Warm Greetings from Fr. Jacob Peenikaparambil!
I am writing these lines to congratulate you for your letter dated May 8, 2018, addressed to the faithful of your diocese in order to share with them your concerns about the nation.
You have rightly pointed out “We are witnessing a turbulent political atmosphere, which poses threat to democratic principles enshrined in the Constitution and the secular fabric of our nation.” As a responsible citizen of India you have the right to express your opinion about the political situation in the country and share your views with others. As the leader of the local Church, you have a right to appeal to your faithful for praying for the nation. You have only fulfilled your responsibility when you wrote in your letter, “It is our hallowed practice to pray for our country and its political leaders all the time, but all the more 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”.
In your letter you have not mentioned the name of any political party and you have not appealed to your faithful to vote for any particular political party. Protecting secular democracy and the constitution of India is a bounden duty of very citizen. If you come across policies and actions that are detrimental to the constitution of India you have a responsibility to motivate people to take actions for safeguarding the constitution and secular democracy.
It is highly hypocritical on the part of Amit Shah and the leaders of the Sangh Parivar to criticize you, because they blatantly make use of religion for polarizing the people on the basis of religion. Hindu religious leaders openly campaign for the BJP during elections; religious functions are made use for promoting the interests of BJP and tax payers’ money is being used by the BJP governments to promote Hindu religious leaders. The government of Madhya Pradesh recently conferred the Minister of State status on five Hindu religious leaders: Narmadanand Maharaj, Hariharanand Maharaj, Computer Baba, Bhayyu Maharaj and Pandit Yogendra Mahant. The leaders of a party that deliberately misuse religion for political mobilization and polarisation of society will never be able to understand a prayer request for the welfare of our nation and its people.
While appreciating your initiative to make the Catholic faithful aware of the grave issues challenging our nation, I would like to bring to your kind attention that we cannot be satisfied with praying to God alone. What God wants from us now is urgent action and we should not delegate our tasks to God. Hence the following steps may be taken.
· Promoting the values of the Indian constitutions should be one of the topmost priorities of all our ministries, particularly of the ministry of education.
· The Catholic youth are to be trained to make use of social media for disseminating the values of the Indian Constitution and pluralism, the heritage of India.
· Mahatma Gandhi being the greatest bulwark against the right wing fundamentalism, his ideals and principles are to be disseminated through all our ministries.
· As pluralism in terms of religion, culture and language is the greatest gift of God to India, one of the main focuses of our education ministry should be promotion of it.
The Catholic Church runs thousands of schools with millions of students and lakhs of teachers. Our main objective of education should be building enlightened leaders with character and competence who are committed to pluralism and secular democracy. Only then we will be able to safeguard democracy in India in the long run.
Don’t be afraid of criticisms because the critics know very well that they are culprits of misusing and abusing religion for political purpose. Their criticism is a defence mechanism to silence their own conscience.
Once again I congratulate you for your boldness and assure you of my prayers.
With cordial regards
Jacob Peenikaparambil CMI
(Published on 04th June 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 22)