Delhi Archbishop’s Letter, a Well-Meaning Plea to Pray for India
The method of raising the controversy is, as usual, that of false allegations and fake news.
An innocuous appeal for prayers for the country, something that should be considered patriotic, has suddenly been made into a stormy controversy. It has dramatically confirmed the Archbishop's evaluation of our country as being in a "turbulent political atmosphere" and his concern for "the democratic principles enshrined in the Constitution.”
The method of raising the controversy is, curiously, the same being tried in various contexts by some political groups – that of false allegations and fake news. In this case, the Archbishop is accused, in some media reports, of encouraging people to “defeat Hindu forces” – a figment of a dishonest mind, as nowhere has the Archbishop said anything like this.
His appeal for prayer, he states very clearly, is in the context of the elections being held later this year in some states and the national elections coming up soon after. Elections are a time when every citizen needs to reflect over the stated position and actual record of candidates and political parties on the principles of the Constitution, and on the respect shown to democratic institutions built over these years after Independence.
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There is need for debate and dialogue, but we must also give importance to prayer for divine inspiration – for ourselves and for our leaders or intended leaders. This is the sum and substance of the Archbishop’s letter to the Christian community under his leadership.
He is following established traditions on which our democracy is based, and he is also showing good leadership in an area which is so important to the quality of life of the Indian people.
It is mistakenly assumed that religious leaders should not comment on anything political, even though it is so evident that the well-being of the larger community depends on political decision-making. It is true that religious leaders should not take political sides and work for any particular political party.
But the defence of, and the propagation of principles on which our society is based, is something every individual citizen and every religious leader needs to be concerned about. Religion passionately defends the human rights of all peoples, as all are equally children of God.
If religious leaders fail to take the side of the oppressed, of those being exploited or ill-treated, they would be failing in their religious duties.
The situation in India, as far as human rights are concerned, is fast deteriorating but no one political grouping can be blamed for it entirely. Unfortunately, the narrative concerning secularism and minority rights has got warped in the political discourse of the last few years, and several political parties have to take responsibility for this.
The concern of the Archbishop on the secular fabric of our nation is well stated, as this has even received international attention. In fact, it is not only the rights of religious minorities that have taken a hit but also the rights of groups like Dalits and Adivasis of the country – some of who are part of the majority community.
The rule of law seems to not be effective when politically powerful people are the offenders – the two recent rape cases in Jammu and Uttar Pradesh being dramatic examples, as are the so called, “lynching” of people merely suspected of possessing or consuming beef.
The economic conditions of the country too are in a delicate state, with rampant unemployment and agrarian distress which has led to massive but peaceful demonstrations across the country.
Must we, as Indians, not become aware of this deteriorating socio-political-economic situation in our country and do our bit in changing it?
The Archbishop encourages a “prayer campaign” that the new governments to be elected may be responsive to Constitutional values and thus to the good of the majority of the Indian people.
We must all join in this campaign and also hold our elected representatives to the principles of our Constitution – the sacred document which expresses the aspirations of the Indian people. May there be more religious leaders like Archbishop Anil Couto who lead with prayer and reflection on issues of national importance!
(Father Frazer Masceranhas is the former principal of St Xavier’s College, Mumbai, and is a Parish Priest at St Peter's Church, Mumbai)
(This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same)
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