With the 2019 elections approaching, Goa's Archbishop Filipe Neri Ferrao has advised Catholics to play an "active role" in politics while warning that the "the Indian Constitution is in danger" and that "a kind of monoculturalism" has gripped the country, the Indian Express reported.
In his annual pastoral letter for 2018-19, which was released on June 3rd, Ferrao wrote: "It is advisable that the lay faithful play an active role in the political field; they should, however, follow the dictates of their conscience while doing so and shun 'sycophantic' politics. They should thus strengthen democracy and, on the other hand, help to improve the functioning of the state administration. The ideals of social justice and the fight against corruption are of utmost importance."
Stating that people across the country are being "uprooted from their land and homes in the name of development", the Archbishop warned that "human rights is being trampled" as "in recent times we see a new trend emerging in our country which demands uniformity in what and how we eat, dress, live and even worship, a kind of mono-culturalism".
Ferrao's letter comes weeks after Delhi Archbishop Anil Couto wrote in a letter that India is "witnessing a turbulent political atmosphere" and the community should begin a "prayer campaign" ahead of the elections. Couto's remarks faced criticism, including from Home Minister Rajnath Singh, following which he clarified that they were not directed at the ruling Bhartia Junta Party (BJP) or Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
This is the first time that Ferrao has openly urged Catholics in Goa to prepare for the elections. Catholics account for over 25 per cent of the state's population of 1.5 million.
In the letter, Ferrao wrote that the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India had declared in its plenary assembly that the Church should "diligently promote and stand by values like secularism, freedom of speech and freedom to practice one's religion enshrined in the Indian Constitution".
While focussing on poverty, Ferrao wrote that the need to "work hard to protect the Constitution" is more urgent now. "At the time of elections, the candidates confuse the minds of many people by making false promises. And the people, on their part, often sell their precious vote for selfish, petty gain," he wrote.
According to George Marlin of the National Review, Indian Prime Minister Modi's rise to power has gone hand in hand with growing Hindu intolerance of Christianity and Islam. Fanatic adherents of radical Hindu nationalism regard both faiths as foreign imports that do not belong on Indian soil.
During the 2017 Christmas season alone, there were 23 incidents. Most dramatic was the arrest of 30 priests and seminarians singing Christmas carols in Madhya Pradesh state.
According to Hindutva, the ideology of Indian nationalists determined to make their nation exclusively Hindu, holds that every Indian is in some sense a Hindu even if he is Muslim or Christian. Hindutva is the driving force behind campaigns by the RSS and VHP to aggressively reconvert the country's Christians and Muslims. On Christmas Day 2014, close to 4,000 Christians and 1,000 Muslims were "reconverted."