NEW DELHI — India’s ruling Hindu party and fundamentalist Hinuds became furious over a letter addressed to all the churches in the national capital by the Archbishop of Delhi who said there is a “turbulent political atmosphere” in the country which “threatens” democracy and secularism.
The letter has triggered a sharp response from the ruling BJP and radical Hindu Members of Parliament calling for action against Christian Leader in India.
Archbishop Anil Couto, in his letter dated May 8, has also urged all the priests in Delhi to “pray for the country” ahead of the crucial 2019 Lok Sabha election, in which the BJP hopes to retain power.
“We are witnessing a turbulent political atmosphere which poses a threat to the democratic principles enshrined in our constitution and the secular fabric of our nation,” Archbishop Couto says in his letter.
“It is our hallowed practice to pray for our country and its political leaders all the time, but all the more so when we approach the general elections. As we look forward towards 2019 when we will have a new government, let us begin a prayer campaign for our country from May 13,” the letter says.
Couto has also attached a prayer with his letter and has asked all the churches in Delhi to read it out during the weekly mass.
“May the ethos of true democracy envelop our elections with dignity and the flames of honest patriotism enkindle our political leaders. This is our cry, Heavenly Father, in these troubled times as we see the clouds eclipsing the light of truth, justice, and freedom,” says the prayer.
The prayer adds: “Let the poor of our country be provided with the means of livelihood. Let the tribals, Dalits and marginalized be brought into the mainstream of nation-building. Protect our legislature as a place of discerning minds; raise our judiciary as the hallmark of integrity, prudence, and justice. Keep our print, visual and social media as the channels of truth for edifying discourse. Protect our institutions from the infiltrations of the evil forces.”
Anil Couto’s letter has also asked for a prayer campaign and a day of fasting every Friday “for the nation”. However, it does not name any party in particular. The BJP government and Hindu radicals have responded sharply to the letter.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh was in a state of denial and claimed that ‘no one is allowed to discriminate on the basis of caste and religion’. Union Minister and controversial BJP MP Giriraj Singh warned that there could be a “reaction” to such letters.
The Archbishop’s office has denied any political motive in the prayer, calling it a standard practice before elections.
Last month thousands of Christians took to the streets during protests across the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu on April 17 to demand government action to stop what they call increasing harassment and violence against Christians.
Some 20,000 Christians from various denominations filled roads in at least 16 cities and towns shouting slogans against government inaction to check anti-Christian activities allegedly carried out by upper-caste Hindu groups.
The Synod of Pentecostal Churches in Tamil Nadu organized the protest as Christians have been subjected to at least 15 cases of violence in the first three months of this year.
Incidents include the mysterious death of a pastor who was found dead a week after he complained to police about harassment from hard-line Hindus.