By Matters India Reporter
Secunderabad, April 1, 2019: The Federation of Telugu Churches has urged Christians in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana to vote for candidates who promote India’s secular and pluralistic character and foster communal harmony and peace.
Vote for those “who strive for social justice and equality of the marginalized like the Adivasis/Tribals and Dalits, especially for equal status for the Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims, and who protect and promote the rights of the minorities,” says a pastoral letter from the federation, the apex forum of various Churches in the two southern Indian states that use Telugu as their common language.
The April 1 statement says the Church’s political service and political apostolate are the need of the hour.
“Hence, as bishops/Heads of Churches we encourage our members to opt for political vocation and to take up political service. FTC urges Christians, especially the youth, to take up leadership roles in public and political life,” the pastoral letter says.
The federation urges all Christians to conduct prayers on April 7, the Sunday before the first polling day of April 11 when the two states go to the poll.
The federation’s annual general body meeting on January 28 at St. John’s Regional Seminary, Hyderabad, had addressed the current political crises in the country and the elections scheduled for April and May.
The meeting resolved to issue a pastoral letter to urge its member Churches to participate in the election process.
Many Churches, the pastoral letter notes, often forget that Christian mission includes their participation in political action.
“We can do this by our involvement in public life, civil society and political filed, and by engaging in the advocacy for human rights and networking with other religious and social groups,” the pastoral letter explains.
The apex body of Christians in the two states reminds the Churches their obligation to bring Christian presence to the public life and political field and “cleanse and transform them in accordance with the Gospel values of love and service.”
“We ought to strengthen Indian democracy by working for electoral reforms so that not only the rich and powerful and their kith and kin, but all citizens can have equal opportunity to contest and participate in governance,” it adds.
The federation wants Christians to vote for those determined to advance economic equity and inclusive economy to the poor, especially to the landless, unorganized laborers and marginal farmers by alleviating poverty, rural distress and agricultural crisis.
It also supports those working for safety of women and children and the holistic development of youth, besides promoting critical thinking, education for creativity and job-oriented skill training.
The Telugu Churches want leaders who fight corruption and help establish good governance. It wants decentralized transparent accountable and responsible administration and leaders who address ecological crisis and climate change, protect environment with sustainable development and safeguard the rights of the tribals and local communities over water, land and forests.
The federation points out that although Christians form only a little more than 2 percent of the Indian population, they manage about 80 percent of centers that care for those affected by diseases such as HIV/AIDS, TB, Leprosy and Terminal Cancer. They also run home for the disabled, destitute and aged
Churches are much involved in poverty eradication and empowerment of the marginalized through many ways such as conscientization, organization of self-help groups and skill training for self-employment.
“In doing these, our primary mission is to transmit the love and mercy of God to the people of India irrespective of caste, creed and community. These services have been acknowledged by the leaders of our States and country who commend and acclaim valuable Christian contribution to nation building,” the federation statement says.
The country needs true patriotic leaders who espouse the essential spirit and fundamental rights enshrined in the Indian Constitution. In the upcoming election, Christians must ensure the choice of those who uphold the democratic institutions and safeguard secularism which is in jeopardy in India.
The federation, however, clarifies that member Churches neither identify with any political party nor endorse them.
However, “We urge our faithful to pray ardently at home and in our churches that the elections may bring us good governance in Andhra Pradesh and at the Centre,” it adds.