Churches in India accused of conspiring with the Vatican to destabilize Modi's government
Right-wing Hindu nationalist organization, The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) has accused the Indian churches of conspiring with the Vatican to destabilize Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government.
The Hindutva organization’s accusation came after the Archbishop of Goa and Daman, Father Filipe Neri Ferrao, wrote a letter to churches saying the Constitution is in danger.
In May, Archbishop of Delhi Anil Couto had said in a letter to parishes that there was a “turbulent political atmosphere” in the country, and asked them to “pray for the country”.
“Churches in India are in collusion with the Vatican, and are trying to create an atmosphere of distrust against the present government,” said Surendra Jain, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad joint general secretary, in New Delhi on Wednesday (June 6). “The Constitution of India is in danger because of the attacking political stand of the church and its agenda of religious conversions," the Scroll quoted him as saying.
The Vishva Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council), abbreviated VHP, is an Indian right-wing Hindu nationalist organization based on the ideology of Hindutva.
“This is a conspiracy to install governments which can run on the directions of the Vatican. Like the award-wapsi gang, the church too is acting like a contract killer to destabilize the elected governments,” Jain said, referring to a group of academicians who returned their awards to the government a few years ago, in protest against the rising intolerance in the country.
“The same church remained a mute spectator when Emergency was imposed in the country, Kashmiri Hindus were brutally killed in the Valley and Sikhs were butchered in the 1984 riots,” the VHP leader said. “For the church, these events do not put the Constitution in danger.”
Jain also claimed that the churches protest only when a Bharatiya Janata Party-led government is in power.
Indian Catholic Bishops’ Conference denies accusations
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India – the apex decision making body of the Indian Catholic Church – has said that letters written by the Delhi and Goa Archbishops were not directed at a certain party and only called for prayers for the country.
“They are not directed at voting for a certain party or against a certain party and are just calls for the country and its democratic set-up. While political leaders have contacted me, including those from the ruling party, I have explained to all of them that there is nothing political about these letters and that we do not wish to indulge in politics. We are only thinking and praying for the good of the country,” Father Theodore Mascarenhas, Secretary General of CBCI, said.
CBCI authorities said that controversies were being needlessly created. “What concerns the citizens also concerns the Church and especially when it regards the issues of social justice, …,” Mascarenhas said.
Indian Constitution in danger, writes Goa’s Archbishop
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 sensea 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.”
Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Chief Editor of the Journal of America (www.journalofamerica.net) email: asghazali2011 (@) gmail.com