Goa’s Archbishop Filipe Neri Ferrao on Monday said that the Indian Constitution was in danger adding that a “new trend” of mono-culturalism, which demands uniformity in what and how one eats, dresses, lives and even worships, was putting human rights at risk.
He made his feelings known in the latest annual pastoral letter to Catholics in Goa. Ferrao also exhorted agencies of the Church in Goa to actively participate in social movements and urged lay Catholics to play an active part in politics.
“At the time of elections, the candidates confuse the minds of many people by making false promises. And the people, on their part, often sell their precious vote for selfish, petty gain. Today, our Constitution is in danger, (it is a) reason why most of the people live in insecurity,” Ferrao said in his pastoral letter for 2018-19 which was formally released on Sunday but circulated only on Monday. He added, “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.”
Ferrao also alleged that human rights were being trampled in the name of development and mono-culturalism. “In recent times, we see a new trend emerging in our country, which demands uniformity in what and how we ear, dress, live and even worship: a kind of mono-culturalism. Human rights are under attack and democracy appears to be in peril. “The various minorities fear for their safety. In short, respect for law is frankly on the decline in this country,”
His letter just days after Delhi Archbishop Anil Couto wrote to churches calling for a prayer campaign beginning 13 May in the face of “turbulent political atmosphere threatening democracy and secularism” before general elections next year. Archbishop Couto had said, “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.”
Soon after Goa Archbishop’s letter became public, he began to face trolling from the known faces in the Hindutva brigade. Filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri wrote, “‘In God, whose word I praise, In God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid What can mere man do to me?’ Psalm 56:4 Dear Archbishop of Goa, believe in Jesus. He will guide you.” RSS ideologue, Professor Rakesh Sinha asked, “I can send a team to study human rights violations and religious coercions (of Christians who dissent and disagree with the establishment) in Vatican ? Will Goa’s Archbishop help me?
BJP MP and firebrand Hindutva face, Pratap Simha, wrote, “When Archbishop says “Today, our Constitution is in danger”, pls don’t mistake, it only means “Vatican Constitution” that believe in number game via conversion is in danger under Modiji!”
Archbishop Ferrao also received plenty of support from journalists and activists. Former journalist Rahul Farnandes wrote, “We must stand by all minority groups that feel targeted by the Narendra Modi govt. And when BJP-funded journalists stay mum, the rest of us need to raise our voices loud enough to be heard.” Activist Tehseen Poonawalla wrote, “All of us must read & understand what the archbishop of Goa wrote & why so many Indians are feeling insecure. India is a pluralistic country! India is single only cause she is plural. The end of pluralism will mean the end of our constitution, our nation!”
Archbishop Ferrao’s stunning letter has reignited the debate on the role of the religious institutions in the Indian politics. It has also highlighted another inescapable truth on the existing fear among the minorities in India under the current BJP government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.