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Bishop cautions against ethnic and religious census and emphasises “common humanity”

Posted on: October 31, 2018 3:51 PM
Bishop Ian Ernest and the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, met Mauritian Prime Minister Pravind Kumar Jugnauth earlier this month in Port Louis.
Photo Credit: Mauritius Broadcasting Corporation

The Bishop of Mauritius, Ian Ernest, has warned that a national census on the population’s ethnic and religious background “would only aggravate those divides that already exist.” The Creole ethnic group makes up around one quarter of the island-nation’s population. This group, descended mainly from slaves, are said to face discrimination in the areas of education, jobs and housing. The majority Indo-Mauritian population hold most of the top political posts in the country.

The United Nations’ Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination recently warned of the “de facto discrimination” faced by Creole people and called for statistics in the country to be broken down by ethnicity so that the scale of the issue can be measured.

“A debate has been opened about whether or not the country should update the last ethnic and religious census, dating back decades”, Bishop Ian said. “I believe that this would only aggravate those divides that already exist. For better or worse, as a result of our history, we are a multi-religious and multi-ethnic society and the way forward is to emphasise our common humanity.”

He said that the previous census created a “crude divide” in which people were classed as Hindu, Muslim, Sino-Maurition or “a category of general population merely lumping together” everyone else, he said.

“It produced a religious and ethnic muddle. Tamils, Telegus and Marathis may be of Indian origin but have their own identity”, he said. “And what of a Christian who is of Indian origin? Some Sino-Mauritians are Christian and some Buddhist. . .

“There are different groupings amongst all the main religious communities. Do Christians from the historic established churches of our country have much in common with members of new emerging Christian groupings? And in what category should atheists be placed?”

Such a survey would open a can of worms which, he said, joking that this was not the answer “except for fishermen”.

He added: “For politicians, the solution should be to select candidates on their merits not on their ancestral backgrounds. For voters, the solution is to actually vote for competent and honest individuals, genuinely prepared to serve their electors and the country.

“Attitudes won’t change overnight but it is my duty, and that of my fellow religious leaders, to help change the thinking of politicians and individuals. Many will consider this hopelessly idealistic but the only way humanity really progresses is through espousing values and ideals.

“My Church does not recognise division and wishes to play no part in it. Instead, the concept of one people and one nation, rather than lip service to that concept, is what should bring us all together.”

Bishop Ian, the former Primate of the hurch of the Province of the Indian Ocean, described Mauritius as a “rich inheritance of mutual respect and responsibility” that were “gifts to us offered by our ancestors who believed to make Mauritius a Land of opportunities for all.”

He added: “To honour their efforts and spirit of sacrifice, let us work towards the consolidation of a nation that recognises the potential of one and all irrespective of ethnic considerations.”