Was Delhi Archbishop’s Letter an Attack on PM? Christians Weigh in

What do prominent Christian voices think about Delhi Archbishop’s letter asking India to pray before 2019 elections?

4 min read
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.

What I said is spend time once a week for our nation and especially because elections are coming and government concerns all of us. So it is not in any way pertaining to the government of Narendra Modi.
Delhi Archbishop Anil Couto

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:

I don’t see what is objectionable in highlighting important issues before a general election. Before forming a new government, issues that are important to both the community and the country must be raised and discussed. The controversy regarding the letter is misplaced.

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.”

I am surprised at the controversy created by certain channels. I don’t see any controversy in the letter. This is a letter asking people to pray for the country. That’s it.
Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas

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.

Why did nobody question the BJP MP when he accused the Christian missionaries of being behind the vandalism of Ambedkar’s statues or said that Christian missionaries are a threat to the North-east?

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.

This is the Archbishop’s personal opinion. The head of Catholic Bishops in India says that he supports PM Modi. This government has done more for the poor and minorities. No other Bishop has come in support of the Delhi Archbishop.
KJ Alphons to News18

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.

So we Christians cannot even ask to pray for the country? The Archbishop is just asking the people of the country to choose the right people who could form the government. It would not have been such a big deal had it come from a Hindu-majority group.
Maxwell Pereira

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.

Had I been in the place of the Archbishop, I might not have written such a letter but I presume he is concerned about the future of his community in the country in view of the threats from the Hindu fringe groups.
Julio Ribeiro

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)

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