Secretary general. This is Mr. Vazís second term as Secretary General. 

In his thanksgiving speech, Dr John Dayal committed the AICU to the cause of the Dalits, the Tribals and the Poor, and not just those who were Christians among them. He said the AICU would work with all Civil Society organisations and activists to uphold Human dignity and Civil Liberties. AICU would challenge and fight xenophobia and bigotry which had once again been reflected in the reactions to the recent census, as much as targeting of minority communities  and religious person. 

He expressed concern at the continuing violence and coercion of the Christian community in BJP ruled striates and in some other regions and called on state government and the Central Home ministry to take urgent steps to restore confidence and peace. Congratulating the Centre, he expressed his appreciation of recent stapes taken by the Central government and specially Mr. Arjun Singh for the detoxification of the Human resource Development infrastructure in the country from communal infiltration in the last five years, Dr Dayal called for vigilance against similar elements in police, judicial and other administrative units. 

For the community, Dr Dayal called upon both the Government and the Church authorities to commit themselves to the poor and the Dalits, in principle and in the devolution of resources. The Church, he said, should work out Health Insurance schemes on a national level for the Christian community. Steps must also been taken to ensure that Christians, particularly Dalits and landless peasantry, got the benefits of free education. The recent census had shamed the community showing large numbers of illiterates, specially among tribal and rural Dalit women. 

The Catholic Union, he said, would cooperate with the Bishops and hierarchy of the Catholic and Protestant Churches  in the struggle of the Dalits for Human dignity, employment, leadership training and in entrepreneurship. He urged the government to ensure adequate funds towards this through the governmentís minority development funding organisations.