New Delhi: Just days after Delhi Archbishop Anil Couto wrote a letter to community members over the “turbulent political atmosphere” in the country, the head of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) Oswald Gracias has spoken out about increasing anxiety within minorities.
“I am not saying that the minorities are scared but it is true that they are anxious due to the incidents that have taken place,” Cardinal Oswald told News18.
The CBCI is the apex decision-making body of the Indian Catholic Church. Cardinal Oswald said incidents like the one in MP, where a group of carol singers were accused of forced conversion, has shaken the people’s faith in the system.
“It is important that the Prime Minister, Home Minister or even chief ministers in certain cases speak out and condemn violence against minorities,” said Cardinal Oswald.
The Archbishop recently took over as the president of CBI and met the Prime Minister. “I shared my concerns with him and I presume he agreed,” said Cardinal Oswald, when asked if the PM agreed with his assessment.
Talking of Archbishop Anil Couto’s letter, Cardinal Oswald said the letter was misunderstood but it was unfair to expect religious leaders to completely keep away from politics. “A lot of issues which affect the people are political,” he said.
Delhi Archbishop Anil Couto had earlier defended the letter he wrote to all churches in the national capital calling for prayers ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, saying his request had nothing to do with the Narendra Modi government.
In the letter dated May 8 and addressed to all Archdioceses of Delhi, Couto had called for a prayer campaign beginning May 13 in the face of “turbulent political atmosphere threatening democracy and secularism” before general elections next year. The letter also contained a prayer to be read at Sunday masses.
The letter triggered controversy with BJP spokesperson Shaina NC saying it is “wrong to try and instigate castes or communities.”
“You can tell them to vote for the right candidate or party but to suggest voting for one party and not another and term yourself as secular vs pseudo-secular is unfortunate," she said.
Reacting to the letter, Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said, “The Prime Minister is working towards inclusive growth without discriminating while breaking barriers of religion and caste. We can only ask them to think with a progressive mindset.”
Reverend Couto, however, denied any political motive to the letter. “Prayer for the country is always there and it is a very private matter. We have only asked our churches to spend one day a week to pray and it’s a private matter and no one can interfere with it. We are concerned with atmosphere, issues plaguing the country. It’s only a request from various people to pray for the country,” he told News18.
He also clarified that the letter “did not pertain” to the Modi government and that he was raising concerns as a citizen of India.