Muslim body honors Catholic activist

New Delhi (Story By: Santosh Digal, Matters India Special Correspondent): John Dayal, a prominent Catholic human rights activist, was among four human rights defenders honored by a top Muslim organization on Monday for their lifetime work for interreligious harmony and civil liberties.

The All India Muslim Majlis-e Mushawarrat presented the honors at its golden jubilee celebrations opened by Indian Vice President Hamid Ansari in New Delhi.

Other awardees are Teesta Setalvad, Harsh Mander and Ravi Nair were honoured by India’s Muslim community

Dayal, general secretary of the All India Christian Council and a member of the Indian government’s National Integration Council, is also a senior journalist.

Aligarh Muslim University vice chancellor Lt General Zamiruddin Shah presented the award in the presence of prominent Muslim leaders from across India.

Awards were also given to three prominent Muslim educationists for making modern education accessible to the poor and the women of the community.

The citation for the Life Time Achievement awards to the four human rights activists said it was “to honor your life-long struggle for communal harmony, national integration and civil and human rights. The Life time achievement award is conferred on behalf of India’s grateful Muslim community.”

Teesta Setalvad had worked to help get justice for the victims of the genocide in Gujarat in 2002. Harsh Mander resigned as a senior government administrator in protest against the state impunity in the 2002 anti Muslim violence and has since then worked on issues of peace, relief for the marginalized and hunger. Ravi Nair is the leading voice against state persecution, including extra judicial killings.

John Dayal works on issues of justice, reconciliation and displacement of Christians and other religious minorities, issues of freedom of faith and laws that restrict the rights of Tribals and Dalit Christians.

“It is important for human rights defenders to know that their work, often under personal risk and almost always in confrontation with government and non state organizations makes a little difference in the life of the people. It is also important in a plural and culturally diverse society such as India to see how vital is the work of human rights defenders cutting across divides of communities and religion. This solidarity is vital for peace, harmony and securing justice for the victims,” said Dayal after he received the award.

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