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Assam Salesians pray for alumnus chief minister

By C. M. Paul
Chief Minister of Assam Mr Sarbananda Sonowal
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Guwahati, May. 24. The Salesians in Assam on May 23 prayed for the northeastern Indian state's chief-minister-designate Sarbananda Sonowal, one of their former students.

Sonowal of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), who led a coalition that ended 15 years of Congress rule in Assam, is set to take office on May 24 evening at Guwahati, the state's commercial capital.
''This is a historic moment for the state and the Salesian family when one of our own illustrious Alumni is taking the reins of the state,'' Guwahati Salesian Provincial Father V.M. Thomas told Matters India after the prayers.

The prayer meet at the Salesian Provincial House Guwahati was attended by some 80 Salesian priests and brothers, sisters, alumni office bearers and Salesian cooperators.

In his brief welcome speech at the prayer meet, Father Thomas, who is also the national president of the Conference of Religious India which has over 125,000 Catholic religious men and women, noted Assam's historic moment was taking place when the Salesian Family the world over celebrated the significant feast of Don Bosco's Madonna - Mary Help of Christians.

''Don Bosco is the reason we are here,'' he told the members of the Salesian Family which has more than 30 constituent bodies all over the world.

Father Thomas recalled Sonowal addressing some 60 leaders of the province during their provincial chapter on Feb 20 where he spoke about the moral values he had learned at school. ''I have become what I am because of the education I received at Don Bosco,'' the provincial quoted the chief-minister-designate as saying.

Father Thomas also added that three Sonowal brothers had studied at Don Bosco School Dibrugarh at one time.

Present at the prayer meet were Sister Lucy Rose, general councilor of Salesian Sisters from Rome, Sister Philomena Mathew, superior general of Missionary Sisters of Mary Help of Christians, Sister Elizabeth George, provincial of Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, and Sr Sharlene Pulikal, provinicial of Sisters of Mary Immaculate.

The Salesian Family members from Guwahati gathered for the conclusion of the extraordinary visitation of the Guwahati province by Councillor General for Missions Fr. Guillermo Basanes who was in Assam for more than three months visiting all the Salesian houses.

Salesian Sister Grace, superior of St Mary's Guwahati, recalled that Sonowal, as the Member of Parliament from Dibrugarh, was a frequent help for their Little Flower School in Dibrugarh, a major city in the state.

Father Thomas, who founded the Don Bosco Institute Kharguli in Guwahati for the leadership training of youth of the state and northeastern region, said he has confidence that Sonowal will build ''a civilization of love, peace and justice ushering in a new era of hope and development for the aspiring youth of the state.''

''We expect a good relationship with the new government,'' said Archbishop John Moolachira of Guwahati adding, ''The Church in Assam is praying and hoping that there will not be any anti-Christian violence.''

Governor of Assam P.B. Acharya is scheduled to administer the oath of office and secrecy at a function in the Khanapara Veterinary College playground.

Sonowal, five member from BJP and two each from the alliance partners Asom Gana Parishad and Bodoland People's Front and some others are likely to be sworn in as ministers.

A host of dignitaries, such as Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP president Amit Shah, several members of the federal cabinet and others, is expected at the swearing-in ceremony.

It will also be attended by chief ministers of the states ruled by the National Democratic Alliance, scores of Hindu spiritual leaders and senior leaders of the alliance partners including Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal and Jammu and Kashmir Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Kumar Singh.

Top federal ministers, who are scheduled to attend the swearing-in ceremony, include Rajnath Singh, Kiren Rijiju, and Jitendra Singh among others.

Sources say Sonowal, a federal minister for sports and youth affairs for the last two years, has little experience in running the state administration. According to them, the ministerial team of Assam has been finalized and endorsed by the BJP central leadership. The prime minister and the RSS too were kept in the loop.

Assam has some 31 million people, but Hindus are about 60 percent against the national average of 80 percent. The state has 1.1 million Christians forming 3.7 percent of its population.

Assam has some 600,000 Catholics spread over five dioceses of Bongaigaon, Dibrugarh, Diphu, Guwahati and Tezpur.



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