After Delhi archbishop, his Goa-Daman counterpart raises concern over dangers to democracy
Panaji, June 5: After Delhi archbishop Anil Couto last month created a massive controversy by stating in a letter that "turbulent political atmosphere" posed a threat to India's democratic principles and secular fabric, now, archbishop of Goa and Daman Father Filipe Neri Ferrao has ruffled feathers on Monday by saying that the "Constitution is in danger".
In his letter to all parish priests and religious institutions in Delhi archdiocese, Couto had also appealed to the followers of his faith to launch a "prayer campaign" ahead of the 2019 General elections.
Archbishop of Goa and Daman said that the Constitution was in danger and many people are living in an atmosphere of insecurity. In a letter addressed to Christians, he said the Constitution should be understood better as the General elections are drawing closer.
The archbishop also said that human rights are under attack and democracy appears to be in peril. The letter, issued in the beginning of Pastoral Year that lasts from June 1 to May 31, is addressed to Christians in the archdiocese of Goa and Daman.
"Today, our Constitution is in danger (and that is) the reason why most of the people are living in insecurity," the archbishop said. "In this context, particularly as the General elections are fast approaching, we must strive to know our Constitution better and work harder to protect it," the letter stated.
The archbishop said that "in recent times, we see a new trend emerging in our country, which demands uniformity in what and how we eat, dress, live and even worship: a kind of mono-culturalism."
"Human rights are under attack and democracy appears to be in peril," Ferrao said, adding that "various minorities fear for their safety. In short, respect for law is frankly on the decline in this country."
He said that people were being uprooted from their land and homes in the name of development and quoted Pope Francis who said that "the first victim of development is the poor person".
"It is easier to trample upon the rights of the poor, because those who will raise their voice for them are very few," he added. The archbishop called for the participation of Catholics and Church communities in politics and social causes.
"Our parishes and small Christian communities ought to be immersed in this mission of the church. They should be open to the problems of the world. This social concern should not only remain within the confines of the parish community but should reach out to the whole state and country at large," Ferrao said in the letter.
He said that it was advisable that the faithful play an active role in the political field. They should, however, follow the dictates of their conscience while doing so and shun "sycophantic" politics, he added.
"They should thus strengthen democracy and, on the other hand, help to improve the functioning of the state administration," he said. The archbishop also expressed concern about malnutrition among children in the country.
"According to global multi-dimensional poverty index, 30 per cent of the global population of children living in poverty resides in India," he said.
"Why India is struck by extreme poverty? 73 per cent of our country's resources are controlled by 10 per cent of the population. The existing extreme poverty is therefore the result of rampant social injustice prevailing in the country," the archbishop said.
While the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government at the Centre had slammed Couto for his letter, the saffron party is yet to react to Ferrao's statements. During the Couto controversy, the BJP maintained that religious leaders should not support or oppose any political party or leader and maintain their neutrality to avoid influencing their disciples.