The Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Delhi, Anil Couto, has issued a letter to the Catholics in India. The letter, which was read in all the parishes under the Delhi Archdiocese calls for the Catholics of India to start a campaign of fasting and prayers for the upcoming general elections in 2019. The letter reportedly starts with claiming, “Praying for the country and its political leaders all the time has been a ‘hallowed practice’ in the Archdiocese and it has become all the more important as we approach the general elections.” The letter calls all the Catholics to observe a day of fast on Fridays and an hour of prayers till the next elections.
It is important to note here that the Archdiocese of Delhi is considered to be the face of Catholics in India and the Archbishop holds considerable influence over the Catholic population of the country. Couto hails from Goa and was the bishop of Jalandhar before being appointed as the Archbishop of Delhi in 2013.
The letter states that the prayers, fast and penance should all be offered for the ‘spiritual renewal of our nation’. The prayer that it contained called for God’s grace to always uphold in highest esteem’ the dreams of our founding fathers’ and the values of our constitution that are equality, liberty and fraternity.
So far one might consider that though it is odd for a priest to be so concerned with the general elections, the letter sounds harmless. But wait till we see how The Vatican News has presented it. The website’s article covering the Archbishop’s letter states, “The five-year term of the federal government led by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ends in May 2019“. It does not stop at that. It goes ahead to add that Christian leaders have accused the government led by PM Modi of tacitly supporting Hindu groups working to establish a Hindu Nation ignoring the interests of religious and ethnic minorities. The article further claims that according to Christian groups, attacks on Christians rose after Modi came to power and have spiralled in recent years. The Archbishop has reportedly written, “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.” His letter also reportedly asked the people to ‘bless the nation with the revival of gospel values.’
For organisations that claim that maintenance of the secular fabric of the nation is their only concern, the hatred against BJP and particularly PM Narendra Modi is far too apparent. Not just the general elections, the church has been far too concerned about many state elections too. Before the Gujrat elections, the Gandhinagar Archbishop sent a similar communique which urged the Christians to save the country from ‘nationalistic forces’. Before the Nagaland Assembly elections, the Nagaland Baptist Church Council had also urged the believers to choose between ‘Trishul and the Cross.’ The Trishul was not their only concern either. In one earlier instance, they had called Yoga a deeply Hindu practice and had asked their believers to stay away from it. Before the Goa elections, a Catholic magazine asked the voters in the state not to vote for the BJP and claimed that the country is facing a ‘constitutional holocaust’.
As far as Anil Couto is concerned, he is not new to playing victim politics. He had condemned and cried ‘religious intolerance’ and anti-christian mentality on random crimes and petty incidents that were fanned by national and international media as ‘church attacks’. Be it the Vasant Kunj church vandalism incident or the Dilshad Garden, he had created a hue and cry over the same narrative of Christians and minorities being under attack that is so loved by our secular, liberal media. The fact that the ‘attack’ incidents were the cases of kids playing/petty theft/drunk vandalism and no pattern or communal angle was ever found over these incidents was never acknowledged by the Catholic Church organisations. In fact, Anil Couto was in a celebratory mood when the AAP won the Delhi Assembly Elections. He even hailed AAP’s victory as a result of BJP’s inability to control the Church attacks.
The way the entire ‘Church Attack’ narrative was played was spectacular in itself. Even Obama mentioned it while visiting India. This was not the only fake propaganda after all. The whole ‘Muslim lynching‘ and ‘semen balloon‘ narratives were also peddled in the same way.
While fake hypes and false propaganda by vested interests is not new in any country’s politics, it is quite disturbing when the Catholic Church, off all people and organisations, starts pontificating (pun intended) on issues like equality and upliftment of Dalits and care of the marginalised. When it comes to the helpless and marginalised, the Catholic Church is one of the leading offenders of child sexual abuse all over the world. The worst victims of their wide network of abuse are almost always poor, marginalised kids from socio-economically backward families left in their care. Yet, how many instances are there when the Archdiocese of Delhi, which has so many opinions to give on political power plays and elections, spoken about the Dalit kids in India being abused by their priests? None. Did the Archdiocese call for penance and prayers for their own priests who turn paedophiles and rapists? Never.
The deep-rooted hatred and rampant condescension these organisations show against India and civilisational heritage is often astounding. Notice in the words of the letters how it talks about ‘spiritual renewal’. The underlying hatred towards indigenous practices of spirituality could not have been more apparent. The Archbishop perhaps forgets that it is India that has given Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism to the world, including the practices of yoga and meditation. So talking about spiritual renewal while worrying over the rise of a Hindu-nationalist party is a bit much.
Apart from the usual tactics of propaganda peddling and fear mongering, it is also unnerving that how such narratives peddled by politically biased individuals are not seen through by the media. Have there been any instances of a government-sponsored drive against any particular religion or community in our country under the BJP rule? No. In the holocaust these people keep citing so often, Jews were driven by the thousands into gas chambers to be killed. Thousands of Sikhs were massacred under the Congress rule. Thousands of Kashmiri Pandits were rendered homeless in their own country under the Congress rule, Then why is it that it is the BJP which is termed communal? Is there any clause in our constitution that bars any citizen of any religion from enjoying the freedom and opportunities a democratic republic offers? no. Then maybe it is the fear of the usual anti-Hindu anti-India propagandas failing to cast the intended effects that have driven these elements to a corner. With the advent of social media and an increasingly politically aware young generation rising in the country, the tried and tested smokescreens are being torn apart and the lies are being exposed. Perhaps that is the reason new terminology and new garbs for the agenda is being invented.
There is nothing wrong in a community observing fast or indulging in prayers, but when the fastings and prayers are directed to be done so that a certain political party loses and a certain party wins, it becomes ridiculous. Hopefully, the Christians of our country will see through the propaganda and vote smart, not according to the political inclinations of their priests.