Delhi Archbishop urges the faithful to pray for BJP’s defeat. Good, it ends the hypocrisy
Former Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani, when he campaigned through the 1980s and 1990s on the issue of pseudo secularism, would point out that when he spoke of the complications which extra-territorial loyalties of non-Indic religions created in the nation-building project he did not in any way question the equal rights enjoyed by individual citizens of India professing such faiths. Nor, indeed, did he ever suggest that religious leaders from these faiths, which were imported into India, are any less worthy of respect than those from the Hindu tradition or indeed the work they do in various fields not be recognized. On the contrary, he would often point to his own schooling at St Patrick’s High School for Boys, Karachi, with pride. The hope of those who supported the narrative, and still do, of a non-supremacist, inclusive though culturally Indic nation was always that the proselytizing impulse and moral certitudes that are a hallmark of Abrahamic religions would, thanks to their interaction over time with their host civilization, be ‘naturalized’ in a sense, making them proudly Indian faiths — from, of and for the motherland.That hope, however, has clearly been belied.
All this is not to say that even in their current doctrinaire form these faiths are not an integral part of the mosaic of India, of course, or that their high priests do not have the right to guide their flock according to their lights. But it does raise the question of the secular bogey being used as a fig leaf to promote the interests of a religious group, making a mockery of the secular ideals consecrated, in a manner of speaking, by the separation of Church and State. It must also be notedthat this problem is peculiar to India’s Christian population; for, unlike their contemporaries professing the other major Abrahamic faith, Islam, which lays no claim to inheritance of a secularized discoursethereby saving it from the charge of hypocrisy at least, manyIndians who happen to profess the Christian faith doflag a secular modernity as a marker of their citizenship.
Though a miniscule religious minority in India, Christians have punched above their weight in national discourse for various historical reasons including those to do with the colonial power which governed us pre-1947. On balance, however, there is much to learn — and much has been learnt — from the sacrifices and sheer dedication of the Church in education, empowerment of the marginalized and promoting an essential, innate decency in interactions with fellow citizens. Which is also why the letter sent out to all parish churches by Anil Couto, Archbishop of Delhi, urging believers to pray and fast in the run-up to the General Election “when we will have a new Government… because we are currently witnessing a turbulent political atmosphere… which poses a threat to our secular fabric” is particularly ill-judged.How does Couto, as a priest/leader of an organized, hierarchical religion, validate this appeal on the grounds of what he and others mistakenly term ‘secularism’ and its concomitant Church-State separation? Hindu/Indic faiths have no centralized ecclesiastical hierarchy so it doesn’t matter which sant (which is different from saint) supports which party; that’s a completely different eco-system. But for anyone who upholds the Constitution as it existswhich draws verily from a secularized discourse, the Archbishop is certainly mixing religion with politics. Best avoided.