Delhi Bishop sheds crocodile tears for Dalits, calls for prayers ahead of the general elections 2019 while converted Dalit Christians accuse the church of untouchability and severe caste-based discrimination
In a pastoral letter, dated May 8, archbishop of Delhi Anil JT Couto called for nationwide prayers on every Friday until the general elections 2019. In his statement, the bishop expresses concern about India’s "turbulent political atmosphere which poses a threat to the democratic principles enshrined in our Constitution and the secular fabric of our nation.” The letter also consists of a prayer to be recited in all parishes of the diocese.
The archbishop emphasises the value of prayer and the importance of fasting as 'redemptive' practices. In his view, what needs to be redeem is India’s political life in which Christian and Muslim religious minorities are increasingly targeted by Hindu nationalist radicals. Indeed, not only Christians but Muslims as well are victims of attacks. He also urged the believers to pray so that the country can be guided by pluralism and government wisdom in which the poor, tribals and Dalits are considered and respected with equal dignity
Meanwhile, the letter is almost sure to raise some eyebrows in Kerala and other south Indian states where converted Dalits face gross discrimination on the basis of caste. In 2016, Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI), in a document titled ‘Policy of Dalit Empowerment in the Catholic Church in India’, had confessed that the 'Dalit Christians' face untouchability and discrimination in the country. The preexistent Syrian Christian community in Kerala does not treat the neo-converts at par with 'traditional Christian community'. The traditional Christians claim that their ancestors were Brahmins, converted by St. Thomas. The worst part is, the Dalit converts are given separate churches for worship and cemetery for burial while religious reforms have provided a better and equal status for their Hindu counterparts.
As a result, thousands of Dalit Christians return back to Hinduism every year. Sensing the danger, a bishop of Jacobite Syrian Christian Church, Geevarghese Mor Coorilos recently, in April this year, came down heavily on the Christians in Kerala for practising the caste system.
It is not the first time the Church interferes in elections and instigates the believers against the nationalists. In December 2017, during Gujarat assembly elections, the Archbishop of Gandhinagar Thomas Macwan issued a letter to defeat the “nationalist forces” and prevent them from “taking over the country”. Various churches were hell-bent on defeating the BJP in the recently held elections in the northeastern states like Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura, even though people shunned their divisive agenda.
Here is the letter of the Archbishop and the prayer he wants Christians to recite:
Dear Fathers, Brothers and Sisters,
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. 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, 2018 which marks the Anniversary of the Apparition of the Blessed Mother at Fatima, consecrating ourselves and our nation to the Immaculate Heart.
I request that we observe a Day of Fast every Friday of the week by foregoing at least one meal and offering our penance and all our sacrifices for our spiritual renewal and that of our nation. Moreover, I earnestly request that we organize an hour of Eucharistic Adoration every Friday at a convenient time in all our parishes, religious houses and institutions, specifically praying for our nation. During this Adoration the enclosed Prayer may be recited.
With kind regards.
Prayer for our nation
Oh God of freedom and love, let your light of truth shine on our Nation, dispelling all darkness and untruth. Let the dreams of our founding fathers and the values of our Constitution – Equality, Liberty and Fraternity – be always held in highest esteem. Let the people of all castes and creeds, all denominations and persuasions live in harmony and peace steering far away from hatred and violence.
Protect our legislatures 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 discourses. Protect our institutions from the infiltration of the evil forces.
Let the poor of our country be provided with the means of livelihood. Let the Dalits, tribals and the marginalised be brought into the mainstream of nation building. Let justice and integrity prevail in every sphere of our life. 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.
Almighty Father, bless our nation with the revival of the Gospel values in the name of your Beloved Son Jesus Christ by sending forth your Holy Spirit. Oh, Mary our Blessed Mother, who appeared at Fatima, give hope to the struggling nations and intercede for our beloved country. Amen.
*Archbishop of Delhi