India — June 2005

Sociopolitical Situation

India is a vast country with a population over one billion and famous for its complex social systems. Living within the embrace of the Indian nation are vast numbers of different regional, social, and economic groups, each with different cultural practices. Access to wealth and power varies considerably, and vast differences in socioeconomic status are evident everywhere. The poor and wealthy live side by side in urban and rural areas. It is common in city life to see a prosperous, well-fed man or woman chauffeured in a fine car pass gaunt street dwellers huddled beneath burlap shelters along the roadway.

Nearly 74% of India’s population dwells in villages, with agriculture providing support of these rural residents. Over large tracts of the country there is still a lack of employment, very low income, scarcity of food and drinking water, and a shortage of housing for the rural population. The people of India belong to thousands of castes and caste-like groups, hierarchically-ordered, named groups into which members are born. India’s political parties have found the caste-based selection of candidates and appeals to the caste-based interests of the Indian electorate to be an effective way to win popular support.

Economic advancement and reduction in levels of poverty and illiteracy will ultimately sideline communal prejudice and enhance forces of secularism. It is important for India to have more and more programs and planning to reduce poverty, illiteracy and enhance the social dignity of the rural poor.

Religious Situation

Through out the country, religious differences can be significant, especially between the Hindu majority and the large Muslim minority and other Indian groups — Christians, Buddhists, Jains, Jews, Parsis, Sikhs, and tribals. Fundamentalist Hindus believe that they should fight resolutely and relentlessly all ideologies and positions that weaken Hinduism on its soil.

The Indian churches still continue to provide precious services in the area of education, health and human dignity. Social developmental activities carried out by the Christian institutions are well accepted among all sections of the community, with some opposition from fundamentalist elements just for selfish gains for their political benefit.

Although there are ongoing efforts for ecumenical dialogue among different Christian and non-Christian communities, the values and details of these have not permeated to the knowledge of common man. However, the Catholic and non-Catholic Christian Churches are widely involved in various humanitarian activities like orphanages, homes for handicapped, fight against AIDS, old age homes, rehabilitation centers, hospitals, school and colleges, irrespective of caste or creed.

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