Practise what you preach
THE Prime Minister of India met His Holiness Pope Francis at the Vatican City in Rome on October 30, 2021 and even invited him to India once the pandemic ends.
PM Modi’s meeting with the Pope appears to be nothing more than an election gimmick to lure Christian voters in order to retain power across the nation.
On the one hand, PM Modi meets the Pope and even extends an invitation, while on the other hand, a large number of Christians are being attacked in the country and their places of worship desecrated.
The attacks on Christians are not limited to rural areas only but have occurred in other cities and states as well like Delhi, Mumbai, Jharkhand, Kerala, Karnataka and Goa too. Of late, even institutions run by the Catholic Church have come under attack.
Only last month, the 49-year-old Christ Jyoti School in Satna, Madhya Pradesh, was served a 15-day ultimatum by the Bajrang Dal to install an idol of Goddess Saraswati in its premises.
On October 10, 2021, Sister Gracy Monteiro (a school principal) and Sister Roshni Minj of the Mirpur Catholic Mission in Uttar Pradesh, along with their driver, were attacked by vigilantes of the Hindu Yuva Vahini in Mau (Uttar Pradesh) before being dragged to the police station where they were held unlawfully.
Sending children to Catholic schools has long been a badge of pride for the middle class people in the Hindi belt, but these same institutions are now being targeted by vigilantes belonging to saffron parties like the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Vishva Hindu Parishad, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the Bajrang Dal and the Shiv Sena.
The day Modi met the Pope at the Vatican, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s General Secretary Dattatreya Hosabale, called for an end to conversions while interacting with the media in Dharwad (Karnataka).
RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat had also made similar remarks in the second week of October 2021 in Uttarakhand.
The Pope is aware of the prevailing xenophobia in India and so he conveyed his message to the Prime Minister through a parable from the book of Isaiah Chapter 32, verses 1 to 8 as a brass gift to make him understand his job as the ruler of the country.
It appears that the Prime Minister did not understand even a little bit of what the Pope said, or else why would he let religious intolerance prevail and let such elements harass Christians who are peace-loving and kind.
The BJP has also spared no efforts and even supported every attack and hate speech against Christians. Several states in the country have even enacted anti-conversion laws which are in violation of the Constitution of India.
The Modi-Pope meeting is also purely a political ploy to influence Catholic voters ahead of the Manipur and Goa assembly elections next year – the two states with 41.2 per cent and 25.1 per cent Christian population, respectively.
The BJP hopes to use the Pope as a tool to prop-up its sagging fortunes in the poll-bound states and also to strengthen its base in Kerala (18.38 per cent Christian population) where some Church leaders are hand-in-glove in their own self-interest and survival.
Hence, the well-rehearsed event management, photo-ops and optics at the Vatican. Fortunately, though, the Pope, who is the Vicar of Christ on earth, cannot be fooled so easily.
He and his senior curia, such as his Secretary of State who also met the Prime Minister, do know the extreme Indian situation of communal venom, hatred, intolerance and the torture that Muslims and Christians are regularly subjected to.
They are also aware of the gross violation of human rights and religious freedom in India, violence carried out by the state and non-state actors, including the Sangh Parivar, and prosecution by investigating agencies currently cracking down on individuals and groups in a finely choreographed black opera as well as the prevailing atmosphere of xenophobia.
—The writer is contributing columnist, based in Mumbai, India