The archbishop of Delhi has called for a prayer campaign until the next general election in an unprecedented political inter-vention, citing a threat to the country’s secular fabric, trigger-ing angry reactions from the ruling Hindu nationalist party.
“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,” Archbishop Anil Couto wrote in a letter issued this month to all parish priests and religious institutions in the archdiocese of Delhi.
The letter became public, bringing to fore tensions between Christians and Hindu nationalist hardliners who form the bedrock of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Christians constitute less than 3% of Hindu-majority India’s 1.3 billion people. India is officially secular, but four-fifths of its population profess the Hindu faith. The BJP said the letter was akin to calling people to vote along communal lines, and that it was unfortunate. The next election has to be held by next May.
The Evangelical Fellowship documented at least 351 cases of violence against Christians last year, mainly in states ruled by the BJP. Between 2014 and 2015, Couto and other Christians in the national capital region of Delhi told Singh how violence had picked up after Modi came to power, detailing at least five cases of attacks on churches in New Delhi following which extra police had been deployed to protect 240 churches in the capital. Responding to Delhi archbishop’s letter, home minister Rajnath Singh on said in India minorities are safe and no one is allowed to discriminate on the bases of caste and religion. “I have not seen are safe and no one is allowed to discriminate on the basis of caste and religion,” Singh said.