Was Delhi Archbishop’s Letter an Attack on PM? Christians Weigh in
Delhi's Archbishop Anil Couto has kicked up a storm with his remark that a "turbulent political atmosphere" posed a threat to India's democratic principles and secular fabric, a charge rejected by the government which said the comments reflected his "prejudiced" mindset.
Couto had written a letter to all parish priests and religious institutions in the Delhi archdiocese on 8 May, calling for a "prayer campaign" ahead of the 2019 general elections.
Couto's comments were criticised by the BJP, with party president Amit Shah stressing that it was "not appropriate" to polarise people around religion.
The Archbishop later clarified his comments were not aimed at the government.
Here are what prominent voices from the Christian community said about the letter.
Important to Highlight Important Issues Before Elections: Father Frazer Masceranhas
Father Frazer Masceranhas, former principal of St Xavier’s College Mumbai, was in the eye of the storm himself for his letter in 2014, addressed to his students, criticising Narendra Modi’s Gujarat style of development.
About the controversy over the Delhi Archbishop’s letter, he told The Quint:
Unnecessary Controversy Created by Few Channels: Theodore Masceranhas
Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, Secretary General, Catholic Bishops Conference of India who was recently at the receiving end of a fake letter scandal in Bengaluru said to be dividing Lingayats from Hindus, said the controversy has been unnecessarily created by “few TV channels.”
He further dismissed the allegations of the letter being a direct attack on the Modi government. He said, “Is any party mentioned? Did the letter ask for people to vote for a particular party? The letter did not ask for a change of government but a new government which is constitutionally formed after a general election.”
He further asked why was BJP MP Bharat Singh was not questioned when he made a direct attack on the Christian community.
Archbishop Not the Entire Church: KJ Alphons
Union Minister of Tourism KJ Alphons, speaking to News18, said the Archbishop was an isolated voice and that he was “not the entire church.” He said the remarks were "unfair" to the government and "godmen" should stay away from politics.
Can’t We Christians Even Pray in This Country?: Maxwell Pereira
Speaking to The Quint, former Delhi Police Joint Commissioner Maxwell Pereira said it is shocking that a controversy has been raked up over a call for prayer.
He had earlier tweeted commending the Archbishop for his letter.
Christians Not Sure of Their Future in a Hindu Rashtra: Julio Ribeiro
Retired Mumbai Police Commissioner Juilo Ribeiro told The Quint that the letter was written as a fall out of the growing doubts about the future of the Christian community in a Hindu Rashtra.
On being asked whether he feels if the letter was a direct hit at the Modi government, he said, “The letter was neither a direct dig at Modi government nor was it intention-less, it was something in between.”
Ribiero had faced an outburst of reactions for his column in The Indian Express about his fears in living as a Christian in India.
Amid reactions to his letter, Couto said every government that came to power should protect the rights and freedom of the people.
"Elections concern us. Therefore when we talk, we talk about the elections because the government concerns us. We cannot be apart from the government. We pray that we have such a government that cares for the freedom of the people, rights and welfare of the Christian of community," he said.
(With PTI inputs)