The sensible, democratic and humane letter of the Archbishop of Gujarat addressed to his counterparts in the country seems to have caused some Goan Christian nationalists to burp. The irritation from the flatulence caused by constipation in nationalists due to overdose of power nowadays, finds release of their toxicity in wrong places. The burps from a Goa Christian nationalist assume even more significance in the Hindutva game-plan because of a perception among the common man in many states of this country that Goa is a Christian majority State.
As Kathryn Kuhlman said, “a little knowledge and an over abundance of zeal always tends to be harmful. In the area involving religious truths, it can be disastrous.” Just as the flourishing of vices like alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex and night clubs in Goa gets used by the Hindutva brigade to tarnish the image of Christianity as that of promoting harmful ‘sanskars’- when actually the pleasure and profits from these vices are promoted and enjoyed by people from all communities - similarly the stray burps of a Goan Christian are used as a cover up for crimes of religious intolerance and to demoralise Christians in other parts of the country.
One could well choose to ignore these stray toxic political burps from some Goan Christians who are known to bend ‘truth’ as per what is politically and economically fashionable. But the Church is now suffering from this very blunder in the past when it ignored lies regarding forced conversions. Those uncontested lies, which got brushed aside as fringe group hallucinations, have today assumed the position of mainstream truths for several educated Hindus and found their way into school textbooks as part of the anti-Christian propaganda. And so will it be with the toxicity from misplaced and unwarranted burps of Goan Christian nationalists when left unchallenged. During the 2017 Goa Assembly elections a WhatsApp post announced that a Jesuit priest from South Goa who is based in Ahmadabad had converted to Hinduism after accusing the Church of malpractices. On inquiry it was found that this was over a decade old story of a Jesuit priest who suffered a mental ailment and was exploited by some fringe Hindutva groups. This priest was cared for by the Jesuits till his death and was given a Christian burial. Such is the level of malicious tactics resorted to by the Hindutva nationalists. As popularly said, “a stitch in time saves nine”, so does nipping falsehoods in the bud prevent the stench of their bloom.
A Christian nationalist has attempted to narrow down the letter of the Archbishop to a sort of conspiracy by the Church against a particular community, whereas, the social justice issues mentioned in the letter embrace the victims cutting across all faiths, classes and regions of this country. In attempting to teach the Archbishop that ‘secularism is the non-acceptance of religion in the affairs of governance’ the Christian nationalist perhaps chose to suffer from a bout of amnesia by not recalling that the Head Priest of the Gorakhnath Temple in UP is already the Chief Minister of the State in contravention of his definition of secularism being selectively applied to the Christians and Muslims. Were there any burps over this? Hindu religious leaders like Sadhvis, Babas, Swamis and the rest freely dabble in politics with even the Head-Priest of the Swaminarayan Temple in Gujarat asking devotees to vote for a particular political party in the Gujarat elections which are due to take place shortly.
The Christian nationalist has a right to express his views but in doing so, he also has a duty to appreciate the facts. In a clever tactic of equating patriotism with nationalism the Christian nationalist tries to label the Archbishop’s caution against the rising influence of the nationalistic forces as being anti-national. Probably the Archbishop should have used the term ‘pseudo-nationalists’ but is also not wrong in using the term ‘nationalist’. There is definitely a difference between ‘patriotism’ and ‘nationalism’ as there is a desperate attempt to equate the two as being one and the same.
In the words of a former American journalist, late Sydney J. Harris, “the difference between patriotism and nationalism is that the patriot is proud of his country for what it does, and the nationalist is proud of the country no matter what it does; the first attitude creates a feeling of responsibility while the second a feeling of blind arrogance that leads to war.”
Democracy in this country is still very much alive and kicking. This may not yet warrant that the Church leaders act as a crutch for the selfish Christian laity in the domain of politics which is entrusted to them (laity). The Christian nationalist who claims to be a ‘fellow Christian’ ought to read the catechism and teachings of the Catholic Church on ‘Politics and the Church’. Had this been done the more rational question that would have arisen in his mind may have been, ‘why is it that the Archbishops, Bishops and Priests of the Catholic Church speak up against the injustices and human rights violations in politics and not the Catholic laity?’ ‘Is it needed that a Bishop from Delhi hits out at the wrongs of the political establishment in Goa at the end of the feast mass at Old Goa while the lay congregation shamelessly applauds and hails it as a sign of heroism?’ Is the Catholic laity rendered so impotent from education, devotion and wealth that it has shunned it’s Christian duty of transforming politics, defending social justice with an option for the poor and marginalised, and is content with shooting from the shoulders of Church leaders?’
But this does not take away the right of the Church leaders to speak out their mind as they are also citizens with a vote and is in no way can be considered as dictating governance. Equality before law would mean that if religious heads of the Hindus can dictate politics and governance in this country then so should other religious heads enjoy the right. In the prevailing political scenario, there is no moral justification for some citizens to selectively feel offended and cry foul when Church leaders highlight the social injustices and appeal for prayers while other religious heads bring temple and Hindu nationhood in politics and governance.