The Archbishop of Gandhinagar, Thomas Macwan, in a monthly letter to his parishioners, has requested them ensure that their names are registered on the voting list, express their franchise and pray to ensure that only people who would remain faithful to the Indian Constitution are elected and they should be those who would respect every human being without any sort of discrimination.
Referring to the Gujarat polls, the Archbishop had stated that ‘not a single day goes by without an attack on our churches. There is a growing sense of insecurity among the minorities, OBCs, BCs and the poor. Nationalist forces are on the verge of taking over the country. The election results of the State Assembly can make a difference’.
In the letter the archbishop hasn’t mentioned the name of any party or organisation. “Anyone who is opposing what the bishop has stated in the letter is admitting that BJP is a communal party. And communal is anti-national,” said John Dayal, a Christian political activist.
“Every religious leader talks about the right to vote and who people should vote for. When they do that, they are only promoting party politics. The archbishop is saying that we need to be aware of our right to vote. All these things are beginning from Gujarat. People are suffering,” said Sr Anastasia Gill, member of the Delhi Minorities Commission.
The tone of politics has changed. “Minorities are feeling insecure. What is happening in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand? These are not isolated incidents; they are becoming normal. Who are the nationalist forces targeting? The archbishop’s statements are to awaken his community to their right to vote. We have pastoral letters very often; they are for guiding the people,” added Sr Gill.
The church is always educating people about good governance, elections and they also run seminars training people on various aspects of life, pointed out Dayal. “The church seldom tells anyone whom to vote for. In Goa, the church ran a campaign against corruption and it resulted in the Congress being voted out. BJP came to power. Then they had no objection. The church always asks everyone to vote for governments which are secular and would work for the development of people,” elaborated Dayal.
“Nationalist” is just one word in the letter. Vijayesh Lal, General Secretary of the Evangelical Fellowship of India, observed that the letter talks about the constitutional rights of citizens, the need for prayers and attacks on minorities. “Last year there were more than 350 attacks on Christians alone; this year we are going to exceed that number,” added Lal.
“They are using the letter to cover up larger issues like the death of the judge under suspicious circumstances. This was not a secret letter. All the Catholic magazines had reported it. Isn’t this a sign of their self-indictment because no party has been mentioned? The letter should be taken as a pastoral letter and nothing more,” remarked Lal.
Archbishop’s statement is the need of the hour. “We are looking for accountability; leaders who look after the people. Why don’t people check who is actually mixing religion and politics? The letter is simply being manipulated, because they are feeling threatened. The bishop is the shepherd of the diocese and he has to guide the flock,” added Sr Gill.