The Times of India
TNN – Jan 20, 2016, 08.30 AM IST
Ahmedabad: Wednesday will be the last day for human rights and peace activist Fr Cedric Prakash (65) as director of PRASHANT-the Jesuit centre for human rights – which he founded in Ahmedabad in 2001. Fr Cedric, after a 42-year stint in Gujarat, is leaving for Beirut, the largest city in Lebanon, where the middle-east crisis is an unfolding tragedy . He will work among the thousands of internally displaced people.
Since the 2002 Gujarat riots, this Jesuit activist has been a relentless critic of the then chief minister Narendra Modi, over his alleged role in the riots. Even Modi believed that the denial of the US diplomatic visa to him in March 2005 was because of Fr Cedric’s testimony in June 2002 before the US Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) in Washington. He had spearheaded the campaign against Gujarat’s new anticonversion law The Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act 2003, which he later challenged in 2009 in the high court.
In his new mission, Fr Cedric will be coordinating the `universal mission’ of the Jesuit Refugee Fr Cedric Pr Service (JRS) for Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Palestine, Israel, Sudan and Chad. His work involves ensuring that refugees are accorded the rights guaranteed by the 1951 Geneva Convention.
“Our fight here in Gujarat is not over. We will fight for the values enshrined in our Constitution and will carry on the struggle for the marginalized and victims of violence,” said Fr Cedric whose institution Prashant has been a crucible for activism.
Fr Prakash has been the recipient of several national and international awards which include the Kabir Puraskar by the President of India in 1995 for harmony , Chevalier de la Legion Honneur (Knight of the Legion of Honour) by the French President in 2006 for human rights causes as well as the central government’s Minority Rights Award.
It was during his visit to Lebanon in July 2015 that he had finally made up his mind about Beirut. “In 1974, I was inspired by Pedro Arrupe, a Jesuit who worked among Vietnamese boat refugees. Arrupe founded the JRS.”