The Delhi-based International Human Rights Council has picked Mgr Thomas Menamparampil, Archbishop Emeritus of Guwahati, in Assam (India) as its 2019 Ambassador for Peace.
The prelate welcomed the news of the prize with awe and selflessness. “I never worked for recognition. I am least bothered about it,” he said.
“I accept one if and when it comes as an encouragement for my colleagues who are the actual winners. The award from the Delhi-based human rights organisation was a surprise. But my Peace-team is happy.”
The Council, one of the most important international human rights organisations, recognised the Dalai Lama in the past.
Born in 1936 in Palai, Kerala, Archbishop Menamparampil was ordained in the Salesians of Don Bosco in 1965. From 1975 to 1981 he was rector of the Don Bosco Technical School in Shillong, then in 1981 Pope John Paul II appointed him Bishop of Dibrugarh.
Later, in 1992, he became the first bishop of the newly established Diocese of Guwahati, which was elevated to the status of archdiocese in 1995. In 2014 Pope Francis chose him as apostolic administrator in Jowai, where he remained until 2016. That year he returned to Guwahati as archbishop emeritus.
Bishop Thomas Menamparampil is a key figure in India’s pacification process, particularly among Assam’s various ethnic groups.
For him, the best method of evangelisation in Asia is “to whisper the Gospel to the soul of Asia”, mediating between the various views and cultures and promoting sincere dialogue between the parties, out of mutual knowledge, respect and a “pinch of sympathy in the heart”.
The goals of dialogue and reconciliation have been his key points in the numerous positions he held, such as president of the North-Eastern Regional Council, president of the Office for education and culture of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), and president of the Office for Evangelisation of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC).
In 1996 he was among the promoters of a new local organisation of peace operators, the Joint Peace Mission Team, with which he still works in support of local harmony.
For him, peace is possible, through prayer, in all situation and at all levels, among India’s Maoists, the government and the Church.