Ahead of Gujarat assembly elections scheduled in December, Archbishop Thomas Macwan of the Archdiocese of Gandhinagar issued a letter on November 21 urging Christians to defeat "nationalist forces" and to prevent them from "taking over the country".
The letter sparked an outrage following which he has now issued a clarification.
What the letter says
The letter makes a number of allegations against "nationalist forces" and advises people to vote against them in the upcoming Gujarat elections.
Macwan warned about "nationalist forces" taking over the nation and stated that Gujarat elections could make a difference. He has urged people to vote for the candidates who remain faithful to the Indian Constitution.
As per the letter, only upper caste Hindus and rich are safe in the country and could be supportive of "nationalist forces".
"The democratic fabric of the country is at stake amidst growing sense of insecurity among the minorities, Other Backward Class (OBC), Backward Class, poor, etc. The results of this election are significant and will have its repercussion and reverberation throughout our beloved nation. It will influence the future course of our country."
"We are aware that the secular and democratic fabric of our country is at stake. Human rights are being violated. The constitutional rights are being trampled. Not a single day goes without an attack on our churches, church personnel, faithfuls or institutions,"
"The recitation of the Holy Rosary at individual, community, family and parish levels will be of great help. Encourage your faithful to pray the Rosary," he said.
The letter has also cited information from history where powerful prayers to Mother Mary helped to topple communist governments and dictators
"Protecting hand of our beloved Mother Mary defeated communist governments and dictators in a number of countries".
In his letter, he has also written that Church influence voting pattern to ensure the victory of Congress. The word 'Congress' used in his directive refers to those "who would be faithful to Indian Constitution and respect every human being without any sort of discrimination".
The letter has led to strong reactions on Social media
I am planning to send a legal notice to @JohnDayal and Archbishop of Gandhinagar for denigrating the country by uttering total falsehoods. Those wanting to join in the notice, please indicate. RT for wide dissemination— Sanjay Dixit संजय (@Sanjay_Dixit) November 23, 2017
Glad to know that the "Most Reverend" Archbishop Macwan is openly anti-BJP, all in the name of Constitution, Human Rights, minorities, OBC, BC, poor, etc., but Your Grace, what is your evidence to show that "not a single day goes without an attack on our churches...?" https://t.co/LM2zqKVhBz— Makarand R Paranjape (@MakrandParanspe) November 23, 2017
If Hindu yogis, babas and self-proclaimed godmen can openly campaign for a political party, why can't an Archbishop tell his people to choose wisely in an election? #ChurchVsNationalist— Agnivo Niyogi (@Aagan86) November 23, 2017
They are like opportunist bats of that popular story. They will enjoy the cakes of either side.— Yaduraj Singh Bais (@ysbais) November 24, 2017
Following this Archbishop Thomas Macwan has now issued a clarification
He has refused to name who he thought these 'nationalist forces' are, or who the people should vote for. Moreover, he has also made it clear that his appeal was neither in favour nor against any particular political party.
He told ANI: My appeal is not against any party or in favour of any party, I have just asked people to vote according to their conscience and vote for those who are more open to secularism and constitutional values.
He has also explained that in his view, nationalist forces are narrow-minded people, against those who would protect the country and the Constitution.
My appeal is not against any party or in favour of any party. I have just asked people to vote according to their conscience and vote for those who are more open to secularism and constitutional values: Gandhinagar Archbishop Thomas Macwan #GujaratElections pic.twitter.com/HOQn6ho2qd— ANI (@ANI) November 24, 2017
According to the 2011 Census, the total population of Christians in Gujarat is 0.52 percent.