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India’s National Commission for Minorities has chosen Cedric Prakash, director of the Jesuit-run ‘Prashant Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace’ as the 2006 recipient of its “Minorities Rights Award” for his work in favour of human rights in the country. 
The Jesuit priest was also honoured this year with France’s Legion of Honour for his action on behalf of victims of the 2002 Gujarat massacre. Father Prakash dedicated this prize “to Aminaben Rasool, a Muslim mother who saw her son murdered during the 2002 massacre and has not been able to find his body. In his acceptance speech, he talked not just about the plight of the Muslims in Gujarat but also that of the Kashmiri Pandits, displaced in their own land due to internal strife.
At a time when society is increasingly polarized and caste, language, religious and ethnic groups fight for their own rights even under the minority grab; it is gratifying to see some one more concerned about the rights of other communities than own. Undoubtedly, Fr. Cedric Prakash is involved the issues of religious persecution of his Christian community in Gujarat but he did not get stuck there as many would possibly would have done. He acted and intervened as a humanist, not just as a priest of the Catholic Church just shepherding his own flock.
We need more such examples of people who subsuming their own identity, look beyond the confines of the narrow domestic walls and see the scene beyond and react and respond appropriately. It is particularly helpful that he can switch from being a defender of Muslims in Gujarat to being a spokesperson for the cause of the displaced Kashmiri Pandits. It’s unfortunate that the issue is not regarded as rights violation but rather, has been pushed to the realm of Hindu-Muslim subject, as pointed out by some rights watchers. Interactions with intellectuals and activists reveal that in actual fact neither the government nor the social organizations are sincerely trying to restore the dignity of the Pandits who are living as refugees in their own country.

Many years ago, 06 Dec, 1992 when the Babri Masjid structure was demolished, I came across a quote for the first time that I have seen many times since. It was the experience of the Rev. Martin Niemoller in 1945 when living in Nazi Germany.

First they came for the Communists, 
  and I didn’t speak up, 
    because I wasn’t a Communist. 
Then they came for the Jews, 
  and I didn’t speak up, 
    because I wasn’t a Jew. 
Then they came for the Catholics, 
  and I didn’t speak up, 
    because I was a Protestant. 
Then they came for me, 
  and by that time there was no one 
    left to speak up for me. 
 

Rev. Martin Niemoller was protected until 1937 by both the foreign press and influential friends in the up-scale Berlin suburb where he preached. Eventually, he was arrested for treason. Perhaps due to foreign pressure, he was found guilty, but initially given only a suspended sentence. He was however then almost immediately re-arrested on Hitler’s direct orders. From then on until the end of WW II, he was held at the Sachsenhausen and Dachau concentration camps. Near the end of the war, he narrowly escaped execution. [from Charles Colson’s Kingdoms in Conflict].

The example of Fr. Cedric Prakash is one that teaches us to reach out and protect every man and woman as one made in the image of God – be they Hindus, Muslims, Christians or any of the others.

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