Gandhinagar (AsiaNews) – Mgr Thomas Macwan, archbishop of Gandhinagar, has issued a pastoral letter in connection with the upcoming election in the State of Gujarat, set for 9 and 14 December.
With the letter, the bishop has decided to jump into the election debate. Whilst reiterating that the Church does not side with any candidate or party and urging voters to cast their ballot according to their conscience, he appeals to them to save the country from nationalist forces and "pray for good leaders", adding that "We are against narrow minded people."
According to Mgr Macwan, "The results of this election are significant and they will have repercussions and reverberation throughout our beloved nation. It will influence the future course of our country. "
Gujarat is a key state in Indian politics. It is the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, head of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party) (BJP), and has also known sectarian violence for years.
One such incidents was the 2002 anti-Muslim Gujarat massacre, which was triggered by an attack in Godhra against the Sabarmati Express train carrying hundreds of Hindus. Some 59 people were killed.
Hindu extremists reacted by going on a rampage that led to the death of more than a thousand people, mostly Muslims, over a three-month period in several cities in Gujarat.
Prime Minister Modi, who at the time was Gujarat chief minister, has been blamed for complicity in the massacre, for doing nothing to stop it, and for failing to investigate it. Since then, a court ruled that there was no evidence of his involvement. But a cloud of criticism still hangs over him.
In his letter, Mgr Macwan states that "We are aware that the secular and democratic fabric of our country is at stake. Human rights are being violated. [. . .] [C]onstitutional rights are being trampled. Not a single day goes [by] without an attack on our churches, church personnel, faithful or institutions. There is a growing sense of insecurity among the minorities”.
Stressing that "Nationalist forces are on the verge of taking over the country," the archbishop notes that "The election results of [the] Gujarat State Assembly can make a difference!"
That is why he writes that bishops of Gujarat want people "to organize prayer services in your parishes and convents so that we may have such people elected in the Gujarat State Assembly who would remain faithful to our Indian constitution and respect every human being without any sort of discrimination."
To this effect, "The recitation of the Holy Rosary on an individual, community, family and parish levels will be of great help," he writes.